CHINA - Like children across the country, youngsters in Beijing returned to class Monday, but kids in the capital have one new subject to deal with - how to trim their expanding waistlines.
According to a ruling issued by the city's education bureau, pupils at the capital's primary and middle schools will now have daily physical education classes to help fight the flab.
Latest statistics from the Beijing Center for Disease Control showed that at least 14 percent of young people aged 7 to 22 have obesity problems, a figure that has been growing in recent years.
In the past, schools in the capital were only required to have weekly PE classes, which some dropped to let pupils spend more time on their studies.
In addition to ensuring youngsters get more exercise, schools across Beijing are introducing a host of other lessons including handicrafts.
"Besides academic education, schools should teach children more life skills, as well as a greater awareness of aesthetics and practical skills to help cultivate their minds," said Huo Xiuming, an art teacher at Beijing No 165 Middle School.
To mark the start of the new school year, China Central Television broadcast a special program watched by the nation's 220 million primary and secondary school students.
The program urged pupils to learn from the examples of the nation's outstanding athletes, and people who displayed great heroism while rescuing victims of the May 12 earthquake.
In Guangdong province, safety and emergency education was the content of the first class of the new semester at many primary and high schools.
In the earthquake-hit areas of Sichuan province, roughly 3.4 million primary and secondary school students returned to classes Monday.
Learning how to thank others and appreciate others' work was the first lesson in many schools across the province.
Around 6,000 primary and secondary schools in 51 counties of the province were affected by the earthquake, local officials said.
More than 28 percent of students are studying in makeshift classrooms built by local authorities and are expected to move into new schools later next year, Tu Wentao, director of Sichuan's education bureau, said Monday at a press conference in Chengdu.
The rest are studying in repaired and reinforced classrooms or went to other provinces and cities to continue their education.
More than 19,000 students from quake-hit zones went to other cities and provinces such as Guangdong and Shanghai after their schools were destroyed by the quake. Their study and living expenses will be covered by those cities, Tu said.
"We will guarantee that no student drops out of school due to the disaster," he said.