The Merits of Studying in a Single Sex School

Categories: Single Sex Schools
About this essay

What is it like to be in a single sex school? You might need to imagine yourself walking all around campus and only seeing students of your own gender. You have to take classes, eat lunch and hang out with these same gender people the whole day. That is exactly how single sex schools works. It is true that, over the past century, co-education schoolings have been the most common educational form within public and private schools all around the world.

However, the regulations in most countries forbidding single-sex schools were relaxed since 1970s.

As a result, people’s interests for single-sex education have been revived. In other words, single sex schools have staged a comeback and became an intriguing educational option for many parents recently. Therefore, a growing number of single-sex schools have been established and certainly, came along with debate and controversy. Many people regard single-sex schools as a compensation for those firm convictions of the importance of co-education, in light of making up preconceived inequities for females in education throughout the 20th century.

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According to Lee and Lockheed (1990), “girls trained in a single-sex environment demonstrate lower levels of fear of success and are more likely to exercise leadership roles” (p. 212). Meanwhile, many parents believe that single-sex schools can prevent inappropriate and unhealthy sexual activities and help students concentrate on their studies. Nevertheless, despite growing support for single sex education, the traditional culture preference of coeducation and concerns with sex separation still plays a major role in many people’s educational decision-making processes.

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Other people argue that such educational forms could reinforce stereotypes and sexism. As Dockterman (2013, para. 7.) pointed out, many girls at single-sex schools still value their social achievements even more over their academic accomplishments. Girls impose stereotypes to each other which lead to bias and undermine self-esteem. Hence, to consider this issue, we need to find a balanced and comprehensive way between these two sides and become more thoughtful.

We should notice that the road to gender equality should be paved with diverse types of educational experiences. Both types of schools are acting as essential factors of students’ success and can provide fundamental knowledge to help students open the door of opportunities. The fist and most obvious benefit of taking a single-sex school is that it can decrease distractions in learning and reduce sexual assault among students. When most of teens reached puberty, typically they showed a growing interest of sexual changes of their bodies as well as their thoughts related to the opposite sex driven by their hormones.

All of a sudden, everyone started dedicating most of their spare time to explore how to improve his/her attractions to the opposite sex within heterosexual relationships. They gradually discovered that they can’t be comfortable and free in front of the opposite sex as the way they did before most of them are afraid of showing the real themselves without any covers. As a result, without correct guide and information to help teenagers focus on their studies and open up their minds about how they really feel, teens could easily be distracted and therefore waste a lot of time on meaningless relationships instead of their school works which is crucial to their future. Though the situation is not absolute, it is a pretty common problem that a lot of adolescents would face.

Under this condition, single-sex schools could be a perfect choice for those adolescents who have become overly preoccupied with worries on how the opposite sex think of them. In general, besides regular academic education, single-sex schools help students reveal how different genders interact with others appropriately in the real society before they performed any innocent behaviors on the Internet or other public places which could damage their future. For example, most of girls’ schools are not only focusing on student’s academic accomplishments, they practically value their educational goals beyond academics to dealing with the social and emotional pressures associated with girls’ attitudes of self-esteem and sexuality. (Debare, 2004, p.309).

Overall, single-sex schools provide a fertile learning environment with untapped valuable insights toward gender to guide students recognize themselves in a comprehensive way, as well as teach them how to maintain healthy relationships with the opposite sex before they become mature. Furthermore, according to Meryer (2008), students in single-sex schools feel more comfortable expressing themselves without “ fearing of embarrassment or teasing from the opposite sex” (para.5). Students do need to feel comfortable within the relationships between their same gender before they figure out how to have the healthy relationships with the opposite sexes. Because students don’t need to worry about complicated relationships before they become mature, plenty of researches show that the efficiency of study has been significantly improved.

In addition, because students are in same gender circumstance, they don’t need to constantly ask themselves the same questions like “how do I look today?” or “ does he/she has a crush on me or not?” The forms of competence in single-sex schools seem only related to academic success rather than popularity among the opposite genders. A lot of students found that as long as they work hard, they could be treated as same as those which possibly would be regarded as popular people in coeducational schools. The problem that some teenagers who feel inferior because their appearances make them hardly get a boyfriend or a girlfriend in coeducational schools would not occur again in single sex schools. On the contrary, students could focus on their studies in daily life because their social network is separated from their daily academic lives.

That is also the reason why Bruce and Sanders (2001) have found that despite students from single-sex schools “are not noticeably thwarted by any lack of opportunity or experience in the single-sex school system from experiencing romantic episodes” (pp. 173-184), they are usually are more academically successful compared to their coeducational counterparts. In coeducational schools, it is hard for girls to say “no” to their boyfriends since they are a part of their social network and obviously girls don’t want to do anything to ruin the entire social circle at schools. Hence, teenage sex and unexpected pregnancies are much more common in coed schools. According to Pellegrini (2002, pp. 151-163), at a single sex school, even if the student has a boyfriend, it is much easier for her to get away the negative impact from the clique and concentrate on their studies.

