Ministry aims to boost student interest in sports

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Ministry aims to boost student interest in sports

Hoping to drum up interest in sports and exercise, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology outlined a plan yesterday that will help schools bolster physical education classes via subsidies, staffing increases and other types of support.

The plan, dubbed “Sports for all Students,” comes amid increasing concerns over the health and physical activity of the nation’s youth.

The government said many children and teenagers are losing interest in sports and outdoor activities because of the excessive amount of time they spend indoors studying for university entrance exams, which don’t test athletic ability.

“We will be focusing on encouraging students to enjoy sports and physical-education classes so that they can stay healthy," Education Minister Lee Ju-ho said yesterday.

The new policy will require students to get at least one hour of exercise each weekday and encourage them to enroll in “school sports clubs,” partially funded by the government that bring together students interested in sports and exercise.

The ministry indicated it will allow students in the second grade and above to apply to join the clubs.

Under the current system, students who want to sign up for the clubs must at least be in the fourth grade.

The ministry said it expects the participation rate in the clubs to increase to 50 percent of the elementary, middle and high school student population by 2015 from about 27.4 percent now.

Officials said the country will also hold a tournament involving clubs across the nation, with teams grouped into two leagues.

The ministry plans to designate 500 schools as “leaders in physical education” and provide them with support to promote sports classes. It will also hire more teachers who can oversee physical-education classes and school sports clubs to give students more individualized attention.

Many Korean schools currently have just one teacher for physical-education classes per grade, giving them little time to spend with each student.

Both the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will provide the money for the extra teachers.

“We have lined up 513 billion won ($450 million) for this program,” an official from the Education Ministry said. “We will soon establish specific plans for each project.”

The overall plan also includes support for building a nationwide infrastructure that encourages students to get involves in sports, including the construction of gyms as well as sprinkler systems and lights for outdoor fields. The ministry said this part of the plan will focus on about 200 schools.

Additionally, the government plans to help tens of thousands of children in poor areas get interested in sports by providing equipment and lessons.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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