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Peking University in discrimination debate
By Wang Zhuoqiong and Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-08-30 06:12

A few months ago, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers sparked an uproar when he suggested that women are not as good at science and maths as men. Now, China's prestigious Peking University has an admission policy that suggests women are too good at learning languages, and therefore should not be treated equally.

The controversy broke out when some female applicants failed to be admitted to the university's Foreign Languages School while men with slightly lower scores were enrolled. An official at the school explained that as much as 80 per cent of its student body is female, and for this year's enrolment the ratio is 70 per cent for women.

"In this context, we are giving some preferential treatment to male students, but it is limited to classes of less-popular languages and special situations," said the official, on condition of anonymity.

"If you come to our school, you feel like you have stumbled upon a beauty pageant. Having so many girls around certainly makes for a lovely scene, but it does not lead to a gender balance in the student body," he added.

"This is an outrageous display of gender discrimination," said Wang Yingjie, an education expert. "If this had happened in any other country, there would have been lawsuits."

However, gender disparity has long existed in China's college admissions. Women are considered to have an edge in language learning, and in some language universities male students have never exceeded one third of the total enrolment. Some school authorities find various excuses to lower the cut-off score for men, or in other words, raise it for women.
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