Teeing off to a bright future

Updated: 2011-04-08 11:07

By Qian Yanfeng (China Daily European Weekly)

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Teeing off to a bright future

Teachers use golf to sharpen social, etiquette skills of Chinese students

Understanding sports is considered essential for living in the global society. But teachers in China are now taking this a step further and using golf lessons to hone the social and etiquette skills of their students.

Liao Zebin is just eight years old, but has already developed such an eye and skill for golf that belies his young age.

Even more surprising is that most schoolchildren of his age in China would have hardly even heard or seen much of golf and the game.

Thanks to an initiative by the Shanghai-based Yongchang Private School, golf is now a mandatory course for Grade One and Two students at the school since the last semester. For many like Liao, the only child of a working-class family in the city, golf was always seen as a rich man's sport that required specialized training and skills.

That perception has now changed."Golf is all about learning etiquette and communication skills and building integrity apart from keeping fit," says Liao.

"My parents and teachers feel that the golfing lessons have made me more gentleman-like," Liao says.

Golf in China still largely remains the purview of the rich.

But in recent years there has been a noticeable trend of the high-end sports event being accepted by an increasing number of teachers and parents in China as an essential skill.

That perception also stems from the belief that a more sophisticated pattern of education that goes beyond the traditional academic curriculum will open wider horizons for students.

Like golf, learning to play the piano or the violin, ballet classes and tennis lessons all figure in the curriculum of Chinese students, be it at the school or as training courses during their spare time.

Interestingly more and more parents also believe in such a curriculum as they consider these skills and hobbies essential for the overall development of the child, especially as the traditional mode of education is just aimed at improving students' academic scores.

Like the Yongchang school in Shanghai, the Chengdu Era School and Kindergarten in Southwest China's Sichuan province has made it mandatory for all kindergarten students and those till Grade Six, to learn golf since August last year.

Though the move was met with raised brows at that time, the school persisted with its stand that the golf lessons are conducive to students' overall development and that it is better to start such education as early as possible.

"Learning golf is not only about cultivating certain skills. It is also all about raising the standards of living and making people happier as it is both a physical exercise and an entertainment," says Li Yuhua, principal of Yongchang Private School.

"We hope that golf can be an effective way of improving the abilities of students and have a positive effect on their future development, as they have to communicate in English and learn to respect others when playing the sport," he says, adding that the school does not charge any extra fees for its golf classes.

The Grade One and Two students of the school currently undergo a weekly golfing lesson of about 40 minutes. During the class, students learn how to drive onto the fairway and chip out of sand traps.

Other students can also volunteer to attend the class if they like, he says. Over time, the school will make it mandatory for students of all grades to undergo golfing lessons, he says.

The school is also spending 2 million yuan to set up a 3.3-hectare practice course for students' use at a branch campus in the city's suburban area. The facility is expected to be completed in July 2012.

"I think students have benefited a lot from the program. They are not told to become professional players in the field but to enjoy themselves. They can teach others to play golf and also use it as an employment prospect," Li says.

Some parents are receptive to the idea of golf lessons at such an early age.

"As long as the school does not charge extra fees for the golf lessons, I think it is a good attempt to promote the sport among the young," says Tang Yongqing, father of a 10-year-old boy in Shanghai.

"After all, it's an interesting sport, and who knows whether golf would not become a household sport soon in China?"


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