Chinese Netizens React to Proposal for PE Inclusion in 'Gaokao'

By That's GBA, May 26, 2020

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In an effort to promote physical education (PE) and relieve some of the pressure Chinese students face in China, political advisors submitted a joint proposal to include PE in entrance exams. On Monday, state-run newspaper Global Times reported that Wu Zhiming, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), put forth a proposal along with over 100 CPPCC members, with the intention of promoting a healthier lifestyle among middle and high school students.

Currently, many schools have a physical ability assessment for the zhongkao (high school entrance exam), but PE is not included in the gaokao (college entrance exam). Wu noted that giving PE equal footing with subjects like Chinese and math in terms of grading would address the growing obesity rate among students – which was over 10% in 2018, according to National Health Commission data.

In the proposal, Wu said: “China’s traditional talent cultivating idea emphasizes more on mental education than physical education, and therefore now schools are squeezing the PE class time to save for those major classes, or even ignoring the compulsive 'one-hour exercise time' required by the Ministry of Education,” as cited by GT.

However, many have taken to social media to voice their opposition, arguing that the inclusion of another subject in the country’s nationwide entrance exams would further increase students’ workload. “I firmly oppose this. Isn’t this sick? Increasing the students’ workload will increase shady operations that create inequality,” said one Weibo user. Another netizen added, “Many students, especially high school students, usually have no time for physical activities. If this [regulation] is implemented, there will be a lot of high school students who practice an insane amount of hours for high marks before the exam. Is this really effective for health?” 

An online survey posted by People’s Daily on Weibo asked netizens whether PE should be given the same priority as other core subjects. Nearly 75% of respondents said it shouldn’t due to differences in physical ability and an increased workload for students, while 22% of respondents felt PE would effectively promote physical fitness among students and create a more balanced lifestyle.

However, the Chinese government appears to be ready to reform their examination system that’s so vital towards improving one’s socioeconomic status in China. In July of 2019, a set of guidelines were released by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and State Council that aimed to “foster citizens with an all-around moral, intellectual, physical and cultural grounding,” according to Xinhua. In the document, physical education was highlighted as an area that needs to be strengthened within the current education system.

READ MORE: 30 Absolutely Insane Questions from China's Gaokao

For the gaokao, students in their senior year will study almost everyday, with books and papers towering over desks – all in the hopes of being granted a coveted spot at a top university. The test, which was created in 1952, can take up to nine hours over the course of two or more days depending on which province you live in. Adding a new subject to train year-round may only further divide the haves and the have-nots, as wealthier families can afford to pay for extracurricular classes to give their children the best chance of receiving high test scores and being admitted into distinguished colleges.

The gaokao usually takes place in early June, but this year it has been delayed one month due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The exam is set to take place on July 7.

READ MORE: China’s ‘Gaokao’ College Entrance Exam Delayed One Month

[Cover image via h/t Global Times]

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