Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gender imbalance

The issue of gender imbalance in our public universities is an issue which I've been tracking for some time. I suspect that it is a problem which cuts across racial lines but is especially serious among Malays, all the more because they comprise the majority of the population and those entering public universities. It is a complex problem which has many root causes and it should not be 'solved' by the implementation of a gender quota in our public universities. Thankfully, the Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Idris Haron, has resisted this temptation.

This is one issue which has flown under the radar for some time. We've talked about the unemployability of some of our graduates, the poor quality of our universities and schools but we seldom discuss the fact that the proportion of guys who drop out of school at various stages is consistently higher than the proportion of girls.

People drop out of school for all sorts of reasons and at all levels. While we have compulsory education at the Primary level, there is still a small % of kids who don't go to school because of poverty and accessibility issue. I don't have easy access to the statistics but I'm guessing that the dropping out is most pronounced during important 'transition' years - from Primary 6 to Form 1, from Form 3 to Form 4, and from SPM onwards. My guess is that it is these years that the proportion of guys dropping out of school outstrips that of girls.

While not everyone is meant to go to college, in my opinion at least, I think it's worrying when kids start dropping out of school in large numbers. This problem takes a worrying turn when there is a growing gender imbalance in the drop out rates.

I think can of a few socio-economic problems that may be associated with this phenomenon (or will be):

- Rise in crime rates because of the lack of economic opportunities for the guys who have dropped out of school
- Frustrated guys who will be more easily mobilized by unscrupulous parties to blame their economic woes and lack of educational opportunities on 'others'
- Some of these guys may have problems getting married, especially when it is likely that more and more girls will have degrees.

I don't think there are any easy solutions to this problem. My sense is that no one has really taken a serious look into the causes of these problems. There may be causes which are shared across the different communities in Malaysia such as poverty and urbanization. But there may be others that are shared by certain communities in certain areas e.g. children of Indian plantation workers, Malay students who are sent to different states after primary school who get frustrated with the education process and drop out, Chinese gangs which influence Chinese guys to leave school early and pursue a more 'lucrative' career opportunity.

I think Khairy Jamaluddin was right to ask the Deputy Minister of Higher Education for the gender breakdown of those in our public universities. He's probably seen his fair share of Malay guys getting into trouble because of the lack of educational opportunities e.g. the Mat Rempits. But this is problem which affects all communities and even though the number of Malay male dropouts may be higher than that of other communities, surely something must be done to address this problem for all the different communities involved. (After all, an unemployed Form 3 dropout who wants to rob someone will not differentiate between a Malay, Chinese or an Indian)

A good place to start would be to try to understand the different causes underlying this problem.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is good to have more women in universities than men as this would mean that men will have to be domesticated and become househusbands and women shall have to go out and work and have a succesful career. Also, since women use two cerebral hemispheres they are more inclined to have a balanced view than men who only use the right brain for linguistic exercise. Finally, with more women from the majority clan graduating from universities it would mean that they would become more choosy when it comes to selecting husband material. Perhaps they would opt for single life and gradually become like the governor of the central bank. I think the gender imbalance will also sort out the problems of indoctrinating women with all kinds of silly ideas of how a woman should behave in front of a man.

Anonymous said...

It's not a new thing that girls are doing better than boys especially in primary level. It was not an obvious issue in the past because girls were also dropping out of school, for different reasons.
Boys have different learning styles and needs, our education system, schools and teachers are not prepared for that. Many of our teachers can only teach children who can sit there listen quietly. Many smart children i.e. boys who are active are often labeled or ignored.
The other issue is: many children have learning difficulties which parents and even teachers are not aware. I have talked to many primary school teachers who never heard of dyslexia, ADD/ADHD or developmental vision problem.
Most developed countries have 10-20% of children who need help to overcome their learning difficulties, and in Malaysia, they are swept under the carpet!

Anonymous said...

the first anonymous at 11/30/2008 12:24:00 AM is exactly in the mould of adolf hitler, only now its gender focused, instead of race.

i never thought the reversal of gender roles in a vendettic fashion conforms to the spirit of "gender equality". its a sad thing that such terrorists are allowed to thrive in the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

As one well publicised lady VC said..."its wat between the legs that count"

Anonymous said...

Please read Law and Child Labour in Malaysia: A Case Study in A Chinese New Village by See Hoon Peow, Published by Pelanduk

Anonymous said...

I've been teaching at IIUM for almost five years. Here, across all faculties except medicine and engineering, there are far more female students than males.

You are right to point out that as a result of the increasing number of women with university degrees, more women nowadays remain singles because of the difficulty of finding a 'qualified' candidate.

However, I was once told by a local demographer that overall in the Malaysian society, there are more single men than single women. Also, in the young adult age group, there are in fact more men than women in the population.

So, the reason why there are more female students in local universities is definitely not because there are more women in the society. There are more men out there but they don't end up at universities.

The question is, where are our young men? If not studying in universities and colleges, where are they?

One possibile answer is this: there are more rehab centres than public universities in Malaysia. And all these centres are overcrowded!

Anonymous said...

Hello Kian Ming and Tony, guess what I found! NUS male-female statistics!

I don't know you want to how to use it. But maybe you can get some conclusion from it!

Anonymous said...

Our education need to be change??

Anonymous said...

The societal ravages of such "gender imbalance" go far beyond the morality of sex-selection abortion: In both India and China, much-cherished sons in rural areas have been growing up to find a shortage of available wives.

The trend of gender imbalance among newborns in China has narrowed since 2005 but the problem remains "very grave," according to new figures released by the National Population and Family Planning Commission.