The second merit of single-sex schools is that they can provide more appropriate environments separately for boys and girls in terms of their different characteristics. Education should come from the foundation that considering the human being as a person,“ with his or her character as an active subject facing a world of objective realities” (Bansell, 2013, p. 26). We should take the differences between males and females into account before making educational choices. In fact, boys and girls are different psychologically and socially. For example, girls’ and boys’ friendships are not quite similar because typically girls establish friendship by self disclosure and conversation while boys tend to make friends easily from shared experience (Cassidy, p.44). Even though it is hard for a girl to accept a same gender friend, it is harder for them to convince themselves to trust their new female friends.

That could be contributed to the unequal position between males and females in the real society. Among most of countries, especially among developing countries, the signal of success for a man is the successfulness of his career development. However, when it comes to women, people usually only focus on whether the man she married is capable and rich, while the woman’s capability is often underestimated. This traditional view give most of girls a sense of crisis- they are afraid of other girls approach them in order to “steal” their boyfriends. Accordingly, they find it difficult to believe that real relationships exist among girls. But after graduated from single-sex schools, most of women can reap several lasting friendships with their same gender friends.

The pure living and learning conditions accomplished girls to become more kind and considerate to their female friends. The girls’ schools experience could help them form positive values of life that full of loving, caring and sharing. However, girls who don’t have single-sex educational experience probably would find that she has to fight with other girls all the time. They don’t really understand what real female friendship is like until thirties or forties. Furthermore, boys and girls have different learning styles. It is common that students would notice boys have dominated most of the scientific classes in their coeducational schools. Because boys “interpret this world as objects moving through space”(Kaufmann, n.d., para4), boys’ understanding of scientific proofs and theorems is usually better than girls. Girls are more likely to focus on the form of a theorem, while boys concentrate on its logical structure.

It is common that teachers follow boys’ understanding of problem-solving capabilities in the scientific classes which make girls find it difficult to catch up the materials. However, single-sex schools are “sensitive to areas that have been historic “trouble spots’ for girls”, usually they have developed more suitable teaching methods towards girls and would give more patience and attention to females who have trouble digest the material. On the contrary, girls typically possess better memory and literacy capacity which allow them easily get good scores from liberal arts courses, while boys intend to lose motivations from repetitive memorizing and writing processes.

Given that fact, boys should be encouraged to be more creative and innovative in such courses, as opposed to just force them to memorize a lot of historical dates and judge their writings. Besides, in respect of sex education particularly, males and females would more likely to discuss such issues only with people from single sex (Strange, V., Oakley, A., Forrest, S., and THE RIPPLE study Team, 2004, p. 213). This could be an explanation of why students who come from single sex schools usually have a better understanding and behaviors systems in terms of sexual issues. The third advantage of single-sex education is the particular trained teachers and expanded learning opportunities help students accomplish better academic achievements. Teachers in single-sex schools have been trained within different teaching techniques geared towards gender-based education.

This would lead to a decreasing discipline problem environment which could help students more concentrate on their studies. For example, as Kaufmann (n.d., para. 4) suggests, because the composition of the male eye makes it attuned to motion and directions”, teachers could make more moves around the classrooms to catch students’ attention. On the other hand, because females eye “is drawn to textures and colors”, teachers could utilize different colors as much as possible to attract female students. Moreover, these teachers can efficiently guide students to break down stereotypes. Unlike teachers in coeducational schools who are more likely to control students which could reinforce stereotypes, teachers in single-sex schools frequently show more positive attitudes and patience to help students address their academic and social problems. In the second place, students will have more opportunities to engage in classes and extracurricular activities.

Single sex education enables boys and girls to experience a broader ranger of non-traditional academic options. Students would be inclined to challenge themselves with being laughed at by the opposite gender (Russell, 2007, para. 5-6). For example, when most of girls register courses in coeducational schools, they are inclined to choose fields they are traditionally viewed as excellent learner, such as language and literature, few of them would run the risk to choose courses like computer science which full of boys. However, things have changed in single-sex schools. When a girl want to attend such a computer science classes, she know that the rest of her classmates have similar information background and thinking patterns which allow her to feel more free to make her own choice.

In single sex schools, students can learn anything they want without concerning the gender pressure pushed by prevailing culture and values of society (Jordan, 2014, para. 15). Both boys and girls at single-sex schools have more diverse role models of their own sexes which could be imitated positively. Despite all benefits as shown above, we should notice that as the other types of systems in the world, single-sex schools are not perfect under any conditions. In order to consider educational issues like choosing schools more thoroughly, we should notice the shortcomings it has already disappeared. The first limitation of single-sex education is that brain research has not supported the argument that boys and girls learning in a different way.

