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LCQ18: Students' physical activities and fitness conditions
     Following is a question by the Hon Luk Chung-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):
     There are views pointing out that due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 epidemic and the anti-epidemic measures put in place by the Government (such as class suspension and closure of sports venues), primary and secondary school students in Hong Kong have fewer opportunities to participate in sports activities, competitions and related trainings held within and outside the classroom, and this has directly aggravated the issues of obesity and declining physical fitness among students, hindering the healthy growth and development of their body and mind. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the sporting culture on primary and secondary school campuses and the participation in sports activities by primary and secondary school students in the past three years, for example, apart from regular physical education lessons at schools, students'‍ participation in sports interest classes and school team trainings after school hours (including the respective numbers of student participants and activity hours, etc.);
(2) given that the results of the Survey Studies on Students' Physical Fitness conducted for primary and secondary school students by the Physical Fitness Association of Hong Kong, China (HKPFA) as commissioned by the Education Bureau have shown a downward trend in students' overall performance in various testing items in recent years, whether the authorities have looked into the causes for that; as the testing items conducted by the HKPFA for secondary school students in the 2019-2020 school year and 2020-‍2021 school year were significantly cut down, of the reasons and justifications concerned, as well as the expected time for reinstating the original set of testing items for the survey;
(3) whether it knows the number of inter school competitions organised by the Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation in the past five years, as well as the number of local students and teams participated in various competitions; and
(4) whether the authorities have allocated additional resources and formulated specific policies, with a view to stepping up the efforts in promoting sports activities among schools after the epidemic, thereby promoting students to establish a healthy habit of exercising and enhancing their physical fitness; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     Healthy Lifestyle is one of the seven learning goals in school curriculum. Schools are advised to adopt a life-wide learning approach to cover the knowledge, skills and attitudes related to healthy lifestyle through different subjects. Schools are also required to arrange physical education (PE) lessons and diversified sports activities for primary and secondary school students to develop their physical competence and enhance their physical fitness for maintaining physical health. Amidst the epidemic, schools have been flexibly deploying different teaching modes to assist students in home learning, so that students can stay motivated to learn to achieve "suspending classes without suspending learning".
    Our reply to Hon Luk Chung-hung's question is as follows:
(1) The Education Bureau (EDB) has all along been helping schools promote physical activities through various means. Amidst the epidemic, the EDB has provided the Guidelines on Conducting Physical Activities for the Prevention of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) for schools or teachers to support online PE learning and teaching arrangements during the epidemic. The EDB has also collaborated with different stakeholders to develop diversified learning and teaching resources (including online video clips of sports programmes (Note 1)) to teach students to keep exercising after class or at home. The EDB also shares good practices of promoting sports activities with teachers through platforms such as professional development and training programmes and learning communities, in which teachers may explore effective and interesting learning and teaching strategies, such as conducting PE lessons in the form of games more often, in order to enhance students' interest in participating in sports and increase their motivation for engaging in and time spent on sports activities (Note 2). In response to the adjustments to anti-epidemic measures, schools in the past three years have flexibly arranged and organised different sports-related co-curricular activities, including interest classes and school team training, according to the developmental needs of their students. The EDB does not have the relevant statistics.
(2) Regarding the impact of COVID-19, apart from the fact that it would directly affect children's health upon infection, the control measures to curb the pandemic implemented in society have also brought changes to people's lifestyle, such as decrease of the opportunities for outdoor activities as well as physical activities, and change of dietary pattern due to the class suspension and social distancing measures. According to a survey on the physical fitness of secondary school students commissioned by the EDB in the 2019/20 school year, the percentage of students with overweight or obesity has increased, while students' overall performance in physical fitness has declined. Given that the survey was conducted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic during which students were required to maintain social distancing under various anti-epidemic, anti-infection and safety measures, and that it was not advisable to wear a mask when doing moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activities, some of the test items, including the one-minute sit-up, push-up (for boys) or bent-knee push-up (for girls), measurement of skinfold thickness of triceps and calf, nine-minute run or walk and Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, were cancelled. With the gradual and orderly resumption of normal campus life, we will conduct a survey on the physical fitness of primary school students in the 2023/24 school year.
