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May 20, 2013

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Boys start to shine in male-only classes

MALE-ONLY classes, which were introduced last year by a local high school to combat what has been dubbed a "boy crisis," attracted more than 400 applicants this year as parents seeks ways to develop the potential of their sons.

There's a lot of talk in China today about a "boys crisis," which refers to young males lagging behind girls in academics and being socially inept due to the current education system. The male-only classes were created to explore different teaching methods to help male students develop to their potential.

Yesterday, the final 50 applicants were interviewed for the male-only classes at Shanghai No. 8 Senior High School.

The school will open four male-only classes with 30 students in each class for the new semester in September. Last year, the school had two classes with 30 students each, said Lu Qisheng, the principal.

More confidence

Lu said last year's classes were a success, thus they decided to increase enrollment.

He said 10 students in the male-only classes won first prize in city-level science and technology contests while nearly 85 percent are more physically fit than before due to specialized physical education lessons including a morning run. The school also has fitness rooms where they can exercise.

For example, the students had an average lung capacity of 3,700 milliliters before entering the school. After a semester, the average increased to 4,200 milliliters while the average standard for male students in the city is 4,000 milliliters, Lu said.

"We are delighted to see the boys improve in academics and in overall fitness. But more importantly, we see they are more confident and speak with fervor and assurance," Lu said.

Lu said some parents sent their children to study in male-only classes because they hoped their shy, timid and introverted sons would become more open when studying with other boys.

Cultivating responsibility

The principal said in mixed-gender classes girls usually receive the bulk of leadership positions such as class monitor because they perform better academically at a young age and are well behaved.

"Our survey showed only one male student in the 30-student class had been a class monitor before coming here," Lu said. "Male students need more chances to cultivate responsibility and management skills."

In the school's male-only classes, students can run for any position every three months. The measure is appreciated by many parents who said their sons seemed to "grow up in one night" and are more willing to talk about their school and class life at dinner.

A parent surnamed Zhang said her son once took a small leader position in middle school but was "fired" by the teachers because he talked with other students during class.

"I was so surprised when my son told me he is running for the deputy class monitor," Zhang said.

Zhang's son was among the first students at the male-only class. After nearly a year, Zhang said she was very satisfied with the school and teachers.

"My son had a 'puppy love' during his middle school life. He was the top student, but then he lagged behind after falling in love," Zhang said.

"High school life is a very sensitive period for young males. The male-only class has cooperated with top professors from East China Normal University, which is strong in psychology. I think it will be good for my son," Zhang said.

Zhang said she doesn't worry about her son's social and communication skills anymore after seeing her son with so many good "brothers" at school. Many parents shared similar views even though their sons qualify for higher-rated schools, Lu said.

More observation needed

Lu said the school had no plan to add more male-only classes.

"It's better for us and researchers to have a longer observation period. We need more data to see how to teach male students and I haven't thought of turning the school into a male-only school."

Some parents also believe the male-only classes will help their sons prepare for the future better.

A mother, surnamed Kang, who is a primary school teacher, said girls do better at school nowadays.

"Most boys don't work as hard as girls," Kang said. "They have quick minds but are easily distracted by sports, computer games and other habits, thus they have trouble focusing on studies."

Kang said her son Cai Runxuan, 15, reads a lot outside of school textbooks. He was even called "Professor Cai" among classmates at middle school. But his academic work is only above average because he has poor self control, according to his mom.

"I can imagine what my son's life would be like if he enters a traditional high school," Kang said. "Probably he will be crammed with homework and test papers to prepare for the college entrance exam. I don't want him to spend his precious high school life like that."


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