New research has shown that single-sex education offers benefits for both girls and boys. While it has long been known that girls do better academically in all-girls’ environments, more recent research has shown that boys fare even better than girls in single-sex classrooms.
The research is fairly overwhelmingly consistent pointing to the advantages of single-sex schools. For example, a study at Stetson University in Florida showed that among fourth graders at a public elementary school in the state, 37% of boys reached proficiency levels in co-ed classes, while 86% of boys in single-sex classrooms did (the boys in the study were matched so that they were statistically equivalent). While 59% of girls reached a proficient level in co-ed classrooms, 75% did when they were only with girls. This type of research has been carried out and substantiated among students of different economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds in many different industrialized countries around the world.
Part of the magic of single-sex schools is that the the teaching methods can be adjusted to the students. Well-trained teachers at girls’ and boys’ single-sex schools can take advantage of the specific ways in which girls and boys learn. For example, boys often need a higher level of activity, while girls might need more reassurance that they have something to offer to the classroom discussion. In a typical co-ed classroom, it is difficult for one teacher to use these specific strategies for all the students. Here are some other advantages of single-sex schools:
Advantages of single-sex schools
Girls gain more confidence.
Studies show that one-quarter of the female members of Congress and one-third of the female board members of Fortune 100 companies attended girls’ schools. This staggering statistic might be in part because girls in single-sex schools learn to feel confident about their ideas, and they more readily jump into class discussions when they are not self-conscious. In a girls’ school, students are not worried about what boys will think about them, and they shed the traditional idea that girls should be demure or quiet.
Boys and girls feel comfortable in untraditional subjects.
Boys in boys’ schools feel comfortable in areas that they learn to avoid in co-ed schools, such as literature, writing, and foreign languages. Many boys’ schools emphasize these subjects, and the teachers in these schools are able to plan the curriculum so that the themes in the books the boys read are geared towards their concerns and interests, as opposed to the usual “girl-centered” books in many co-ed schools. For example, boys may read stories about boys coming of age, such as Homer’s The Odyssey, and the students’ analyses of these works can be centered on boys’ concerns.
Girls in girls’ schools, on the other hand, tend to feel more comfortable in areas that they traditionally shy away from, such as math and science. In all-female schools, they can have female role models who enjoy these subjects, and they are encouraged to be interested in these areas without competition from boys.
Students unlearn gender stereotypes.
In boys’ schools, boys fill every role—whether it’s a traditional role such as captain of the basketball team or whether it’s an untraditional role such as editor of the yearbook. There are no stereotypes about which types of roles boys should fill. Similarly, in a girls’ school, girls are the head of every sport and organization and can comfortably take on such untraditional roles as head of the student body or head of the physics club. In this way, students in these schools unlearn traditional stereotypes and do not tend to think of roles in terms of gender.
Single-sex classrooms often have better discipline.While sometimes all-girls’ and all-boys’ classrooms have a certain relaxed quality born of freedom to express themselves, single-sex classrooms have been shown overall to have fewer discipline problems, particularly for boys. Students are no longer busy impressing or competing against the opposite sex but can get down to the true business of learning.
Many parents who attended co-ed schools may feel uncomfortable at first exploring the single-sex school option for their children, but there is no doubt that many students learn better in these types of schools.