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An NGO that focuses on women's rights has urged authorities to look into allegations that several colleges have lowered their minimum entrance-exam scores only for boys.
In a letter to the Ministry of Education this month, Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center argues that the practice allows schools to discriminate against female candidates.
"Many colleges, including prestigious ones, have set different admission grades based on gender without reasonable explanations," said lawyer Lu Xiaoquan, who was in charge of drafting the NGO's letter.
"It is more demanding for girls than boys, as they must get a higher grade in the national college entrance exam just to get accepted for the same major at the same school."
He said the letter, which was also addressed to the All-China Women's Federation, aims to raise awareness on this issue, and to demand a thorough investigation.
"A few universities claim the Ministry of Education had authorized them to set the admission grades based on gender," Lu said. "We hope for verification from the authorities."
Lu said the NGO has received no reply from the ministry or the federation.
According to the website of Beijing Foreign Studies University, the minimum admission score for girls in Beijing who apply as a German major at the university is 639, while for boys it is 598.
Renmin University of China, another prestigious college, has set a minimum admission score in the capital area in four language majors this year at 601 for boys but 614 for girls.
And this is not happening only in Beijing. According to the Education Examinations Authority of Guangdong province, many universities set different admission standards based on gender in 2012.
Li Xiangqian, director of admissions at Renmin University of China, told China Youth Daily that the purpose of lowering the boys' standards is to attract more male applicants.
"Otherwise, these majors will be left only to girls," he was quoted as saying.
However, Lu, of the Zhongze Women's Center, said there is no such benefit for girls in majors in which boys are the majority, such as mechanics.
Yuan Zhenguo, president of the National Institute of Education Sciences, disagrees that the issue is simply discrimination.
"It reflects the market demand," he said, adding that some jobs need men instead of women.
Zhou Haipeng, a recent graduate who majored in Arabic at Beijing Foreign Studies University, echoed the sentiment.
"Boys have an easier time getting a job in our major," the 22-year-old said, adding that the majority of his classmates end up working in companies related to the Arabic world.
However, Zhou said, in Arabic countries, many local people feel more comfortable working with men.
"Chinese companies respect the religion of their counterparts, who prefer male employees," said Zhou, who will start work soon at an international affairs office in the Guangdong provincial government.
Tan Songhua, a member of the State Education Counseling Committee, acknowledged that students are admitted with different grades in the same college entrance exam.
"The focus of the exam is memorizing, which girls are better at," Tan said.
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