The Shanghai No. 8 Middle School and King's School in Sydney have signed an agreement to share "best practices" in education and tackle the problem of socially inept and underachieving Chinese school boys — phenomenon dubbed the "boy crisis."
Both schools are educational leaders of education for boys in their countries. The Shanghai No.8 Middle School is known for piloting Shanghai's all-boy classes in high school. King's School is Australia's oldest independent school for boys, with 183 years of specialized education. It has 1,500 students from kindergarten to Year 12.
In China, girls tend to do better than boys in exams and show higher levels of social skills. The girls tend to be more positive toward learning and exhibit a higher degree of self-confidence. They feel comfortable being feminine, whereas boys often have trouble dealing with masculinity.
To address the gender disparity, the No. 8 Middle School started six boys-only classes two years ago and recruited about 300 boys to the program. They are taught by teachers trained to address problems young males have in education. With the help of audio-video teaching material, discussion groups and sports, the program seeks to encourage boys to embrace their masculinity, learn self-confidence and develop leadership skills.
Lu Qisheng, principal of No. 8 Middle School, said the experiment has shown initial positive signs. The physical condition of boys in the program has dramatically improved, and the young men are starting to win prizes in science and technology competitions.
"Principal Lu is a very brave man to lead such a new initiative," Timothy Hawkes, headmaster of King's School, said in an exclusive interview with Shanghai Daily. "It is encouraging to see that single-sex classes are already bearing fruit and improving scholastic standards."
Hawkes visited the school last Thursday and addressed about 200 male students on Friday.
He said King's School chose the No. 8 Middle School as its first "brother school" in China not only to share expertise but also to learn from the Chinese education system.
"We have a responsibility to showcase the best education for boys," Hawkes said. "We hold a national conference on education for boys every two years. We cannot do that without input from other countries, like China."
Hawkes said he listened to an English lesson in a boy's class at the No. 8 Middle School and was impressed that the teacher told a story about the founder of Starbucks "The teacher knew that many boys dream of becoming entrepreneurs like the Starbucks founder," Hawkes said.
Principal Lu said his school is eager to learn from the experiences of King's School.
"King's School has a much longer history than us," Lu told Shanghai Daily. "We want to learn from them because we are not just preparing our boys for college but also trying to boost their confidence while in high school."
The two schools will begin exchanging teachers and students from next year.