I was born in the 1980’s, when girls in China have long been given the equal rights to attend schools. And it’s a time when most people, living in either rural or urban areas, believe that education could change a person’s life. Typically, in urban areas, where the one-child policy is strictly applied, parents want to give their only-child the best every sphere of life has to offer, regardless of the gender of their child. I was no exception.

A very large part of my learning years, particularly secondary and tertiary education, were spent in schools with strength in language teaching. As we’ve all heard the scientific finding that females are better language learners because of the difference in brain functioning from that of males, the environment I grew up in was predominantly filled with female. Thus, one would normally expect females taking the lead and exceeding their male counterparts for most of the time. Well, this was only an insignificant part of the truth.

Giving female and male the equal opportunity to attend school doesn’t necessarily mean we are treated equally at school. For example, male students were presumed to be better at sciences than female students even when they weren’t. Therefore, when boys failed in sciences, teachers would make excuses for them like they didn’t put their minds on it and they were given a chance to improve. But when girls failed in sciences, teachers accepted it as facts because they had presumed that girls were not so good at logical and abstract thinking and it’s normal for them to fail in sciences. If a girl happened to excel in sciences, teachers and others would consider her exceptionally smart and make it an irreplicable case.

The two very different reactions to students’ academic results, though common and seldom disputed, actually signaled a gender-based bias, and they could attribute to annoyingly different results. The boys were encouraged to work harder, and they also had the conviction that teachers believe in their abilities, thus fueling their confidence and success. In contrast, the girls got the conviction that it’s normal that they didn’t do well in sciences and teachers don’t expect too much from them, which could easily damp their desire to make greater efforts.

Such phenomena was particularly prevalent during my entire educational experience, despite it’s a female-dominating environment. In fact, it might be more unpretentious because the male students were then the minority and teachers considered them more “precious” under the influence of favoring-the-boys tradition.

This gender-based intelligence presumption was not the only challenge female face in education. The job hunt is the final straw. No matter how hard female students worked to achieve academic excellence, the better sought positions are almost always closed to us, pretentious or obvious. I knew this because I was one of the top, and one of the rejected. And I’ve known more with the same experience. No wonder there’s a saying: “Women marry smart are better than those do smart”.

Now with such injustice within the education system and on the job market getting more acute, and the unemployment rate rising each year, more and more girls are prone to believe in the marry-smart saying, thus depreciating the important role education plays in changing their lives. Deriving from the female-discriminating logic, such decadence in turn feed the mainstream idea of our male-dominating society, creating an evil spiral that offers little hope for women to rise up as equals to men.

Therefore, simply giving the same opportunity to attend school is far from enough to elevate women from their status quo. What we need most is not equality in form, but rather equality for real. The task of mainstreaming gender equality should first start in schools, where students not only learn knowledge but also learn the respect for all human beings, male and female alike.

It won’t be easily achieved since the old tradition doesn’t give way easily. My suggestion is to start educating the educators on gender equality, forcing them to both embrace the idea and advocate for it, thus creating a female-friendly environment where women are pumped with support and encouragement as men are, and not to be devalued to inferiorities to men.

No, we don’t need an education system that takes in passionate and ambitious girls and farewells heart-stricken ones. It’s even worse than deprivation of female access to education, for it gives hope and grounds it bit by bit. The real education we aspire is one that helps all of us to grow into confident, intelligent and self-respecting independents, MAN AND FEMALE ALIKE. And it’s a formidable and systematic challenge to the unjust tradition as well.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.

Comment on this Post


We do have the same issue here but it is not much talked about since we still far behaind in the access to education step. Thanks again for sharing the statues of your genration in Chaina a country i hardly read about. Ola

It is never too late to try make your way to your dream and left up your expectation.Sudanes Women Building Peacewww.suwepmovement.org

Thanks Ola. We all have our limitations living within our own communities. But joining this community can help open up and learn more about women's status quo in almost every coner of the world. It helps with better understanding the situation and gives us more insight into necessary methods to make effective change. Let's help each other and work together! Never give up!

Love Christina

Where there is a WILL, there is a WAY.

I like, Christina, that you are writing about the problem common for so many countries. And I agree that we must change this situation, and I think we are these women who will do it.

Thank you for your story, Greetings from Ukraine, Iryna

Thanks Iryna! You're right. A lot of things we see and do are unfair to women, but we seldom take notice or have got used to it. That's the biggest problem! To start a change, we need to pick at what's been taken for granted!

Regards, Christina

Where there is a WILL, there is a WAY.

