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University in Yunnan requires students to run 240 kilometers for graduation

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As classes got underway at schools and institutions of higher learning across China this week, incoming freshman and returning sophomores at one Yunnan university received a bit of a surprise. At its semester opening ceremony on September 1, officials at Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (YUFE) explained that all first and second year students will be required to complete an app-monitored fitness regimen in order to graduate.

The announcement was made to more than 4,000 new students at the university campus on Longquan Lu. Zhu Haiying (朱海营), who is in charge of physical education at YUNE, took time during the event to elucidate the necessity of making exercise a habit. He then introduced the now-compulsory regimen to a mixed reaction.

Each YUFE student must download a university-sanctioned app to monitor their progress. And that progress involves jogging, quite a bit of it in fact. Students must run 240 kilometers over the course of a single school year, 120 during each semester. In an effort seemingly designed to get sleepy pupils out of bed, at least 30 kilometers each semester should be completed between 6:30 and 7:30am.

When finished, statistics gathered by the app must be uploaded to a university system by the end of each semester. Those who fail to reach the school's goals will have to begin the same regimen again the following year in order to graduate. Also mandatory is a swimming proficiency class.

Many Chinese universities require matriculating students to pass a swimming test and attend some form of physical fitness class, often taiqi. However, in the words of YUFE's instructor Zhu, such demands are not stringent enough. He told the gathered students that the running course was necessary because "the physical fitness of our country's youth has been on the decline for 30 years".

Whether or not such a statement is true, China is struggling with skyrocketing obesity rates. A report issued this year by the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 12 percent of all Chinese people are obese, with a further 30 percent deemed overweight. The report is especially harsh in its assessment of the country's heavily populated northeast, characterizing China's north as fat and the south thin ("北胖南瘦"). Incidents of diabetes — a disease once unheard of in the Middle Kingdom — are also alarmingly on the rise.

It is fairly easy for YUFE administrators to implement their exercise initiative, as the institution has one of the largest endowments of any school of higher learning in the province. The Longquan Lu campus maintains two of Kunming's largest indoor pools and several football fields ringed with running tracks. In the words of one father attending the school's opening ceremony, "Kids of the one-child generation are spoiled. If they can learn more about fitness, why not?"

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Burdening universities with solving obesity issues is wrong and it's too late. These places are obsessed with filling every free waking moment of every student's day - and night. Too many teaching hours and very little in the way of giving students space to learn.These busy-body know-alls just won't lay off. They insist on taking responsibility for just about everything which means students are responsible for absolutely nothing. All useless regards preparation for life after graduation.

Why should I learn English?

As we all know, English is an international language that will help us advance in careers selling houses and iphones on the off chance that a foreigner walks and needs help, because I am Lei Feng, the iconic folk hero.

do yer reckon 'friend' will allow her spam bots to offer an opinion on this?

I see opportunities for the jocks to earn a little extra cash.
As for university students being overworked, hahahahahaha, really.

I carefully used the words '..space to learn'. Yes, really, no joke.

My university and tertiary students only had lectures between 8am and noon, Many didn't even turn up for lectures, but would turn up for exams. There is an old joke in China, that university is hard to get in (Gaokao), but easy to get out (very hard to fail). I was told by my Dean, in one provincial level uni., that if SS failed and exam they would resit up to twice and would be given an automatic pass after the second resit.

At a tertiary college in Kunming, I had about 30 regular SS out of 60 on the register, but 110 turned in exam papers. Half of them scored less than 30% (and I had pretty much told them the answers and where to find them (in the PPTs I gave them). Lo and behold, I was told by management that the SS all had to pass, including the guy who got 9%.

The problems of students staying in the dormitories, not working and playing computer games has been in the Chinese news several times in recent years. Unless the authorities have got a grip of this recently, I doubt it will have changed.

So you are neither commenting on the present day or regular students.

As a parent - I'd send my kids there just because of that policy. I wonder if it'll spread to state owned companies.

Micheal,

You have failed as a parent if:

a) You cannot control and manage your children's weight

b) You believe a university has more control and influence than the parents

c) You believe a university's function is to act as a prison rather than a place of learning and maturing

Each to his own.

High school students in certain school districts in the U.S. are required to pass swimming exams prior to graduation. In many states, physical education classes are required in junior high.

Where we draw the line of bodily jurisdiction in academia is up for debate.

Notwithstanding, some Yunnan University students may take up this healthy lifestyle for their lifelong benefit.

@Tigertiger, I can already see students running with a backpack full of smartphones every morning.

======================

The philosophy of requiring physical education in universities aside, the way the requirements are implemented by YUFE is very problematic and smacks of heavy-handedness and exertion of undue control.

