Equal Opportunities Commission


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Press Releases

EOC Organizes Education Conference on Gender Differences in Learning


The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (30 November 2001) hosted a conference entitled "Boys and Girls in the 21st Century: Gender Differences in Learning." Ms. Anna Wu, Chairperson of the EOC, explained that the conference was organized to understand the need to provide the best education so that all boys and girls can enjoy equal opportunities in education.

Ms. Wu said, "We believe policy makers should acknowledge that differences not only exist between boys and girls, but also among people of the same sex. Ability varies from individual to individual whatever the sex. Our education system should be tailored to cope with students' individual differences."

On the subject of assessment methods, Ms. Wu said, "If tests that favour certain groups of students but are irrelevant to assessing learning are applied, then the final results will be distorted. Some have jokingly suggested that we could improve boys' performance by introducing arm-wrestling. But, arm-wrestling is not relevant to assessing students' learning potential." Ms. Wu continued, "The assessment result will also be distorted if subjects are given unfair weighting. Adjusting the weighting of strong or weak subjects for different groups can change results between different groups of students. The court judgment in June pointed out that the "process" has been unfair between boys and girls. Our education must be refocused on the substantive issue of how to make learning more effective for both boys and girls."

Prof. Tony Gallagher from the United Kingdom told the conference that, "Social and cultural factors influence gender differences in learning and not biology. This is proven time and again by the gains made by girls in education. If biology were the reason, girls would not have improved in Math and Science. Yet, we have seen girls make great strides in these areas." Prof. Gallagher continued, "Educators, policymakers and parents should celebrate rising standards for all pupils and, in particular, the clear gains for young women that have followed equal opportunities initiatives. If we want to continue to raise standards for all pupils, then special targeted measures will be needed in the future. Some of these will be targeted on boys, some will be targeted on girls, but most will be targeted at the social and economic constraints that hold back all pupils."

Dr. Wong Kam-cheung from the University of Hong Kong presented the findings of his study that examined gender differences in educational achievements based on a sample of 45,000 secondary school students who took Hong Kong Certificate Education of Examination (HKCEE) and those who studied at the University of Hong Kong. His study showed the achievements young women have made due to equal opportunity in access to learning.

Speakers provided various perspectives on educational policies in the second half of the conference. Mr. Pun Tin-chi spoke from the perspective of an educator based on his 30 years of experience in education. Mr. Tik Chi-yuen voiced the concerns of parents. Mr. Lee Kwok-sung explained the government's position on education.

For press enquiries, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW, Senior Equal Opportunities Officer, at 2106-2226.

Enquiry: Ms. Mariana LAW 21062226