TAIYUAN, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Students in north China's Shanxi Province have been assigned with special homework this winter: outside physical exercise.
They have to have their sports time recorded and sent to teachers by phone every day as evidence of doing the homework.
In a residential community courtyard in the provincial capital of Taiyuan, third-grader Zhu Huiming from Bayi Primary School is practising tuck jumps.
"You should raise your leg up to the hand as close as possible," Zhu's mother Wang Li tells him while recording with her phone.
Shi Ruiping, a school PE teacher in charge of the assignment design, said the assignments were based on the physical functions of children of different ages.
"For children in lower grades, they are assigned easier activities such as wall squats; those in upper grades are supposed to do difficult exercises like lunges, which suit their body growth," Shi said.
Many primary and high schools including Bayi have assigned physical exercise homework during the winter vacation, following the guideline "fitness comes first" that was proposed at the National Education Conference in September 2018.
On the playground near Taihangyuan Community in Taiyuan, Niu Jiaqi, a junior high school student from the High School Affiliated to Shanxi University, is warming up.
She runs every day on the playground to finish the physical exercise homework and is also preparing for the senior high entrance exam next year.
"Doing exercise is necessary for both physical education examinations and body health," she said.
Over the past decades, despite improved medical and nutritional conditions in China, the physical health of the young has not improved.
A survey published by the Ministry of Education every five years shows that the average physical condition of adolescents kept declining from 1985 to 2010. The downward trend was not stopped until 2015, after the government introduced a series of policies to encourage physical exercise not only among the youth but also the general public.
In the latest move, the General Administration of Sport of China and the Ministry of Finance announced that they had subsidized more than 1,200 large stadiums across the country so that the venues could offer free or low-cost access to the public in 2018.
The announcement said the opening duration of the stadiums should not be less than eight hours every day during summer, winter vacations and public holidays.
Lou Jing, an associate professor on physical education from Shanxi University, warned that physical exercise during the winter vacation should be more than just homework.
"The school should pay attention to the difficulty and practicability while arranging the homework. Parents and schools should enhance communication, and jointly supervise and cooperate with students to improve the physical quality of students," Lou said.