China will make it obligatory for students to do one hour of physical activity each day in order to confront concerns about declining youth health.
The "Sunshine Physical Education" program, launched by the Ministry of Education and scheduled to start in 2007, requires students to master at least two basic physical exercise skills and do sports at least one hour a day, said Yang Guiren, a senior official with the Ministry at a press conference on Monday.
Currently, 56 percent of China's students can do physical exercises one hour a day at present, but most of them are boys and girls in primary schools, according to Yang.
China's goal is to lift that figure to 85 percent in three years.
"Middle school students, who are traumatized by the all-important college entrance exam, are the challenge in achieving the goal of 85 percent," Yang said.
A national survey shows that one in four boys in China's cities is clinically overweight or obese.
And 58 percent of middle school students are short-sighted, with the rate rising to 76 percent of high school students and 83 percent of college students.
Experts attributed the plummeting standards of youth health to modern lifestyles and the exam-oriented education system, in which students study for long hours and have little time for physical exercise.
Educational departments and schools will take other measures to improve physical education, including more training for physical education staff and actions to persuade teachers and parents that pursuing high scores at the cost of students' health is stupid, Yang noted.
(Xinhua News Agency December 26, 2006)