Schools to offer more PE classes

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Schools to offer more PE classes

The Ministry of Education said yesterday that it will expand the required hours of physical education classes of high schools nationwide, mandating them to offer at least two to three courses per week from next year.

The new initiative is part of efforts to foster more well-rounded talent and declare a departure from the current test-oriented academic schedule where physical classes are often arbitrarily replaced by subjects like English and math.

“We need to break down the predominant idea that arts, music and physical classes are minor parts of our education and the majority of time should be allotted to math, Korean language and English,” said Education Minister Seo Nam-soo.

“Our future talent should be well-rounded and the course schedule should go hand in hand with that objective,” he said.

Currently, elite specialized schools, such as science or foreign language high schools, had merely one sports class per week last year, while autonomous private high schools had an average of one and a half classes per week.

Most common high schools already comply with the government guideline of two exercise courses per week, but those special-purpose private institutions are required to double their hours of physical activity.

The Education Ministry also demanded that all middle schools add one more class per week for middle school third graders. That grade will now have two sports sessions per week.

In addition to the revision of the high school education system, all elementary schools are ordered to hire at least one physical education instructor by 2017. Currently, only 46 percent of elementary schools have such instructors.

The move is also aimed at containing the rising teen obesity rate of 14.7 percent last year, a jump from 11.2 percent in 2008.

Along with the increase in regular classes, the education department will subsidize 1,000 new sports clubs next year as high school extracurricular activities, adding that it will focus on sports largely favored by female students.

The Education Ministry will also encourage co-ed schools to provide separate physical teaching for female students to offer more tailored courses for them.

The extension of PE hours is intended to strip away Korean education institutes’ reputation as a harsh regimen of endless cramming and rote memorization.

The Education Ministry pledged to build 20 new gymnasiums every year and 100 grass fields as many schools lack high-quality sports facilities.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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