Single-sex schools see a revival in mainland China

By Kathryn Chiu, The China Post

��Now girls are excellent, they’re even perfect and have brought a lot of pressure to boys … They usually answer questions more quickly than boys in classes, leaving boys no chance. It seems that all the academic honors are going to girls while we boys are often thought of as being lazy and immature.�� These are not the lines of the abused boyfriend from the recent Korean movie ��My Sassy Girl�� (�ڪ����Z�k��), but the heartfelt expressions of a 17-year-old Shanghainese boy surnamed Hsu (�}) in an article written for the campus paper of Shanghai No.8 Senior High School (�W�����ĤK����), shortened to Shiba (���K) by locals. In his essay, he explained his reasons for applying for a boys-only educational experiment launched at Shiba in late 2012. Despite having been a long-time institution in Taiwan and numerous other countries, single-sex education has recently experienced a major revival in China. The experimental boys-only classes at Shanghai No. 8 Senior High School (�W�����ĤK���Ǩk�l�������a�����Z) are part of one such program in which Hsu and 59 other boys successfully enrolled following huge competition from 210 other applicants. The program is sponsored by local authorities and customized by senior Chinese educators and academics in which the 60 boys are expected to study in an environment radically different from that of their peers in co-educational classes.

Each day begins early with a one-kilometer run, and this could be a very challenging experience for some Xiao Zu Zong (�p���v), literally ��little emperors�� �X a Putonghua term used to mock spoiled boys who are a product of China’s one-child policy since 1979. Physical exercise is not the only feature of this program. The students enjoy a highly diverse course of subjects, including elective courses in topics such as fire safety, information technology and repair and maintenance of computer hardware, to name a few. Highly gifted students can also be accelerated to tackle challenging subjects such as higher geometry, science and mathematics in their first year. Some critics among Chinese educators and media have suggested that the program is: ��a venture to revive the masculinity of Chinese males�� or ��a solution to boys’ crisis.�� According to a recent study by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (�W�����|���ǰ|), the academic performance of girls has surpassed boys in nearly every subject from third to ninth grade over the last two decades. During the same period, girls outnumbered boys in prestigious high schools, while 80 percent of student union presidents among national government-supported experimental high schools are girls. ��Crisis, loss of masculinity and expressions of this kind might be an exaggeration, but somehow it seems true that Chinese women outshine men in many aspects nowadays, even at the stadium,�� said Shiba’s Principal Lu Qi-sheng (�c�_�@), who is the mastermind of this experimental program.