City to champion sports and arts in school

Yang Meiping
Government document outlines measures to be taken to promote subjects students tend to drop under pressure of academic study and ensure all-round development. 
Yang Meiping

Shanghai is to promote sports and arts education in primary and secondary schools for students’ all-round development, according to a document released by the city government on Wednesday.

High schools will team up with primary and middle schools to share teachers, venues and other resources to provide high-quality training in sports and arts. 

The city aims to have all schools develop their own strength in sports or arts by 2021, and from 2022, high schools will launch special programs to admit students good at sports or arts.

Ni Minjing, deputy director of the Shanghai Education Commission, said some high schools admitted students based on their ability in sports and arts, but only about 2 percent of the total students. This is expected to increase under the new program.

The document says sports and arts education should be open to all students and carried out via classes, after-class activities and after-school training. It urges schools and district and city authorities to organize sports or art groups at various levels and organize competitions for students.

The city government is to increase funding for building a stronger teaching team for sports and arts throughout the city. It will hire full-time teachers and invite professional coaches and artists to be part-time teachers.

It will build more venues for sports and arts in schools and more off-campus bases for training, and encourage social venues to open up to young people.

The document comes as the Ministry of Education urges schools nationwide to promote students’ all-round development, while Shanghai also aims to enable every student to have at least two sports skills and one artistic speciality after graduation from high school.

Ni said the new practices will help change the current situation where many students are engaged in sport or art education when in kindergarten or primary school but give up during middle and high school years due to the pressure of academic studies.

“The situation resulted in lack of high-standard athletes and artists in Shanghai, and we hope the new practices will be able to promote the cultivation of native talent in these fields,” he said. “And also, with social development and higher living standards, people now have a greater demand for sports and arts education to allow all-round development.”

Shen Hong, principal of Shidong Experimental School and a PE teacher, said the move was the right direction for educational reform, providing diverse options for students in sports and allowing them to develop their own interests.

“After years of efforts in promoting sports education, our schools now have enough time for students to spend on PE classes and sports activities, but we still have to improve their exercise quality by increase sports intensity to further improve students’ physique. We also need to make sports more interesting so that students will love them and form the habit of physical exercise in their whole life.”

He also said there should be a scientific system to record students’ participation in PE classes and sports activities as well as their health condition to properly assess the value of sports.

“The value of sports and arts education has long been underestimated in China, where schools, parents and students usually treat them as minor courses,” said Zhang Duanhong, director of the educational policy research center at Tongji University. 

He said better connections between schools and the special admission programs would raise attention in maintaining an interest in sports and arts.

He said improving teaching in sports and arts would help to reduce the burden on families as currently most students are trained in costly commercial training organizations.

“My daughter has been learning bamboo flute, erhu, painting and calligraphy,” said Fiona Xu, the mother of a six grader. “She might have to quit in high school due to high pressure from academic study. But since the government now encourages high schools to carry out sports and art education and admit students with such skills, I think she won’t have to quit and will have more opportunities for practice and performance.”

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