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Education is integral to the advancement of human civilization and for this reason, policy makers are keen to ensure that students receive the best education. High quality education is characterized by increasing the self-confidence and self-concept of students, and producing optimal academic ability. Current debates surround the schooling experience of students surrounds the perceived benefits of co-ed and single-sex education.
Proponents of co-educational schooling argue that the students accrue more benefits from learning in a mixed environment. On the other hand, advocates of single-sex schooling declare that this model has significant merits and it helps students to overcome some of the challenges inherent in the co-ed environment. Single-sex education is beginning to gain prominence in many States all over the US. The single-sex model appeals to educators and policy makers for a variety of perceived merits derived from this system. This paper will highlight the educational benefits of single-sex schooling in order to show that this model is superior to co-ed schooling.
Support for Single-Sex Schooling
Single-sex schooling increases the educational outcomes and participation rates of students. Girls are especially likely to benefit from single-sex schooling since it enhances their educational experience and increases their academic ability. Due to the increase in the number of single-sex schools in Australia, the number of girls entering into higher education is higher (Tsolidis & Dobson, 2006). On overall, students from single-sex schools exhibit superior academic performance compared to those in co-ed schools. Malacova (2007) reveals that in the UK, single-sex schools perform better than co-ed schools, suggesting that the single sex model improves the academic ability of the students. Quantitative studies have suggested that boys might avoid academic achievements since it will compromise their “masculine” image in front of the girls (Younger & Warrington, 2006).
The single-sex model creates a climate where male students feel comfortable enough to pursue academic excellence through hard work. Fergusson (2008) documents that in single-sex schooling, boys are able to work hard without the fear of appearing “feminine” to the girls.
Single-sex schooling makes it possible for educators to implement the most effective learning style for the different genders. Spielhagen (2011) observes that there is an inherent brain-based learning difference between boys and girls. This means that boys and girls learn in different ways. Tsolidis and Dobson (2006) assert that while boys are more comfortable with individualized and competitive styles of learning, girls thrive from teaching and learning strategies that emphasize communication and cooperation. In co-ed classes, the teacher is forced to adapt teaching styles that might disadvantage one gender. This limitation is absent in the single-gender class since the teacher can utilize the learning style best suited for the particular gender. Stotsky (2012) states that teachers are able to better capitalize on the different reading interests between the genders to provide the best outcomes.
Through single-sex schooling, educators are able to cater to the needs of boys without disadvantaging girls and vice versa (Fergusson, 2008). However, opponents argue that single-sex schooling might lead to the implementation of biased learning models. Spielhagen (2011) warns that when the single-schooling model is implemented, teachers are tempted to “modify both content and pedagogy according to their own, often stereotypical, constructs of the differences in the ways boys and girls learn” (p.4). Adjustments based on stereotypical views of the differences in learning styles will be detrimental to the learning outcomes of the students. While this is true, the risk of biased learning models being used can be reduced through effective teacher training.
Preparation of teachers to handle the single-sex classes can help mitigate or eliminate the likelihood of teachers modifying content and pedagogy based on their misconceptions. Teachers can be trained in order to increase their understanding of the learning styles preferred by both genders. With this increased awareness, teachers will be able to execute effective single-gender classes.
Another merit of single-sex schooling is that it leads to the increase in self-confidence for boys and girls. Malacova (2007) documents that in the co-ed setting, students are likely to conform to stereotype expectations in order to avoid rejection. Boys will therefore act more competitively and boisterous while girls are likely to be inhibited and modest. Such behavior prevents both genders from reaching their true potential. In the single-sex environment, the students are freed of the anxiety that would occur in classes with students of the opposite sex. Stotsky (2012) reveals that single-sex classes provide the best learning environment for shy or quiet children who would otherwise be intimidated in a mixed gender class environment.
The class is tailored to foster the development of self-confidence and leadership skills for each sex. Boys and girls are given the “freedom to be themselves” in the environment that is free from the opposite gender. Sullivan (2009) asserts that the self esteem of girls is better reinforced in the single-sex environment since boy’s typically tend to dominate in a mixed environment often to the disadvantage of girls.
