Society

Gender studies

Why more girls are getting into university than boys

Not fair: Ouyang Le and her friends shave their heads in protest

Ouyang Le was upset this summer when she was told that she hadn’t been accepted to study at the Institute of International Relations. That’s because as a female applicant she needed higher marks than a male.

Ouyang exceeded the (the lower) average set for men but below that for women, according to 21CN Business Herald. And this year, the Institute set a tough quota – 12 men and just three females would get places.

So on August 30 Ouyang and three other women shaved their heads in protest in Guangzhou, according to the Nanfang Metropolitan Daily.

Radical haircuts look unlikely to help – the college is one of a growing number of tertiary institutions deliberately excluding women in a move that the Ministry of Education recently declared to be in China’s best interests.

Here’s what the ministry said last month: “Based on considerations of the national interest, for specialised personnel training in special industries or jobs, the universities and colleges have appropriately adjusted male to female ratios in enrolment for some majors.”

It offered no explanation for the ratio of industries or jobs it wanted to keep for men, or why the move was necessary.

With equal access to secondary education, women are entering universities in growing numbers. Partly that’s because parents are investing more in daughters than before, as an outcome of the one-child policy. They also tend to be better suited for higher education than men.

The phenomenon is not unique to China. Writing in the New York Times this week, the columnist David Brooks noted that men now earn about 40% of undergraduate and masters degrees in the United States. Put simply, women are also doing better in the American educational ‘battle’.

Back in China, the chaps are getting worried about the female influx or even “humiliated” as Yang Jianxiong, a third-year student at the Huazhong Agricultural University, put it. Yang feels his own college is becoming a “Kingdom of Women,” 21CN reported.

In reality, the School of Plant Science, where Yang studies saw 54% of enrolments from women this year – hardly a dominant statistic.

Although it is striking when one considers that far more boys are being born than girls (the ratio today is 118 to 100). Figures also suggest that in 1997, about 37% of college enrolment was female, while in 2010 it was 50.8%. Women increasingly dominate in languages – a worldwide phenomenon – while men retain their pre-eminence in sciences, though female enrolment is rising there too.

For example, the Beijing Institute of Technology’s School of Aerospace Engineering, which deals in rocket and aircraft research, enrolled 16.4% women last year, up from 13.8% in 2008.

Tang Shangshu, a counsellor at Yang’s university, suggests that much can be explained by a worldwide truth: the fact that boys mature later and girls have better study habits. Or as Tang puts it rather more succinctly: “In terms of wisdom, boys may not have particularly obvious advantages.”


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