While a Shanghai high school made headlines across China last month by inaugurating a boys-only campus, a school in Nanjing attracted little notice with a similar announcement that it would begin special classes restricted to female students.

Fifty students at People’s Middle School in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, began the new school year this September in what the school described as an experimental program of all-girls classes.

Two girl students clean the platform at a school in Xinjian County, east China's Jiangxi Province. Pic: Xinhua

Currently, only two classes at the school have been set aside for female first-year students, at the middle school and high school levels.

“We feel that a girls’ class can made education a bit more focused for the girls,” one parent told Nanjing’s Jinling Evening News.  “Their studies can be more single-minded.”

Jin Yihong, a professor at the Jinling Women’s College, told the newspaper that girls in coed classes often feel the same pressures and insecurities that characterize the much-discussed “boy crisis.”

Surrounded by their male classmates, female students may feel hesitant to volunteer for traditionally masculine endeavors such as math and sports.

“In an environment without boys, no matter what the situation, girls have to depend on themselves, take charge on their own, and cultivate their initiative and individuality,” Jin said.

“You can sense that parents are a bit confused about how to approach girls’ education,” a teacher at the school explained.  “Especially as children enter adolescence, there are many questions that need specialized guidance.”

In addition to the material used in regular coed classes, the school is currently considering adding “activity-type curricula appropriate for girls.”  With courses such as home economics, self-development, and artistic cultivation, students would learn such skills as knitting, financial management, and physical fitness.

School officials also said that they had already decided to hire a non-Chinese language teacher to help students develop their oral English.

Nanjing’s People’s Middle School was originally founded in 1902 as the Huiwen Women’s Middle School, and only became coeducational in 1968, during China’s Cultural Revolution.  Now, administrators say they are looking to reclaim the school’s heritage.

Earlier this year, Shanghai’s Number 8 Senior High School attracted widespread media attention by announcing that it would set aside a special campus for two boys-only classes.  Approximately 60 students began their studies in the new program last month, chosen out of over 270 applicants.