Should boys start school after girls?

Updated: 2012-10-10 07:34

By Luo Wangshu (China Daily)

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A professor has suggested that boys should start school one or two years later than girls, which has heated up debate on tolerance and discrimination in the education system.

Wu Bihu, a professor from the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences of Peking University, suggested on his micro blog at the end of September that girls should start school at 6 to 7 years old, but boys could start at 7 to 8.

Should boys start school after girls?

Students wait in line for a group activity in a primary school in Fuzhou, Fujian province, in August. Liu Tao / for China Daily

Wu believes boys and girls differ in their stages of mental development.

All 6-year-old Chinese children are required to start school, though in some areas with poor conditions the starting age can be 7.

"The Chinese education system needs to improve and allow various education and evaluation methods," Wu wrote.

His questioning of the standard has been echoed by many parents.

Wang Mian, the mother of an 11-year-old boy in Beijing, believes that the starting age of school should be based on individual factors, rather than gender.

"Some boys are doing great, too," she said.

"I have to admit that girls do better than boys at a certain age," Wang said.

At her son's school, "girls are stars at school, providing better performance on all aspects, including language development and even logic," Wang added.

"I don't think boys are not as good as girls, they just need more time, and as parents we can wait patiently."

Wang also said that schools are aware of the differences and can be more patient with boys.

However, she said, if boys start school later, they will also finish college and enter society two years later.

Weng Ziyun, a primary school teacher in Jiangsu province, didn't agree with the idea of intentionally separating boys and girls.

"I don't notice a big difference among boys and girls in my class. They are all very active. Girls are more attentive, following guidance and more helpful with teachers, but boys are fast thinkers and respond quickly," Weng said, adding that different characteristics of boys and girls will better help them grow up together.

Weng is also worried that the separation will make boys doubt themselves.

"Children are very sensitive. They will ask why they have to be separate, and why girls can go to school early. Boys may wonder if they are not as good as girls," Weng said.

Guo Xiamei, a psychological researcher at Ohio State University in the United States, said girls are generally more mentally and socially developed than boys at an early age.

"In the US, children don't normally have the dilemma because they can choose to go to school at 5, or start at 8. But most parents still will follow the old rule, and start at 6," she said, adding her belief that it is good to open a tolerant dialogue.

She also said some research shows girls doing better on academic performance at all levels in the US, not only in primary schools.

Feng Shiliang, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, proposed in March 2011 to adjust the age of starting school, and suggested there be more flexibility.