Cool trend: rising number of Chinese schools adopt winter sports courses ahead of Beijing 2022


People play ice hockey in Jilin City, Northeast China's Jilin Province during winter at Jilin Sports Training Center. Photo: IC

Witnessing children's immense zeal for winter sports, the ice hockey coach of a primary school in Beijing's Yanqing district is mulling over cooperating with private ice skating centers, so that his students can continue practicing during the summer vacation.

"My students forwent sleeping in during the winter vacation and got up at 6 am by themselves to practice ice hockey during the cold winter morning with temperatures reaching -25 C," Zhao Jisheng, the student's coach and a retired professor of the College of Physical Education and Sports at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times after a challenging winter of training primary school children to play ice hockey.

Zhao said that his students' enthusiasm for ice and snow sports has increased a lot. Some parents even told him that their children refuse to switch channels once a winter sports program is airing on TV. Before this winter, they showed almost no interest in such programs.

"The cooperation with skating centers means that students can access winter sports all year long, and it also demonstrates how winter sports have been increasingly entering primary schools," Zhao said, with his school being an exemplar.

In fact, China's Ministry of Education (MOE) has urged primary and middle schools nationwide to establish winter sports courses. China will have 2,000 schools running winter sports courses by 2020, with that number expected to reach 5,000 by 2025, the MOE said in February.

Olympic inspiration

The MOE has urged primary and middle schools nationwide to conduct practical activities, physical education courses and ideological and political theory courses to introduce children to winter sports.

Schools in the northern parts of China are to open winter sports courses, and schools in the southern parts of the country should cooperate with local ice and snow stadiums and clubs, so that students can partake in more winter sports, according to the MOE.

Targeted students are also encouraged to join in on cultural activities, such as designing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games mascot and slogan and participating in Olympics-themed musical activities, drama and art classes and even quizzes.  

China plans to name 700 primary and middle schools as special Winter Olympic Games representative schools, with 200 of those being in Beijing and 200 in North China's Hebei Province, according to the plan.

During the opening ceremony of the new semester at Beijing Qianmen Primary School on February 26, a group of students wearing ski suits practiced on a new ski machine. The school is even due to open winter sports courses from this semester.

Taking advantage of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in order to promote winter sports to the public should be encouraged in China, and introducing winter sports to students could raise their awareness of, and interest in, such sports, which could also benefit their health, Chinese sports observers said.

"The plan also serves as a government effort to reach the goal of engaging 300 million people in winter sports, which was set when China bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games," Wang Zongping, a physical education professor at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times.

Schools and parents pay inadequate attention to students' physical activities, which is a result of China's exam-orientated education system, thus, winter sports should be added as a selective course in China's senior high school entrance examination processes to ensure the government plan is well conducted, Wang said. 

Looming challenges  

The MOE's plan to introduce winter sports to schools comes after it vowed to launch soccer education programs in schools nationwide. However, the planned widespread adoption of winter sports poses harsher challenges compared with soccer, Wang said.

Winter sports are climate-sensitive, and building indoor ice stadiums or using artificial snow would mean huge costs for schools, Wang said.

"Schools could adjust their syllabuses according to different seasons, for example, schools in the north can increase the amount of PE classes during winter, while schools in the south could focus on cultural activities related to winter sports such as quizzes [as the south is too warm]," Wang said.

According to Zhao, winter sports should be conducted mainly in places which have authentic snow and ice, as artificial snow and ice is unsuitable to train sport talents who wish to make the professional winter sports team.


Newspaper headline: Snow on the syllabus


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