The problem does not end at the demolition of such facilities, but extends to the neglect of physical education. Under the current education system of most universities, students have no problem graduating without engaging in any kind of physical education class for four years. Looking into the course schedules for 20 universities in the capital area, none of the schools requires students to take physical education classes, but only provide classes such as tennis and ballet as optional courses.
In addition to the curriculum, the state support for university sports has reduced over the years. Since physical education or sports facilities is not included in the standards of college restructuring evaluation, both the state and schools do not allocate a large portion of budget for it.
Meanwhile, students’ lukewarm attitude toward sports is another factor that contributes to the situation. According to a survey conducted by Ewha Voice targeting 212 Ewha students, many students are not aware of the programs or the facilities at school. Approximately 12 percent of the students answered that they do not know the location and the way to use any of the total nine on-campus sports facilities listed on the survey. Even about 50 percent of the students who knew at least one facility answered they recognize only one or two, and the named facilities were mostly the ECC Fitness Center, the Physical Training Center, and the Ewha Swimming Center. More than half of the respondents said they have never used any of the facilities so far.
“At first, it was hard for me to find the facility because I didn’t know the location,” a respondent said. “It would be nice if there was a booklet that gives the information of the exact locations.”
Regarding the physical education courses and programs, the awareness of students was even lower, as only 15.6 percent answered that they participated in classes provided by the school.
A student who has never utilized any sports facilities at school confessed that she was not aware of them until this year.
“During the first semester, I didn’t use the facilities because I didn’t know the location and was busy with school life,” said Lee Kang-hee, a sophomore majoring in English Language & Literature. “Even when I got to know the facilities and the programs provided by the school, I still didn’t use them because I felt it was unnecessary. However, as a sophomore, it became physically difficult for me to commute to school. So I decided to sign up for the fitness center.”
As it appears both in the survey and the interview, students lack knowledge of the physical education they can receive in the first place. Moreover, physical training is not a priority to students compared to other activities, resulting in low participation rate. Adding to the diminishing support, such attitude leads to indifference to university physical education.
Restoring physical education on campus
With sports facilities being demolished as well as the need to do sports at school, debate as to whether the school should support physical education and enhance the management of sports facilities for students is sprouting. As a student who uses the sports facilities on campus on a regular basis, a freshman of Human Movement Studies at Ewha shared her thoughts and experiences.
“Although I don't have many complaints, I have to say that the facilities are quite old,” she said. “For example, the changing rooms and bathrooms seem to lack in quality compared to other buildings.”
When questioned whether the school should build more sports facilities, she replied that she wished the school would take more care of the existing facilities, such as the Athletics Track near the Main Gate.
Some students also seemed unhappy with the lack of promotion of the facilities.
“I think that students would use the school’s sports facilities if they knew the location and basic information regarding how to use them,” said a junior majoring French. “Many people don’t even know where the tennis court is or that it even exists.”
Despite the declining popularity of sports training and physical exercise among Korean college students, various studies have shown the importance of physical education.
One of the many reasons physical education is important is that it has been proved in multiple studies that engagement in sports can enhance one’s social ability. In a study conducted by Korea University, students who engaged in physical education in their freshman year had better sportsmanship, which eventually led to an easier adjustment to college life.
In another study conducted at Ewha Womans University, students who learned swimming as a general requirement gained more self-concept than students who did not enroll in the class. Students specifically showed heightened self-concept through improvement in sports competence, endurance and confidence in physical appearance. The elevated sense of self-esteem is proven intrinsic to the improvement of social skills.
Physical education has also shown to positively affect the well-being of students after graduation. In several studies conducted abroad, universities that had physical education as mandatory courses produced more graduates that were positive about keeping a healthy, active lifestyle. Also, the graduates of such schools had more basic knowledge concerning well-being.
Despite all these remarkable virtues, many collegians still feel that physical education has little correlation with their everyday lives. Professor Kim Kyung-sook, a Human Movement Studies professor and dean of College of Health Sciences at Ewha, thinks that the key to bringing sports and university students closer lies in extracurricular club activities.
“I don’t think that opening mandatory sports courses is the solution,” Kim said. “I believe students should exercise through voluntary sports club activities.”
However, some students showed interest in learning the subject, and felt as though the school was not supporting physical education enough.
“The student quota for elective physical education courses is so small,” said Shin Eun-seo, a freshman majoring International Studies. “Many students fail to register even though they want to learn different sports.”
However, such opinion still remains a minority view. It is students’ attention and voluntary attempt to exercise that can change the atmosphere in which physical activity is overlooked.
Reporters: Kim Hye-won, Yang Hae-in, Son Young-chai, Hong Ki-yeon