Shanghai elementary school requires playing golf
Some 400 students at an elementary school in Shanghai kicked off their spring semester by swinging golf clubs.
The first public elementary school in China to introduce golf as one of its compulsory courses, the Experimental School of Foreign Languages Affiliated to East China Normal University said on its official website that all first and second graders are required to practice golf once every week since the semester began on Feb 18.
“Golf is not a high-class sport exclusive for aristocrats only. It could be a popular game accessible to all,” Xia Haiping, the school principal, told Chinese media thepaper.cn.
Xia said that the school added the course to its syllabus not only to enhance the physical conditions of its junior students, but also help them with their etiquette.
Extra tuition will not be charged for students who take the course, which is a collaborative project launched by the school and the Century Teenage Golf Program, initiated by Shanghai Century Publishing Group.
It is estimated that there are upwards of 30 schools in China, private and public, elementary and secondary, that have included golf as part of their physical education.
Golf was introduced in China late in the 1990s and has gained great popularity among the country’s business people as an ideal social game. The younger generations are exposed to the sport later thanks to their parents, many of whom believe it could help their children win an edge while applying for overseas universities.
In 1997, Shenzhen University in southeast China made headlines by being the first school in Asia to establish a golf college, dedicated to training professional talent in playing and managing the game.
According to the Forward Management Group, a leading sports management company in China’s golf industry, there were around 32,000 junior golfers in the country by 2013 and the number is increasing.
In 2010, the group, in partnership with the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA) foundation, developed more than 100 golf programs in 30 Chinese cities. Most of its programs provide basic golf instruction to children aged six to 15.
Private gold tutors charge an average of 300 to 700 yuan ($46 to $108) per session for junior teaching in China. Despite the growing need, industry insiders said that there is a dire shortage of professional coaches for junior golfers, who require as much physical instruction as mental.
Principal Xia says that golf training is expensive or looked upon as a luxury because when it first entered China, rich people were the major players.
Facilities for golf at the school are mostly provided by the Century Teenage Golf Program, which hopes to popularize the sport to more public schools in Shanghai.
“As a bilingual school, we hope our students can not only speak fluent English, but also understand its culture and combine the language into their daily life,” said Xia.