Building a rigorous body and mindEducation authorities plan to increase physical education classes in middle and high schools from next year. PE classes have been shunned in favor of preparing for the college entrance exam. From 2017, however, PE teachers will be compulsory in elementary schools and will provide more organized physical education for growing children while working to fight teenage obesity, according a new proposal by the Ministry of Education.
Physical education is a critical part of school that can build a rigorous body and mind as well as help foster compassion, manners, sportsmanship and leadership for our students. But gym classes have been largely neglected in Korean education due to overemphasis on academic performance and intelligence. A ninth grader in the United States usually gets more than five hours of PE classes a week while the same student in Korea has just two hours. After the government introduced an intensive program to squeeze certain classes into one semester, some middle and high schools even fit three years of PE into freshmen year.
But student involvement and satisfaction with PE classes won’t change merely through extended classes. The programs should change in order to draw more participation from students. PE should be fun, not dreaded. Schools can utilize community facilities and resources. Involving community gyms and athletes could spur interest and allow for fun in physical education at school. The Education Ministry has also advised schools to seek more outside professional cooperation in planning physical education classes.
Parents should also change their mind-set on physical education. PE does not disturb and can actually better academic performance for students. Gym classes provide breathing room and recreation in the competitive and rigid school lifestyle. Schools and teachers should use the momentum of increased physical education classes to draw children away from computers and digital technology to spend more time in gyms and outside.