|More schools are losing playground areas causing students to lose physical strength and this is compounded by rampant Internet addiction. Simultaneously, the size of playgrounds is declining, making it less likely for students to play freely.
This shrinking may be one of the causes of widespread school violence that has emerged as a most serious social problem recently.
A report released by the Ministry of Education and Science and Technology showed that 12 schools across the country lack playgrounds ― four in Seoul and three in Gyeonggi Province. About sixty schools have space as little as 1,000 square meters. The average size of a playground at high schools fell from 13 square meters per student in 2007 to 12.6 in 2008, 12 in 2009 and 11.8 in 2010. The figure bounced back to 12.3 square meters last year but given the number of students has declined, it’s almost certain that playgrounds have became smaller.
The rise in the number of schools without playgrounds is attributed to the revision of regulations in 1997 that enabled the establishment of schools even without a playground according to regional circumstances. The rule change was made as part of efforts to ease crammed classrooms.
The lack of playgrounds is driving students to rooftops or gymnasiums, which makes it all but impossible for them to receive normal physical education classes. The problem has produced negative results ― students without access to playgrounds exercise less. While the average exercise time of students without playgrounds was tallied at 84.6 minutes for male students and 73.8 minutes for females, the corresponding figures for students with playgrounds were 124.8 minutes for males and 84.6 minutes for females.
The gap in exercise time has led to disparities in physique. The average height of students without playgrounds was 144.7 cm for males and 144.3 for females, the shortest among measured student groups. On the contrary, their average weight was 41.2 kg for males and 38.2 kg for females, the heaviest among the groups.
Adding fuel to the already serious problem is a new schooling system that was introduced in 2009. The so-called intensive class completion system envisions reducing the number of subjects learned in a semester to eight from the previous 11, a move aimed at alleviating the academic burden and raising concentration in class. The result is that physical education, music and art are completed in a semester while key classes like math and English are spread over several semesters.
Physical education is sacrificed most, given the rationale that exercise should be done steadily while young. This is like working out very hard for a single day of the week while doing nothing the other six.
Education experts say play and exercise might be more instrumental in curbing bullying. In this regard, the education authorities should enforce schools to secure appropriate playground space.
4월 21일 (토) The Korea Times 사설