A lot of research has shown that single-sex schools have a great deal of advantages. For example, on the whole, girls and boys who are educated in single-sex schools gain more confidence. In addition, they make academic gains above those of similar peers in co-ed schools. They also learn to gravitate towards untraditional areas that are not always accepted for their gender. For example, boys learn to love literature in boys' schools, while girls in girls' schools feel more comfortable with math and science.
Though it's hard to generalize about all single-sex schools, here are some commonalities that tend to characterize many single-sex schools:
A More Relaxed Environment
Though many boys' and girls' schools are at the top of their game academically, they often have a more relaxed environment. This relaxed environment is created, in part, because boys and girls don't need to worry about impressing the other gender. The students can be themselves in class, and they can speak openly and honestly.
At the same time, students in single-sex schools are often more willing to take risks because they do not fear falling on their face in front of the other sex. As a result, the classrooms in these schools are often dynamic, free, and bursting with ideas and conversation--all hallmarks of a great education. While teachers in co-ed schools sometimes beg their students to contribute to class discussion, this is not true in single-sex schools a great deal of the time.
Though it is not always true, sometimes single-sex schools can help reduce cliques, particularly in girls' schools. The girls again do not have to worry about impressing boys or seeming popular, common concerns in middle and high school. They can instead concentrate on their studies and being open to befriending the other girls, and there are often fewer cliques as a result.
Though the stereotype about boys' schools is that they are rough-and-tumble places in which boys are hazed, the reality is often quite different. While one can't generalize about all boys' schools, in general, boys' schools are places that do not involve hazing or cruelty. Boys in an all-boys' environment do not form cliques because they don't have to appear cool, and they are often more generous to their peers as a result. In many boys' schools, there is room for all kinds of boys, and the less socially mature students are not punished, as they might be in a single-sex school.
A More Tailored CurriculumThe teaching at a single-sex private school can be tailored to all girls or all boys, and the ability to tailor the curriculum allows teachers to design classes that have the potential to really reach the students. For example, at boys' schools, teachers can teach books that interest boys and find books that speak to boys and their concerns. For example, a class discussion of Hamlet in a boys' school can involve a study of a boy's coming-of-age and of father-son relationships. In a girls' school, students can read books with strong heroines such as Jane Eyre or look at books such as The House of Mirth that touch on how women's lives are affected by prevailing attitudes towards women. While such discussions are possible in co-ed schools, they can be more open and concentrated in a single-sex school.
The Loss of Gender Stereotypes
In addition, students in single-sex schools can gravitate without embarrassment towards untraditional subjects. In boys' schools, male authors can come in to speak about their writing, and the students can ask questions without feeling embarrassed about being interested in writing, a subject that they might shy away from in a co-ed school. In a girls' school, female scientists can offer their experience, and girls can be interested without fearing that they appear dorky or unfeminine. The examples of how single-sex schools free students from gender stereotypes are endless.
In addition, teachers in single-sex school can use methods that might interest their students. For example, in a boys' school, they can use techniques that draw on boys' energy, while in a girls' school, they can offer the kinds of feedback that girls are most likely to accept. While each child is different and there is no one school that is right for all kids, there is no doubt that single-sex schools offer a great deal of advantages and a special atmosphere that encourages kids to feel comfortable and to learn.