Where Boys Can Make The Grade

No girls allowed. It's not a sign posted outside a tree house fort, but a possible new approach to education. "Boys generally become physically and mentally mature later than girls," said Lu Qisheng,principal of Shanghai No 8 High School, which is trying to change its senior high school division into a boys-only campus.

"Boys are often outperformed by girls in schools and colleges." In Shanghai, boy students in 2011 scored lower than girl students on average in the annual senior high school entrance exam. Their disadvantages are mainly in English and Chinese.

"What the school will do is to develop boys' advantages, which were often under valued orignored in co-ed schools. Here, boys will be given more opportunities for exercise and performance, which will increase their virility, fortitude and endurance," Lu said. The school is expected to enroll its first batch of students this autumn.

It would be the first boys-only campus in Shanghai, part of an education cooperation program between the Huangpu district education bureau and East China Normal University.

A private all-boys high school was established in Beijing in 2003, while an experimental class for 32 boys was set up in Wuxi in East China's Jiangsu province in 2010. The under-representation of boys in schools and colleges has long been discussed by educators and sociologists, and how to give appropriate education for boys is also underdebate.

Wang Ronghua, director of the Shanghai Education Development Foundation, has often expressed his concern over the poor performance of boys in schools and colleges, which hehas claimed will have a negative impact on the country's science and technological innovations.

During China's top legislative meeting earlier this month, Wang, who is also a lawmaker,proposed giving male students gender-specific education while simultaneously lowering the barfor them to enter college. According to Wang, about 80 percent of the high school students who were rated as "poor students" are male.

"Ability in languages are highly valued in entrance exams, in which boys have fewer advantages," Wang said.

But not all experts applaud the idea. "It's very necessary for educators to make some changes and adjustments in modes of education and methods toward boys. But there is no need for students to enter a boys-only school," said Wen Jun, head of the Institute of Sociology of Shanghai-based East China Normal University.

"It might be feasible as a trial project but no advantage can be seen in the long term," he added. Children have to learn how to deal with different people and things during their growth, inwhich school plays a crucial role. Isolation from the opposite sex will not be a good choice for children's growth," Wen said.

Xue Yali, an assistant researcher from the Family Education Research Center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, stressed the importance of the role of family and parents. "Some parents often attribute the poor academic performance of their sons to outside pressures and the precociousness of girls. Actually, what they need to do is to rethink their educational methods," Xue said.

A boy student contacted by China Daily said he doesn't like the idea of an all-boys school. "Boys and girls have complementary advantages," said Guo Kai, a 16-year-old student fromTianjin No 2 High School.

"A boys-only school is a sort of discrimination. There is no need to separate them from girls,"he said.
A teacher also spoke against the boys-only school."If I had a boy, I wouldn't send him to an all-boys school. The poor performance of boys in their studies can't be attributed to the co-ed system. It's due to the academic evaluation system,"said Wang Fei, a 33-year-old male teacher at Shanghai Maritime University.

"In schools, a lot of the curriculum requires students to memorize and recite, such as English vocabulary and grammar, which are not an advantage for boys." Lin Jie, who graduated from the girls-only Shanghai No 3 Girls High School, said the good thing about an all-boys school is that group work and team spirit can be easily established. "Without girls, boys can face their vulnerabilities, which is good for them to improve themselves."



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