By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
A pilot scheme carried out in 10 local primary schools in the past three academic years has found that the students generally lacked regular exercises and were in poor fitness.
Despite signs of improvement reported in the 2010/11 academic year as compared to three years ago, Walter Ho King Yan, assistant professor of the Faculty of Education of the University of Macau, who was responsible for the implementation of the pilot scheme, warned the situation is “alarming” since a lack of sufficient exercises during childhood will cause “direct impact on the children’s healthy development in the future”.
The Youth Affairs Committee held a meeting at the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (DSEJ) yesterday to present results of the pilot scheme.
Ho said in a press conference after the meeting that between the 2008/09 and 2010/11 academic years, some 2,730 primary-one to primary-three students from a total of 10 schools were arranged to receive a physical fitness test and answer to questionnaires concerning their exercise and diet habits.
Their performances were given a score on a 0-5 scale (5 being the best) and the students were afterwards divided into four categories, based on their scores.
Category 1 included students who scored 4 to 5; category 2 scored 3; category 3 scored 2; and category 4 scored 0 to 1.
Ho disclosed that during the 2008/09 academic year, a majority of the students (64.9 percent) were ranked in category 3, meaning a “mere pass”. The second largest group was in category 4, at 19.43 percent, followed by 14.68 percent in category 2 and 0.99 percent in category 1.
However, in the 2010/11 academic year, the situation was found to have improved with fewer students filling in the last two categories.
The results showed that 49.03 percent of the students were in category 3, a drop of nearly 16 percent, and 3.22 percent were in category 4, a plunge of 16.2 percent as compared to two years ago.
An increase of over 28 percent was also reported in category 2, to reach 43.09 percent, whereas category 1 also saw a 3.66 percent growth to 4.65 percent.
The assistant professor highlighted that the children were particularly weak at exercises such as standing long jump and waist flexibility test, meaning that they respectively lacked leg flexibility and strength and presented “excessive fat” in the waist and abdomen.
Although the performances in standing long jump had improved in the last academic year, Ho said the results of the waist flexibility test have “remained more or less the same”.
“They spend most of their times sitting still or in front of the computer. It’s alarming because if they do it for a long period of time it can directly affect their healthy growth in the future,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the questionnaires found that the students were aware of what a healthy diet was but they did not follow it up with actions. “It may be due to the eating habits of their families and society as a whole,” Ho said.
As a result, the DSEJ plans to launch a MOP 900,000 program for Macau’s primary-one to primary-six students in September when the new academic year begins.
Chief of the bureau’s physical education and extra-curricular activity department, Kong Chi Meng, said the program’s ultimate goal is to make the children exercise for at least three-days-a-week for a minimum of half-an-hour per day and with the heart rate reaching about 130 beats per minute.
“Urbanisation and the ever-changing electronic products have made people’s physical activities continue to reduce worldwide, so it’s necessary for us to introduce a new program to stimulate these activities,” Kong said.
Since the application began in July, he said so far 5,500 students from 28 schools have signed up for the program in order to receive physical fitness tests and record their performances in a special booklet.