All-boys' classes to tackle school 'masculinity crisis'
A top Shanghai high school has secured approval to open the city's first two all boys' classes at the start of the new school year in September, in a pilot programme designed to tackle a 'masculinity crisis' in mainland education.
The move has spurred debate about whether the problem - weak male students who perform poorly academically and lack leadership - actually exists.
Shanghai No 8 Senior High School headmaster Lu Jinsheng said the Huangpu District Education Department and the East China Normal University had submitted a proposal to the municipal education bureau to turn his school into an all boys' institution, but the authorities gave the green light to just two all-boys' classes on Thursday last week.
'The authorities are being cautious in their consideration of this issue and said our pilot programme should be rolled out gradually and in several phases,' Lu said.
He said the idea of an all-boys' school was based on the fact that boys generally achieve far lower academic scores than girls, and most class leaders were girls.
Lu said female students tended to study well, and were more likely to be recognised by teachers because they matured faster than boys and were usually more expressive, disciplined and obedient, while boys did not concentrate on their studies and were rebellious.
'As a result, the confidence of many boys is affected adversely and they lose interest in their studies,' Lu said.
The percentage of boys enrolling in mainland universities has been steadily decreasing. And at graduation, women were usually better at finding jobs than men, Lu said.
His answer to the boys' problem is to 'lock them up' and give them 'specially designed teaching'.
'The aim of establishing an all-boys' school is to create a better environment for their growth and to fully exploit boys' potential and abilities,' he said.
The future all-boys' classes, comprising a total of 60 students, aim to endow them with integrity, responsibility, loyalty and independent thinking. The tailor-made classes include telling stories about inspiring people from a variety of backgrounds, survival training, debating and playing with and repairing digital gadgets.
Professor Wu Zunmin, from East China Normal University, lambasted the idea of all-boys' schools or classes as 'nonsense'.
In the late 19th century, all-girl schools emerged in Shanghai, built by Christian organisations. Wu said they were established because families favoured male offspring and only sent boys to school. The existing feudal moral code also required boys and girls to keep their distance and they could not be allowed to sit together in the same class.
The all-girl schools were later handed over to the government, and most recruited boy students. At present there is only one all-girl school in the city, the renowned Shanghai No3 Girls' High School.
Wu said that having boys and girls in the same school was progressive and there was no reason to isolate them again.
He also disputed the existence of a 'masculinity crisis'.
'Some boys talk in a girlish way or don't appear manly and strong. But the issue is not serious,' Wu said.
The phenomenon was not caused by school education, but by the family environment, he said, with the one-child policy meaning children are often spoiled and raised by female family members.