According to Elliot (2011), brain research has not supported the differences between boys’ and girls’ brains in regard to the ability to learn. It is understandable that boys and girls are interested in different areas, which will encourage them to explore the study fields they are already familiar with. But education is about providing them new opportunities to open up new educational frontiers. Although the number of human academic learning researches is limited, at least in terms of reading skill, the studies have proved that there is little difference between males and females (p.374). Moreover, the differences perceived among teenagers are mostly could be considered as a result of society’s expectations instead of brain structures. There is a common misconception that science is for boys, and girls don’t have the ability to get handle of it.

Typically boys are more likely to be expected as learners that have little difficulties dealing with mathematics and physics, girls are often encouraged to learn language and sociology. Students are forced to believe that they can’t handle a particular subject by the value of society. The problem is such” boys are good at math and girls are good at history” opinions are not absolute and work for everybody. Perhaps for some intelligent girls, it is more efficient for them to study in coeducational experiments to exchange their ideas with boys in light of scientific subjects. For those students, learning in a single-sex might tie up them persistently, because they are just as same talented as boys in those academic areas, they can be provided broader platform to express themselves.

The second important notice of ineligibility of single-sex education is that because single sex schools constantly focus on “gender differences”, it might have the opposite effect. Taking same-gender schools could reinforce stereotypes and sexism. Girls are more likely to push stereo pressures to the same sex, some of the girls fight for boys all the time regardless of what types of schools they take (Dockterman, 2013, para. 15). In spite of such situations not happened to everyone who attend single-sex schools, it does limit student’s opportunities to “work cooperatively and co-exist successfully with the opposite gender (Stanberry, 2011, para. 15). Some people claim that let children grow up in coeducational environment and learn how to develop good relationships with the opposite is beneficial for them to adjust real society. They argue that if students are separated by gender, they could discriminate the opposite gender to some extent and display more stereotypes.

Especially, for some sensitive boys and girls, the teaching styles that concentrate on single-sex education could be detrimental which can lead to bias and undermine equality. For instance, if a girl notices that usually the teacher seems have endless patience to teach them in scientific courses she might start wondering if females are really not as capable as boys in such academics field. It is hard for them to notice the fact that any kind of subject needs plenty of hard work to show professional skills. Ultimately, the issues boil down to gender.

Also, as far as some people concern, schools are not limited to academic education. It is associated with communicating with other people, which could help students adjust the real society that is full of different genders. They believe the kind of schools should be the same as the real society. For those people, attending coeducation schools are also a good way to meet more types of people and experience a more colorful life. Thirdly, the reliability of single-sex education’s ability to increase student’s academic performance is doubted. In fact, there have been some studies that suggest single-sex schools are not enhancing children’s academic abilities. For example, Conley (2011) states that “the U.S. Department of Education found little overall difference in academic outcomes between children in single-sex schools versus those in coed schools” (para. 6).

The grades depend much on how hard individuals work most of the time, as opposed to the types of schools. In other words, students who are capable of high academic achievements in single-sex schools could do as well in co-ed schools. Excellent students often have the ability to avoid impacts of disturbing by external environments, they don’t need to take single-sex schools to provide them a undisturbed environment to improve their academic performance. Furthermore, the achievement gap is huge between students from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups with poor and minority students children faring poorly”. When considering the different educational outcomes, we should take account to those factors as well.

These different backgrounds also deserve concerns because individuals are unique based on their own experiences. It is hard to say which types of schools is better in general, but at least for an African-American child, it is obvious a better idea to send him to a co-ed school which is full of diverse races rather than a all-white single-sex institution. As long as we considered the educational issues including but not just limited to the gender, the schools could make a conscious effort to present students and parents with a higher quality of education. As shown above, we have already seen several benefits of single-sex education given current society condition. In fact, Salomone (2003) demonstrated that single sex school is “ a refuge from social pressure and apathy toward gender issues that they had experienced in coeducational schools”(p.416).

However, the limitation it displays which can contribute to some unfavorable impact to the student’s future should be noticed as well. There is not general method for individuals to decide which kind of school is better, but the ultimate goal of education is to help each student explore their unique potential efficiently by constructing harmonious educational environment to accommodate individual’s needs. In this sense, we can regard both single-sex and coed education as laboratories of diversification for educating adolescents. Therefore, alternative educational choices could be made by considering each type of education’s benefits and shortcomings. After all, it is eventually up to parents and children to determine if single-sex education is suitable for them, but the society does need to support both types of school to promote gender educational equality.


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The Merits of Studying in a Single Sex School. (2021, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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