Chinese Sports Schools Look to Soccer, Mull Golf

(Photo: Amanda Mills, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Amanda Mills, Creative Commons)

Changes to how China’s schools handle sports are looming as the Ministry of Education has asked for higher educational standards from sports schools, the focus zooms in on soccer, and some schools add golf to the curriculum.

According to a report by the Ministry of Education, China’s sports schools need to provide a better cultural education for the athletes and integrate education into sports more successfully.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) stated that the cultural education of athletes is central to their abilities, and also help the schools maintain sustainable development.

The report was based on inspections of sports schools in nine cities and provinces in late 2015.

The inspections found that many schools didn’t spend enough money on cultural education, and others had educational equipment that was badly out of date. Some schools were not even qualified for the nine years of compulsory education, according to Giu Liping of ECNS.cn.

Sports schools are the main source of China’s athletes, including 95% of the Chinese athletes who have won medals in international tournaments.

China hosts a total of 2,183 sports schools, 1,717 of which are for children, reports Yibada.

The quality of sports schools is of increasing importance, as China’s government plans on turning soccer into an economic driver, according to Jenia Cane of China Topix. Therefore, China will be making a course focused on soccer mandatory in many of its schools. 8,000 schools currently have courses like this, but the government plans on expanding it to 50,000 schools by 2025.

In March of 2015, President Xi Jinping announced his desire to eventually host, and hopefully win, the FIFA World Cup.

The former coach of the Chinese women’s national team, Pei Encai, said in response to the announcement:

“The only way to build a solid grassroots foundation for the game is to do it on campus. We will only be able to build professional competence when enough kids are playing soccer in schools.”

The Ministry of Education has also revealed that 120 youth coaches from abroad will be added to the 146 already funded by the government.

At some schools, golf will also be added to the curriculum, according to Te-Ping Chen of the Wall Street Journal. Since Mao Zedong’s statement that golf is “too bourgeois,” the sport failed to gain a strong following in China. While the ban was lifted in 1984, disapproval has continued under President Xi Jinping, who has closed golf courses in an effort to curb corruption and prevent large quantities of water being wasted on keeping the courses green.

However, the Experimental School of Foreign Languages Affiliated to East China Normal University began golf lessons this year.

School principal Xia Haiping said:

The purpose of establishing such curriculum is to strengthen students’ physique, cultivate their sense of international etiquette, and increase the elegance of their manners.

Many private schools already teach it, however, and it’s a required course at the Beijing Huijia Private School. Li Yu, who heads the school’s sports management department, believes that it can be an advantage for students who want to study overseas, and even in business negotiations later in life.

According to Josh Horwitz of Quartz, a total of 30 primary schools in the country currently offer golf.