Kung fu lessons on timetable in Jiangsu province

Officials say move will improve fitness and pass on part of traditional Chinese culture

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 5:18am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 5:18am

The provincial government in Jiangsu has made kung fu compulsory at primary and middle schools to try to improve children's health and fitness.

Some critics have said schools will find it hard to justify the move to parents, who place the utmost importance on academic achievement.

Schools across the province will have to teach pupils basic sports skills such as gymnastics, athletics and kung fu, Xinhua reported.

Lower-level governments will be able to decide if other sports such as soccer, basketball, or badminton should be included in the PE curriculum.

An unidentified official from Jiangsu's education department said having the martial art as a compulsory part of physical education was not only beneficial to students' health and development, but also passed on part of traditional Chinese culture.

The proposal has already drawn concerns from parents over whether there are enough qualified teachers for the martial art.

They are also worried that their children may get injured once they take up kung fu.

A Jiangsu education official told the Modern Express newspaper that there were virtually no full-time martial arts teachers in secondary schools.

The official added that PE teachers usually took the courses in college.

The official said the government would offer boot camps for a pilot group of secondary and primary school teachers on martial arts.

They in turn would train other teachers, the official said.

A mother told the newspaper she welcomed the move as she had previously signed up her daughter for extracurricular karate classes.

"It's important for all girls to know how to protect themselves," the mother said.

However, Professor Xiong Bingqi, an education expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University, said the plan was an administrative move designed to please officials. "Physical education has always been marginalised in the education system. Even with such a curriculum, martial arts would not be very meaningful even if merged into physical education without a major system reform," Xiong said.

Xiong called on the authorities to increase regular physical education lessons instead.