Whichever country I am studying in, PE has always been a fundamental subject, yet for completely different reasons.
In the comprehensive in London where I stayed for two years, PE was important for a reason that is plain common sense. PE should be advocated because it keeps one fit, it allows pupils to find interests and make friends, and that it also prepares pupils for potential hardship and difficulties. PE is a compulsory subject in GCSE, though passing the subject is not particularly difficult.
Although not sportive, I have always enjoyed PE lessons and always signed up for several events for Sports Day. However, after my return to China, the condition shocked me.
PE lessons were abolished completely during the final weeks before end-of-term exams to make room for other compulsory subjects. Teachers of PE were not treated with respect that they doubtlessly deserve. Girls hardly participate in any game due to peer pressure and also pressure from parents. This seems a strange contrast from the US, where accomplished athletes are treated with admiration.
The Chinese Minister of Education, in an attempt to solve this issue, decided that PE exams in the Senior High School Entrance Exams should be significantly tougher than they were before. Also, the final score will be included in the final report and will potentially determine future allocations to schools.
Shortly after this, PE lessons reclaimed their places in our timetable. We would sometimes even skip extensive classes after school that were offered to the top students to practice the 800-metre run.
The standards were murderous: the standard for full marks for boys can go beyond the average abilities of a well-qualified athlete. The 800-metre run is particularly horrifying, requiring the students to complete it in 3 minutes and 29 seconds---a standard easier said than done.
Many parents hired private tutors for their child at high costs, presumably for the first time in PE. This all ended when the exam finished. Most of us, including me, got full marks. As we lined up to receive our reports, many of us knew that PE would soon be erased from the timetable again, that the exam marked the end of our love for a subject that we once thought was useless, and hated.
We went home in the afternoon due to dizziness and fever. I just wondered how many of us would really push ourselves that far if it wasn't for the exams that would determine our future?
Everything, I later realised, had a purpose. We did not skip class to jog because we valued fitness. We did not run until we nearly passed out because we wished to test our limits. Our parents did not hire the tutors because they valued physical abilities. We fought the fatigue and the stress because we need the solid figures in the database that would determine our senior high schools. I believe that the minister of education didn't expect this mania when he made his decision. It seems that for a few years at least, it is impossible to stress the importance of anything without relating it to exams. It has exactly the opposite effect to the true spirit of sporting activities.