Gen­der-spe­cific text­book tar­gets pri­mary school boys

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By WANG ZHENGHUA in Shang­hai

wangzhenghua@ chi­

The first text­book de­signed specif­i­cally for male pupils in pri­mary schools in China has re­ceived pos­i­tive feed­back from par­ents, stu­dents and ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als.

The Shang­hai Ed­u­ca­tional Pub­lish­ing House re­cently un­veiled the book, en­ti­tled Xiaox­iao Nanz­i­han or Lit­tle Man in English, aim­ing to help male stu­dents in the fourth and fifth grades un­der­stand sex­ual phys­i­ol­ogy, sex­ual psy­chol­ogy and en­hance their self-pro­tec­tion.

The text­book, fo­cus­ing on the men­tal health of male pupils, comes as na­tion­wide dis­cus­sions about what is called the “boys’ cri­sis” are rife. A phe­nom­e­non that has long been ob­served, the boys’ cri­sis refers to the ten­dency of male stu­dents to lack mas­culin­ity, and be out­per­formed and over­shad­owed by girls at pri­mary and sec­ondary schools.

“So far we have re­ceived mainly pos­i­tive com­ments from coun­ter­parts, school heads and par­ents, and many schools have shown in­ter­est in the book,” said Zhong Xiangyang, an of­fi­cial from the ed­u­ca­tion bureau of Jing’an dis­trict, the body that ini­ti­ated the text­book’s com­pi­la­tion.

“It has been used by some pri­mary schools in Jing’an and a few out­side the dis­trict and we will make ef­forts to pro­mote it,” she added.

You Rui, the au­thor of the book and also the prin­ci­pal of Zhabei No 3 Cen­tral Pri­mary School, said it is the prod­uct of a pi­lot pro­gram fo­cus­ing on gen­der ed­u­ca­tion at her school over the past decade. “The gen­der ed­u­ca­tion classes for male stu­dents at my school proved very pop­u­lar,” she said.

With six chap­ters and full of col­or­ful il­lus­tra­tions, the text­book in­tro­duces a wide range of ba­sic knowl­edge in­clud­ing: “What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween a boy and a girl?”; “Why am I a boy and not a girl?”; “What does a fa­ther mean to a son?”; “How can we get along with na­ture?”; and “Why do we need to have aware­ness about in­vest­ment and money man­age­ment?”

The book is ex­pected to help boys more openly dis­cuss ques­tions they might oth­er­wise not ad­dress in their daily lives, and the Shang­hai Ed­u­ca­tional Pub­lish­ing House said pupils who learn from the text­book will have a sep­a­rate class­room from their fe­male class­mates.

“It’s quite nec­es­sary and pos­i­tive to have gen­der ed­u­ca­tion,” said Zhu Huafang, the mother of a third-grade boy.

Nowa­days, both boys and girls are de­vel­op­ing at an early age and they can be very cu­ri­ous, added Zhu, who works as a pri­mary school­teacher.

For ex­am­ple, her son some­times poses ques­tions such as: “what do fe­male gen­i­tals look like?”, which Zhu said makes her feel awk­ward.

“I don’t know how to re­ply to him. In­stead of hav­ing him search on the in­ter­net by him­self — where im­proper an­swers are likely to pop up, why don’t we learn from the text­book?”

It’s not the first at­tempt the city has made to ad­dress the boys’ cri­sis. In 2012, the first boys-only cam­pus was cre­ated at Shang­hai No 8 High School to help male stu­dents en­hance their aca­demic per­for­mance and cul­ti­vate mas­culin­ity.

Li Ruomeng, 19, a grad­u­ate of the all-boys class and now a fresh­man at a mu­sic in­sti­tute in Ger­many, sup­ports the idea of gen­der ed­u­ca­tion at an early age.

“This kind of ed­u­ca­tion should be there when some­one’s stan­dards start to take form, and I be­lieve the new text­book will play a pos­i­tive role,” he said.

Asked what he learned from the all-boys class, Li said ath­let­ics, sur­vival train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and eti­quette ed­u­ca­tion all helped him grow quickly. In some classes, stu­dents would be ex­posed to dif­fer­ent cul­tures and en­cour­aged to learn how a gen­tle­man should act.

“For ex­am­ple, now I know a gen­tle­man should pull out a chair for the ladies be­fore be­ing seated at the din­ing ta­ble,” he added.

Jing’an dis­trict’s Zhong said her or­ga­ni­za­tion is work­ing with the Shang­hai Ed­u­ca­tional Pub­lish­ing House on a text­book specif­i­cally de­signed for girls which will be un­veiled soon.

It’s quite nec­es­sary and pos­i­tive to have gen­der ed­u­ca­tion.”

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