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China college admissions bias is testing girls' patience

They're beginning to protest universities' acceptance of boys who score lower than they do on the all-important gaokao exam.

February 20, 2013|By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times

The Education Ministry has told women's groups that they are not setting different standards for males and females but merely allowing the colleges to balance their gender ratios for specific programs. Educators cite particular fields in which men are preferred: Arabic languages, for example, because of the difficulty in sending women to work in some Arab countries.

"In view of considerations of national interest, a few colleges may appropriately adjust the enrollment ratios of men and women," the ministry wrote in a letter to the women's advocates in August.

Women's groups plan to challenge what they view as a double standard at next month's meeting of the National People's Congress. They also are trying to put together a lawsuit — if only they can find a plaintiff willing to go to court.

Kale has decided she won't sue and has kept her identity and current academic affiliation secret to avoid repercussions. The freshman is studying international finance at a less prestigious college in her hometown of Guangzhou.

"I felt it would be a lot of trouble, and even if I sued successfully in court, it's not clear I would really benefit," she said. "People have told me [the disparity] is in the national interest and that there is nothing to be done about it."

Nicole Liu of The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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