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November 27, 2012

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Study: Boys in city weaker than girls in body, mind

LOCAL preschool boys aged 3-6 are lagging behind girls in both mental and physical development, according to a recent survey of more than 7,000 youngsters in Shanghai.

Boys of kindergarten age are weaker than girls in all aspects measured, including understanding, language, social ability and athletic ability, according to the study of 7,347 kindergarteners between the ages three and six from 10 city districts. It was conducted by the Soong Ching Ling Children's Development Center.

Both kindergarten teachers and sociologists called the results alarming when they asked by the center to comment. They said that is especially so since China's educational system gives girls an edge over rambunctious boys, who may have less of a chance to shine since teachers and parents often evaluate a child on whether he or she is "well behaved."

The survey also found that children raised by parents perform better than those raised by grandparents, the athletic ability of the oldest kindergarteners develops more slowly than it should, and local children in general are quite well-behaved, reported yesterday.

While experts and parents have focused on preschool education, the first step toward improving is to learn more about children and give them the most appropriate schooling rather than cramming them with academics at a very tender age as is often done now.

Cui Lijuan, director of the psychology department of East China Normal University, said a growth evaluation database for the children is crucial for a scientific educational system, and the survey is the first step.

Kindergarten teachers said it is not surprising that girls are better than boys in language, socialization and fine movements, but it is quite shocking that boys also lag behind in strength and speed in sports.

The survey also found that the oldest preschool students in the city quickly develop only fine movements, while developing slowly in larger movements such as balance, coordination, speed, agility and strength.

In contrast, American children of the same age show quick growth in big movement abilities.

Teachers said the oldest preschool children already are required to take a lot of training aimed at advancing them in primary school. They must go to different courses and do homework instead of playing or getting involved in sports in their spare time.

Sun Shijin, a sociologist from Fudan University, said the survey is valuable to show where children excel and where they lag from a comprehensive point of view.

"Teachers and parents should give children the opportunity for healthy growth and allow them to be themselves," he said.


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