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Gender roles changing as girls outperform boys

By Zhou Wenting | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-25 08:15

Gender roles changing as girls outperform boys

Children at a kindergarten in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, practice kung fu with a teacher. Schools in China are looking to recruit more male teachers. Ji Chunpeng/ Xinhua

Traditional concepts are being overturned as the gap between the sexes narrows. Zhou Wenting reports from Shanghai.

Recently, Little Men, China's first textbook focusing on the mental health of primary school-age boys was introduced. The book sparked nationwide discussions as critics argued that certain qualities, such as perseverance and independence, should not be regarded as solely male attributes.

The book, distributed last month to male students in the fourth and fifth grades at Zhabei No 3 Central Primary School in the Jing'an district of Shanghai, stresses that boys are usually expected to display masculine traits by appearing courageous and resolute.

The authors claim that the book is based on principles of gender equality, but many observers, parents included, are unhappy because they don't believe that gender should be stereotyped through education.

"Within the context of traditional Chinese culture, the concept of masculinity and femininity is that males provide the bread while females take care of the family. These gender characteristics are forcibly imposed on children. It shouldn't be like this," said Fan Di, the mother of a 9-year-old girl in Shanghai.

"I think good traits, such as responsibility, confidence, gentleness and compassion, should be associated with both genders."

Experts believe that opinions such as Fan's show that the gender gap is gradually narrowing because women in China are more highly educated than ever before and they are becoming more influential, both in the jobs market and at home.

Changing concepts

Traditional Chinese concepts of gender are changing.

In recent years, sex education has come under the spotlight, with some experts stating that schools should reinforce traditional gender roles and values because they fear that a growing number of boys are becoming timid while girls are becoming increasingly fearless.

Last year saw the foundation of the first boys-only class at the Junior High School affiliated to Nanjing Normal University in Jiangsu province, which is intended to promote masculinity among students. At the same time, a girls-only class was initiated at Suzhou Foreign Language School, also in Jiangsu, to cultivate elegance and gentility in 10-year-old girls through intensive courses in etiquette and the arts.

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