Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website!
This paper argues that single-sex public education brings more harms than benefits. The issue of single-sex public schooling in the U. S. has been in the centre of a heated debate recently. Some scholars and education practitioners argue that educating girls separately from boys results in healthier learning environment and psychological development of representatives of both genders. Along with presenting arguments and evidence in support of mixed gender education, this paper will also dismiss major theses put forward by the proponents of single-sex education.
First of all, mixed gender education benefits both girls and boys since early encounter with persons of opposite sex helps children and teenagers shape healthier perceptions about gender roles and relations between genders. In the absence of information about representatives of different gender, various stereotypes and misperceptions develop. On the contrary, when boys and girls study together, they can observe peculiarities of male and female behavior and identity formation, thus learning to acknowledge and respect differences between genders.
Secondly, single-sex education reinforces the notion that men and women are not fully equal as the participants of public life. If the differences between genders are regarded as too dramatic to educate boys and girls together, such approach presumes tat mean and women are too different to participate in other spheres of public life on equal grounds. However, the idea that has been consistently promoted throughout the 20th century was that women are also rational subject and are entitled to the same set of rights as men.
Single sex education can thus be viewed as a step back in the historical development of our society. Thirdly, differences in learning styles are not necessarily an impediment to academic progress. Since boys and girls have different approach to educational process, coeducation can help to unleash the potential of the diversity of learning attitudes and experience. In such a way, ‘coeducation exposes all students to a range of male and female-oriented learning experiences.
Importantly, boys and girls gain social maturity through valuable interactive play and shared learning’ (Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School, 2007, para. 2). The proponents of single sex schooling disagree with the aforementioned statement. They believe that differences in learning styles are best addressed when boys and girls study separately. Under such scenario, they argue, teachers can choose the most effective way of presenting the material and assessing students’ progress, since they have an opportunity to tailor their teaching manner to the needs of representatives of a particular gender.
In support of their claim they cite evidence of better performance in single sex schools as compared with coeducational schools. In dismissing this evidence, two factors need to be taken into account. First of all, these studies measured only short-term impact on academic performance without paying due attention to the continuity and integrity of learning process. There may be fluctuations in performance indicators across districts, regions, and years.
The proponents of single sex education fail to prove that educating girls separately from boys bring long-term academic benefits: As opposed to concurrent indicators of academic achievement, any positive effects of SS [single sex] schooling on longer-term indicators of academic achievement are not readily apparent’ (U. S. Department of Education, 2005, ‘Summary of Findings in Each Domain,’ ‘Long-term, quantifiable academic accomplishment’). On the contrary, differences in learning styles may sometimes lead to higher performance indicators as coeducation encourages representatives of both genders to study better.
Since psychologically girls are more inclined to learning and academic environment, they set a certain level of achievement. Naturally, boys in the same classroom are pressured to live up to the standard: ‘While girls might set the benchmark in standards, once boys understand the required level, their competitive nature encourages them to strive for mastery, often leading to achievement levels beyond the benchmark’ (Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School, 2007, ‘Setting the bar’).
As for the argument that single sex education raises self-esteem, especially in all-girls schools and classrooms, it can be contested, too. While short-term impact on self-esteem may be positive, long-term harms again outweigh all the perceived benefits. When boys and girls are educated separately, they get used to single sex environment and acquire social skills that helps them operate in such environment only.
However, after graduation they are required to learn how to operate in mixed-gender environment, which can be stressful and diminish their chances to lead a full-fledged social life. In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the question of single sex v. coeducation should be further researched. It is one of the fundamental social policy debates that shape public life in our country – just like abortion, gun control, global warming, or euthanasia – and therefore it should be carefully considered and scrutinized before final decision on this issue is made.