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College first to teach tree-climbing course

By Li Qian (Shanghai Daily)

09:12, July 25, 2012

A RENOWNED university in a coastal city in southeastern Fujian Province has triggered controversy for becoming the first Chinese institution of higher learning to teach students how to climb trees.

The Xiamen University, which has one of the greenest campuses in China, said it has started to look for the proper tree-climbing venue on an adjoining hill, and the class would train students to "move smoothly among the trees" as well as teach them survival skills.

"Many US universities have opened this elective class, which greatly inspired our headmaster during his US tour," Lin Jianhua, professor of the university's sports department, told Xiamen Economic Daily. "We will ensure the students' safety with the assistance of equipment," he added.

The move has been praised by outdoor enthusiasts who considered it a relatively safe and easy way for students to improve their physical fitness as well as learn survival skills.

"At least, students can climb trees to escape floods," an Internet user called Maimang06 said.

Some Xiamen University students also showed support. "It's interesting! I will be sure to select this course in the upcoming semester. It's great to have fun while learning something," a third-year student identified as Xiao Chen said.

But others protested, accusing the university of blindly imitating its overseas counterparts and saying it would damage the environment.

"Learn to be monkeys? It's ridiculous. It's better to teach swimming," one commenter said.

It is not the first time Xiamen University has made news. In 2005, it became the first domestic school to open a golf course and was surprised to find that students warmly welcomed it. The university has recruited professional golf coaches and expanded classes from three to 11, the paper said.

Other universities also offer unique lessons as Chinese education gradually becomes more focused on all-round development. Ocean University of China teaches students sailing. Nanjing Normal University teaches girls how to be a charming woman while China University of Political Science and Law develops a psychological courses from the popular US television series "Lie to Me."

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