Single-sex schooling encourages each sex to venture into subjects that might traditionally be dominated by the opposite gender. Since boys and girls do not have to conform to any stereotype views, they can pursue their true interests without fear. Tsolidis and Dobson (2006) report that due to the increase in the number of single-sex schools in Australia, the number of girls entering into higher education and participating in many traditionally male-dominated areas of study has risen. In spite of this, proponents of co-ed schooling argue that single-sex schooling might lead to the provision of unequal education. Spielhagen (2011) argues that single-sex classes might be damaging, especially for girls since the separate arrangement of the genders can result in the adoption of separate and unequal curricula. The types of subjects offered might be influenced by a sexual stereotype about what subjects are better suited or desirable for boys or girls (Younger & Warrington, 2006).
While this might be true, is should be noted that sex-stereotyped subject choices occur frequently in mixed schools. Tsolidis and Dobson (2006) document that in Australia, the link between female disadvantage and university entry was linked to sex-segregated subject selection in the co-ed schools. The authors argue that single-sex schools are likely to reduce these stereotyped subject choices for the girls do not have to conform to any biased view on their abilities in certain subjects.
The level of enjoyment in school is increased for both sexes when they school separately. When boys and girls are in the same schooling environment, issues such as sex-based harassment are likely to occur. There is also the issue of unequal use of resources due to the competitive nature of boys and the more-cooperative nature of girls. Tsolidis and Dobson (2006) declare, “Boys’ behavior in the classroom and in schools more generally, has been understood to have a deleterious effect on girls” (p.216). Single-sex schooling overcomes these challenges by placing both sexes in different environments.
Opponents of single sex education argue that it has a negative impact on the way in which males and females interact with one another in future study and work environments. This argument is based on the understanding that in a co-ed environment, boys and girls learn about and from each other. Research indicates that girls have a civilizing effect on boys (Malacova, 2007). In the absence of girls in the school setting, boys are likely to act in uncultured ways. Tsolidis and Dobson (2006) argue that single-sex classes may not provide students with the experience of each other, which promotes successful social immersion. While it is true that single-sex classes separate boys from girls, this does not prevent the sexes from learning from each other. Both genders are able to learn from each other outside the school environment. In addition to this, teachers of the opposite sex in the single-sex class can have a civilizing effect on the students.
The main stakeholders in the education of students have varying attitudes towards single-sex and co-ed schooling. This paper set out to demonstrate that the single-sex model is the most appropriate due to its significant benefits to the students. It has shown that the single-sex model has relative merit on the education of boys and girls. Historically, policymakers in the country executed single-sex models in education institutes based on anecdotal reasoning instead of relying on research to support the model.
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However, this has changed as intensive research into the different models of schooling has been engaged in. This paper has shown that single-sex schooling enhances the educational experience of boys and girls and does not have a negative effect on social cohesion. For this reason, more schools should adopt the single-sex model in order to improve the educational outcomes of more students in the country.
Fergusson, D. (2008). Effects of single-sex and coeducational schooling on the gender gap in educational achievement. Australian Journal of Education, 52(3), 301–317. Web.
Malacova, E. (2007). Effect of single-sex education on progress in GCSE. Oxford Review of Education, 33(2), 233–259. Web.
Spielhagen, F. (2011). It all depends: Middle School Teachers Evaluate Single-Sex Classes. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 34(7), 1-12. Web.
Stotsky, S. (2012). The Promise of Single-Sex Classes. School Administrator, 69(5), 32-35. Web.
Sullivan, A. (2009). Academic self-concept, gender and single-sex schooling. British Educational Research Journal, 35(2), 259–288. Web.
Tsolidis. G., & Dobson, I.R. (2006). Single-sex schooling: is it simply a ‘class act’? Gender and Education, 18(2), 213–228. Web.
Younger, M., & Warrington, M. (2006). Would Harry and Hermione have done better in single-sex classes: a review of single-sex teaching in co-educational schools in the United Kingdom. American Educational Research Journal, 43(4), 579–620. Web.