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PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 11:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 11:37am

Unfit university students are no surprise

Universities in Nanjing, the capital city of China’s eastern Jiangsu province, have cancelled women’s 3,000-metre and men’s 5,000m races for their annual sports meetings, citing unfit students.

BIO

Amy Li began her journalism career as a crime news reporter in Queens, New York, in 2004. She joined Reuters in Beijing in 2008 as a multimedia editor. Amy taught journalism at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu before joining SCMP in Hong Kong in 2012. She is now an online news editor for SCMP.com. Amy can be reached at chunxiao.li@scmp.com, or follow her on Twitter @AmyLiSCMP
 

China’s younger generation is no longer fit for running, said their teachers. 

Universities in Nanjing, the capital city of China’s eastern Jiangsu province, have cancelled women’s 3,000-metre and men’s 5,000m races for their annual sports meetings, citing unfit students.

School officials said they had noticed a shrinking number of participants and decided to scrap the events altogether.

“Many students can’t even finish one lap,” said an official from Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NUST). “Many would throw up and drop out on their first lap.”

This might be embarrassing for a country that had just won 38 gold medals in the London Olympics, but it’s hardly surprising to me.

Anyone who’s had any experience with China’s education system would understand this immediately: China’s students have no time to exercise.

Unless one is willing to give up the prospect of getting into a decent university, a student has no choice but to study 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I admit it’s a slightly different picture at universities – at least those students get to set their own priorities. But for the most part, unfit pupils at secondary schools grow up to be unfit at university too.

“Our students are growing weaker because they are not spending time on physical exercises,” said a NUST official. “They like to stay indoors and study.”

The schools blame students’ lack of interest in physical activities on “laziness”, video games and electronic gadgets.

To remedy this, universities in Nanjing have rolled out new exercise programmes, including women’s soccer, dragon-dancing, yoga and tai chi.

I admire these efforts, but I also believe it takes more than a few fancy programmes for young people to re-discover a love for sports.

For one thing, it takes a consistent physical education programme that begins when students enter primary school (not until they are at university).

And we need to revamp the current system that is obsessed with test scores and nothing else. This has to happen sooner than later, before China’s younger generation grow too weak to even walk.

 

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