(3) The Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation (HKSSF) is responsible for overseeing all primary and secondary inter-school sports competitions in Hong Kong. It lays down rules and regulations for different inter-school sports competitions and ensures their compliance by all member schools. According to the information provided by the HKSSF, a total of 96 inter-school sports competitions have been organised over the past five years, with the participation of over a thousand primary and secondary schools or so each year, accounting for about 96 per cent of the total number of schools in Hong Kong. The total numbers of local students and school teams participating in such competitions were 402 495 and 64 924 respectively. In the past three years, most of the inter-school sports competitions were suspended, postponed or resumed on a limited basis due to the epidemic and class suspension arrangements (see Annex for details).
(4) To further engage students in developing an active and healthy lifestyle, the EDB launched the "Active Students, Active People" Campaign in the 2021/22 school year to rally the efforts of different sectors to promote an optimised sports atmosphere in both schools and society. An array of new teacher training programmes and student activities have also been launched, which include a series of sharing sessions by elite athletes and the development of a variety of teaching and learning resources, such as educational videos on the Winter Olympic Games and the Physical Activity Logbook, to create an optimised atmosphere for school sports and encourage students to develop a habit of regular exercise as soon as possible. In addition, enhanced support has also been provided for schools to encourage students to keep participating in physical activities amidst the epidemic. Examples include inviting elite athletes to demonstrate via video clips how to do physical activities at home, producing new presentation slides on physical fitness, and launching the "Virtual Basketball Shooting Contest" and the "Vitality Fitness Walking/Running Challenge", with a view to encouraging students to maintain a moderate amount of physical activities at home or outside the school.
     It takes the concerted efforts of schools, families and society to enhance students' interest in sports and further encourage them to participate in physical activities. The "Smart Parent Net" website of the EDB provides diversified information for parents, which includes articles or videos that encourage parents to do exercise with their children and to help their children develop a healthy lifestyle. Besides, the EDB has been collaborating with different government departments, relevant bodies and organisations to provide various types of physical activities or sports programmes, such as the "Fun to Move@JC" project and the "Active School Programme" funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the School Physical Fitness Award Scheme, the Pandemic Challenge - Fitness Challenges at Home Scheme and the Outdoor Education Camp Scheme. The EDB will also continue to collaborate with school sports organisations, such as the HKSSF and the Hong Kong Schools Dance Association, to organise various inter-school sports and dance competitions so as to provide students with opportunities of participation in sports activities. The EDB will provide different resources, such as the Life-wide Learning Grant, for schools to organise diversified life-wide learning activities, so that students will have more choices and opportunities to participate in physical activities, thereby improving their physical fitness and health. The EDB will also run a series of workshops and sharing sessions through different teachers' professional networks and professional development programmes to support schools in formulating their school-based policy for developing an active and healthy school campus and fostering a sporting culture in schools.
     In addition, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) co-ordinates and subvents the School Sports Programme (SSP). Conducted by various National Sports Associations (NSAs) in line with the daily schedule of schools, the SSP enables students of primary, secondary and special schools in Hong Kong to participate regularly in diverse sports activities during leisure time, so as to foster a sporting culture on school campuses; encourage students to participate in sports in a persistent manner and develop a healthy and active lifestyle; enhance the standard of sports performance among students; and identify student athletes with potential for training.
     The LCSD will increase the provision for the SSP from about $36 million last year to around $37.5 million in 2023-24. The LCSD's work will include, among others, promoting urban sports that have become popular among young people in recent years, such as 3-on-3 basketball, breaking, futsal, sport climbing and skateboarding, as proposed in The Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address, to encourage their greater participation in such sports. On another front, the LCSD will continue to liaise and work closely with the relevant NSAs and schools to review and optimise, from time to time, the content and mode of operation of the SSP, with a view to making it better meet the needs of schools and students. Through such efforts, students will be encouraged to take part in sports in a persistent manner, thereby enhancing their sport performance standard.
Note 1: Doing Physical Activities at Home presentation slides and video clips provided by the EDB:
Note 2: Safety Precautions for Conducting Online Physical Education Lessons and Learning and Teaching Resources provided by the EDB:
Ends/Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:30
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