Assuming an 18 week semester, in order to meet the requirement one would have to average a 1km run per day and two of those per week must be in the mornings. Given the spotty availability of hot water in the dorms, the students are forced to either take a cold shower or attending class with the accompaniment of the odors associated with running.

The second problem is with the APP itself, given that we now have much personal information stored in our phones, there is a real security concern. I am very leery of any software developed by and for any government agencies here in China. The level of incompetence or a general lack of careful thought put into software development is unbelievable. Even if there were no security concerns, it still opens up the possibilities that the said APP was written specifically to gather personal information, perhaps the real intent is to track the whereabouts of the students in real time? My former university administrative colleagues have always joked about wanting to implant microchips into students so they can "keep them out of trouble", this APP could potentially be one step closer to that vision.

And finally, while smartphones are ubiquitous today, there are bound to be students carrying older generation of smartphones that are perhaps incompatible with the APP, what do the administrators propose then? And what about instances of student's phones have been stolen or damaged? Are they not suppose to exercise during that period the phone is out of commission and have to make it up sometime later in the semester thus adding complications to their already complex schedule and impromptu meetings? And then you have the authentication problem mentioned by TigerTiger.

One last thing about the requirement, if the universities are having a difficult time dealing with rampant cheating, lack of academic achievements, i.e., they have to maintain a certain graduation rate, are they seriously not going to let an otherwise fully qualified student to graduate if they didn't meet the PE requirement?

if they are still breathing at end of course they will graduate

What is lacking are safe roads/lanes for Kunming runners. Dawn & dusk Green Lake joggers may attest.

Lets hope the upcoming "Urban re-greening effort" will address this problem:

www.gokunming.com/[...]

This policy may well be connected to the fact that YUFE are being inspected by Beijing educational officials this semester. Hence the new paint everywhere and frazzled staff following pointless new rules (...yes, I work there).

Dear satyrical bloke
Perhaps it's the brevity of internet blogs - however thank you for broadly insinuating publicly I'm a failure as a parent, based on a singular vague and unimplemented opinion. I'm guessing my personal opinion must have been highly inflammatory to elicit such a highly inflammatory comment.

As a parental failure - I'll use any and all tools available to guide my children towards being self-sustaining, productive, ethical, moral, and responsible citizens of society. If the kids refuse to study at home, do their home chores, are addicted to their digital devices, disrespectful - I'll put them in boarding school jails, where they're forced to study under someone else's oppressive eye, digital devices are forbidden or destroyed, physical daily exercise is mandatory, and their every living and waking moment is controlled.

If university trained/prepared professional life isn't desirable to them, I'll try to guide them into sustainable vocational careers, to include military service.

As a parental failure, I'm also of the opinion that my primary duty is not to be my children's best friend, although perhaps that will come with time and maturity (from both parties - parent AND child) - but to prepare them for a responsible self sustainable life without me, fiscal, environmental, and social responsibility.

We never know how long we can breathe and wander the earth - so yes, I'm absolutely a chronic failure as a parent - better than some - worse than others. So I strive to "parent" with "a sense of urgency".

Incredibly astute of you to pick ascertain my chronic and pervasive failure as a parent, based on a singular, as yet unimplemented opinion of mandatory physical education with a stated and measurable performance metric.

On that note - the university was incredibly amazing in stating and implementing this specific requirement. It showed some potentially incredible project management skills as opposed to the typically vague management directives.

thin skin

Well...I am after all a failure as a parent...stands to reason...

@michael '"It showed some potentially incredible project management skills" How so? First, this guy is not the first to come up with this idea since it's been tried....and quietly downgraded and even ditched by at least one other university. Secondly, if by 'incredible project management' you meaning lauding over a batch of first year students and telling them to download an app; then you really are setting the bar very low. Some really very good (teaching) learning takes places in almost every university here, but for the most part it can be dire. A student starts with two weeks of running around dressed as a toy soldier learning how to scream, shout and count to 3. ,,三四, yi, er, san si, ,,三四 and then all too often, for so many, four years of utter drudgery kicks in, sat listening and watching truly incompetent teachers turning the pages of books, starting on page one and only stopping when the semester ends.And what's the answer to this? Trying to undo years sedentary sloth in the lead up to gaokao. And who is responsible for this? It's an unstated conspiracy between tiger parents and tiger teachers. Kids and tigers don't mix. The kids get eaten and the tigers get shot. Incredible management my arse. It's fiddling while Chinese human capital is too often numbed, pulverised and destroyed. So don't send your kids there just to participate in this pantomime because it will be quietly pushed to the periphery and you'll only suffer buyers remorse.

1,2,3,4.

Yeah, but don't forget - they don't all reach the standard.
PS That trap was laid for you!

Folks, it's just about running.