I enjoyed reading your article. You unveiled many issues that are often overlooked when issues of bridging the gender divide is in focus. I particularly liked your idea that "The task of mainstreaming gender equality should first start in schools, where students not only learn knowledge but also learn the respect for all human beings, male and female alike"

Your ideology of gender balance in projecting your solutions, is also very impressive.

Keep writing. Greengirl

Thank you Greengirl for seeing eye to eye with me on the issue. In my opinion, traditions are things taught and passed down from generation to generation. So it's kind of inherent and intertwind in people's lives. That's why it's so difficult to change it. Therefore, if we start teaching the change at school, it's like passing on new traditions in the make, and after some time, it will become tradition!

Regards, Christina

Where there is a WILL, there is a WAY.

Dear Christina,

You have shared such an important and well-written journal entry! Thank you for writing it, and for tackling a deeply systemic issue. It is helpful to read about not just barriers to education for girls, but also about inequality within the educational system. I particularly appreciate the connection you draw to employment post-education, and to the institution of marriage. I would be curious to learn about teacher training in China, and I wonder if that might be a source for some of the solutions you introduce.

Thank you for sharing!

Kind regards,


Hi Courtney, thank you very much for your reply! I can feel that you've taken great efforts in reading my journal and I appreciate your follow-up questions. To answer that, I first wanna make clear that I'm not a teacher and I'm not very familiar with teacher training in my country. But for general knowledge, I think for primary schools and secondary schools, teachers mostly come from normal university graduates who took the required courses in teaching methodologies and related subjects, and they need to pass a certain exam to acquire the certifate of teaching. For college professors, i guess it's mostly the same everywhere. They need to be PhD graduates to stay in universities and gradually become professors. The problem with mainstreaming gender equality at school is that we don't really have policy makers who have this vision and resolution to take on the mission. And such systematic change if not implemented from the top of the hierachy will very likely abort in the process, and it won't be standardized and institutionalize as normal practice. Therefore, it's indeed a tricky problem and also why I don't think it can be easily solved by some individual advocates calling for gender equality. It needs to be recognized on national level. But ironically, the current top decision makers are made up of men only! What do you think is the possibility of change?!

Regards, Christina

Where there is a WILL, there is a WAY.

Hello Christina, thank you for the elaborate and well written story. What struck me most and rang loud and clear is the fact that education is not only a school affair. Equally important are the systems, opportunities, attitudes, cultures that embrace educated girls after school. in my country culture swallows 'girls' after school as well and bigger strides need to be made. Thanx


I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the situation in China. I think it's particularly interesting to notice that, even though each of the sexes has their own assumed strength, it seems like it's only the girls that suffer discouragement in sciences, whereas boys who study languags remain supported and 'precious'. It's sad to hear that the saying about marrying smart is so pervasive - that needs to change! Educating the educators sounds like a very sensible move to me. Great ideas, thank you for sharing them.

My dear you have beautifully outlined a major problem girls face across the world. Just having access to education surely is not the answer and i very much agree with you on that. Thank you for sharing your personal experience about the barriers. Love Deqa

Brilliant piece. Very informative and tackles the root cause of inequality and gender bias in education system. Very well written.

Loved your points about males being the preferred students for science and the follow up about the job scene post degrees.

Keep it up.


Mukut Ray

Dear Chrisitina, Vibrant voice from China! I love your outspokenness, the vitality of your voice and opinion, the sharpness of your perspective about the barriers to education for girls in your country. Thank you so much for your courageous stand. I am pleased and blessed to have met you here on World Pulse!

Blessings, libudsuroy

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Dear Chrisitina, I love the title of your piece. First off, it caught my attention. Once I read your carefully thought-out piece, I really "get" the title--you are raising a very important point: that simply receiving an education is not all that girls and women want and need, and in fact, it can seem cruel to be educated and then expected to limit yourself. You show that it is possible to have an excellent education and strong motivation, but still be limited because the culture doesn't support the equal value of women and men.

I'd ask you to reconsider, however, that the change must come from the top. I recognize that it certainly appears that that's where all the power lies, but I sense a change happening on earth right now. Paul Hawkins calls it "humanity's immune response"--the proliferation of small groups of people all around the world addressing environmental and social justice issues. Just the fact that you see what you see and name it is part of a shift in consciousness. I'm hopeful that we will see in our lifetime a world where women are equally valued decision makers in partnership with men, including in government!

I appreciate your sharing your very important perspective on this. May your life unfold with more opportunity than you can even imagine right now! Your perspective is a gift to all of us.

Lorraine Cook

Together let us create "an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on the planet" now.