China wants its students to man up.
Amid fears that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid and effeminate boys, Chinese educators are trying to reinforce gender roles in the classroom, The New York Times reports.
Among China’s 15 million teachers – who instruct 270 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade – women occupy four out of every five positions in urban areas, according to a 2012 study by Beijing Normal University, and officials want to even up the ratio.
In Zhengzhou, schools are asking boys to sign pledges declaring them to act like “real men”, while in Hangzhou, educators have started a summer camp called West Point Boys, teaching taekwondo classes with the motto “We bring out the men in boys,” the New York Times reports.
Colleges in the city of Fuzhou have even gone so far to offer full scholarships and teaching jobs to young men.
But the actions have led to a backlash among parents, who are accusing schools of propagating masculinity and gender norms, while female teachers are calling efforts to attract more male teachers with perks as sexist, according to the New York Times.
“If women go into architecture, shouldn’t the government give them a free education too?” said Xue Rongfang, a student at Fujian Normal University. “Why should men get this benefit?”
It is also not clear if students get a boost academically if they are being taught by teachers of the same sex. A 2008 study of 9,000 11-year-olds in Britain could not find any link between male teachers and better grades among boys.