The Ministry of Education has sent a notice reminding elementary schools nationwide to refrain from gifting students with sugary drinks or candies on Christmas, following a Health Promotion Administration report that more than a quarter of elementary-school children in the country were either overweight or obese.
The health agency’s data showed that obesity among elementary-school children reached about 30 percent in males and 21.4 percent in females, adding that the percentage of overweight or obese male schoolchildren was higher than comparative figures in Japan, the UK, Germany and Canada.
The ministry’s notice came as schools prepare for the holiday season.
The parent of a fourth-grader in New Taipei City (新北市) surnamed Chen (陳) praised the idea, saying that her daughter is slightly chubby and adorable now, but when she grows up, what made her adorable might come back to haunt her.
“We have finally got her to swear off bubble tea,” Chen said, adding that it would be better if schools do not give away candies to celebrate the season.
On the other hand, an elementary student in Taipei surnamed Yang (楊) said Christmas without sweets would be like ordering bubble tea and finding that there are no tapiocas in it.
Taipei Mandarin Experimental Elementary School principal Yang Mei-ling (楊美玲) said that while obesity was an issue, food safety was also a factor in the school’s decision to give other stuff instead of candies for the holiday.
The school is hiring a band to perform Christmas carols and other songs in front of the school, she added.
Shih Shih-chih (施世治), a teacher at Chiayi Elementary School in Pingtung County’s Majia Township (瑪家), said that a majority of Aboriginal families in the area are Christians, and villagers often give the young students who go caroling candy canes or other sweets.
“It should not be a health problem as long as the children don’t receive too much,” Shih said.
National Federation of Teachers Unions president Liu Chin-hsu (劉欽旭) said the notice from the ministry was just a reminder to try to keep children from being addicted to sweets, but that the occasional sweet over Christmas would not hurt anyone.
National Alliance of Parents Organization head Wu Fu-bin (吳福濱) added that while it was a good thing for schools to put more emphasis on students’ health, it should not stop the practice of giving candies during holidays “as many schoolchildren look forward to receiving them.”