Face Off: Should PE be compulsory for university students?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

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Cyrus Fung, 16, HKUGA College

Most schools in Hong Kong have compulsory PE lessons, but that policy ends after secondary school. Some people may wonder: since our bodies need to be fit doesn’t stop after secondary school, shouldn’t there be PE lessons at university as well?

Well, no. When we are at school, we may find we become interested in certain subjects more than others. When we are at university, we specialise in those areas of study, and become more knowledgeable in them. For example, students who want to become a doctor will study biology in secondary school. Universities will equip them with thorough, in-depth knowledge so they can qualify as experts in their chosen field.

If a student is not interested in physical education, there’s no point in them taking PE lessons at university. In fact, they’ll ruin the experience for people who are really into sports.

Also, introducing compulsory PE lessons would be a huge waste of students’ time and could badly affect their academic performance.

We don’t see universities forcing business students to undertake poetry courses, for example, so why should PE lessons be forced on all university students – who should be given the right to choose their subjects?

What’s more, I don’t think a weekly, hour-long workout would contribute much to students’ health, especially if they don’t like sports or outdoor activities anyway.

In conclusion, it would be far better to make PE lessons an optional activity for university students instead of a compulsory one. Nobody should be forced to spend time doing something they don’t like.

Talking Points: should Mandarin be a compulsory subject in secondary school? 

Lauren Faith Lau, 18, University of Hong Kong

I believe so, because most university students focus only on their studies and neglect their mental and physical health. Physical education brings many health benefits. PE classes ensure that students exercise at least once a week.

In secondary school, we have weekly PE lessons which emphasise the importance of a healthy body to a student’s all-round development. At university, those who are not taking any sports or physical education courses are not required to take part in PE lessons. This needs to be changed – for the health of those students.

Many students are under a lot of pressure, especially during exams. This stress can have an impact on both their academic performance and overall behaviour. Exercise is the best cure for this sort of anxiety. This is why I think universities should introduce compulsory PE classes. But they don’t have to be the same as those lessons. They could include gym workouts, jogging, basketball, football, and other sports. Students should be asked to choose at least one activity. Remember, when your body feels good, so does your mind.

Also, local universities have a lot of facilities, including gyms, football grounds, and basketball courts which are all free for students so should be used more. Exercise can also increase a student’s self-confidence, and studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop depression.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne