Introduction: Like the United States, Asian Nations Have Grappled with the Challenge of Creating and Using National Physical Education Standards

Article excerpt

Over the course of the last several decades, advances in the Internet and media have brought distant parts of the globe closer together. It is now possible to email, chat with, and offer web-based classes or conferences to colleagues and students from all over the world. As this occurs, it is becoming increasingly possible for physical educators to learn from one another and to work collaboratively to advocate and build high-quality physical education programs. This area of study is referred to as comparative physical education, and two of the main objectives in this field are to "(a) provide information on the 'world' of others; and (b) foster knowledge about one's own 'world' through confrontation with alternatives" (Hardman, 2001, p. 96). The central purpose of this feature, "Standards and Practice in Asian Physical Education," is to provide a glimpse into the world of physical education in selected Asian countries.

In October 2003, I was invited to attend the second annual Chinese National Physical Education Conference at Beijing Normal University (BNU). During my week-long visit, I was able to see the nature of sport and physical education in China. It quickly became apparent that the Chinese are very proud of having been selected to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. This was reflected through their choice of events for the week. For example, BNU held a field day for their students, faculty, and staff. The entire university was involved, and classes were cancelled for the day. Track and field events were held with departments from BNU competing as participants. Physical education graduate and undergraduate students not only participated, but were in charge of organizing and directing the field day. It was an impressive celebration of sport and physical activity, and it made me wonder how my provost would respond to a proposal for a similar event at West Virginia University.

Part of the conference included a festival of sport and physical education in which children from a variety of grade levels demonstrated sport skills and physical activities, such as American football, volleyball, basketball, unicycling, and group-marching, to name a few. All of the activities were exhibited as lessons, with a teacher leading the students through a series of activities, much like a practice session in sport. The sessions were highly organized and well orchestrated, with students moving through the lessons efficiently. The festival lasted several hours and ended with a sample kindergarten lesson taught by an award-winning physical education teacher. The lesson was on throwing accuracy, and similar to the other lessons, the teacher managed the children well and also provided a series of hierarchically arranged learning tasks, such as aiming at targets and hitting balloons. As with the other exhibitions, the lesson was efficient and teacher controlled, with the students moving through the lesson as a group. Given the emphasis the United States places on providing lessons that maximize moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity (MVPA) among students, I noticed that throughout the day the students spent much time waiting in lines, and therefore had limited opportunities to participate. I wondered whether this was a result of the nature of the exhibition and a desire to orchestrate the activities efficiently, an effort to manage possible fatigue because of the length of the festival, or if it was a characteristic of Chinese physical education.

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I briefly visited a secondary public school and a private elementary school, where I observed a physical education lesson and after-school fitness activities respectively. …