No it is NOT. It's about much more than that. After all these years I don't really know the purpose of universities in China, I don't believe university academic staff know since they are trumped by cadres who simply interpret and implement what they think is the latest requirements of the big cheese in Beijing. One thing for sure, it will constantly change with the wind and the fee paying students will get tossed around with each new hurricane of policy 'initiatives'.

it is not just about running, it has turned into another pi55ing contest

My apologies @michael, if you felt offended, as that was not the intention, my comment was more along the lines of: You know you are a blonde if...., You know you are a red neck if......, etc.

You are right in that I certainly cannot make a determination regarding your abilities as a parent, hence, I only shared my opinion of what I felt a parental failure looks like without accusing anyone of being a failure. Again, I apologize if you felt my hypothetical scenario was presenting that you have failed as a parent, as a fact.

However, since you are passionate enough about being a successful parent to be annoyed by my tongue-in-cheek comment, let me offer a response to your lengthy rebuttal (with my own lengthy manifesto).

IF, as you put it, (again, this is all hypothetical), your kid "refuse to study at home, do their home chores, are addicted to their digital devices, disrespectful", isn't that by definition, a parental failure? You've failed to teach him how to respect authority as that was your purpose. The second failure to compound the first one is that instead of correcting and fortifying your own inadequacies, you pass the buck and expect someone else to cleanup the mess you've made, hoping someone else can succeed where you have failed.

As I am typing this, I am reminded of what many parents expected me to do "as a teacher" when it was their job to do as a parent and not my job as an educator. Cellphone usage is a prime example and one you've mentioned. Chinese parents always complain about their children's phone usage and encourage me to confiscate, or "destroy" in your case, their phones. However, when I raise the idea of the parents not providing a smartphone in the first place, the parent will gasp incredulously and say if I don't buy him an iPhone, he will get angry at me, he will not do his homework, he will not listen until I buy him the phone. What happened to parental control and responsibility? So the solution to the problem is to cave-in, be the good guy and make it the teacher's responsibility to play the bad guy? And then complain to the principal that their kid doesn't like the teacher? Or that the teacher is ineffective because the student wouldn't listen to the "mean" teacher?

I agree with you that the primary duty of a parent is to setup the children to be successful in life and be self-sufficient. From your first post, it is obvious that you view physical fitness as an integral part of self-sufficiency otherwise you wouldn't have applauded the new requirements at YUFE. Given your self-admitted duty to prepare your children to lead a self-sustainable life and that such a life includes physical fitness, it only follows that if you were successful in performing your duties, your children would not need external persuasion, mandatory requirements or otherwise, to maintain physical fitness. And that your proclivity to send your kids to a university where physical education is required, isn't that evidence of your inability to execute you duties?

Bottom line, I believe that as a parent, I am 100% responsible for my child's behavior and belief system. If I take offense from his actions or moral compass then the failure is on my part and no one else's. It is also my responsibilities to rectify the defection and if I am unable to then I have failed as a parent, which is ok because failure is part of life and my ego is not such that I feel I need to be successful at everything. If I had failed my child, the least of my concern would be what some guy on the internet said about my parental abilities. And if I didn't fail, then who cares what some guy on the internet said about my parental abilities.

One final thought, do you believe, as a university education as you have said you are/were one, it is YOUR job to ensure all your students attend all classes, do all their homework, brush their teeth before bed, not go out drinking before exams, not engaging in any risky behavior during break, AND to maintain a healthy diet and physical fitness? If your answer is no, they why would you as a parent, expect universities to control all these aspects of your child's university life? And if the answer is yes, then God help you as I don't see how you can succeed. Would that be another failure?

Personally, I think the running program is necessary as I've come to realize far too many students appear exhausted. Mental exhaustion enhanced by lack of exercise and motivation. Furthermore, if students were encouraged to be as competitive at sports as they are academically there entire educational lives, then the requirement of having to run 240 kilometers with an app would not be necessary. And best not mention the idea that the whole running program is part of a marketing scheme for the app hey? Never!

Anyway, as bad as university reputations may be, thank goodness for them. Afterall, I dread to think what would the millions of annual high school graduates would be getting up to if there weren't any.

*their

? their?

@asatirical
It's no prob...I was actually amused. The leadoff reminded me of Chevy Chase's famous news skits on SNL (Jane, you ignorant....). Apologies for goading you into a massive response. Out of respect, I read it all and concur - but...kids will be kids...sometimes, they just gotta learn things the hard way, in the real world.

As for the professional project management comment - I was commenting on the PM process, not the extraordinarily polarizing debatable aspects of mandatory PE for emerging adults. The university exhibited the core PM processes - which I find unusual with most government organizations and officials (to include USA - not familiar with the shenanigans of other governments, so no opinions there).

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