When you want the absolute best education for your child, you consider many factors about potential schools. These may include student-teacher ratios, extra-curricular activities offered, the school’s college placement rate, or the availability of advanced placement classes. You also want to know how the students perform academically, and you may find yourself gravitating toward a single-sex school because of its students’ academic achievements.
A brief history of single-sex schools
Is a single-sex school the right one for you and your child? Much less common today, single-sex schools were the norm for much of history. This is due to inequality of the sexes and the gender roles that existed, which informed the type of education children received. In the 1700s, the New England area of the US started practicing coeducation, likely because the population of children was so low, and also to provide a religious education. As women’s roles in society, and the socialisation of children evolved, the idea of coeducation became much more prevalent in the US as compared to other countries.
Europe did not follow along as quickly, though some countries, such as Denmark, Russia and Norway, adopted coeducational practices in the 18th and 19th centuries. It wasn’t until the 20th century that coeducation really advanced, due to a shift in the definitions of gender roles and a change in sexual mores.
Single-sex education made a comeback in the 1980s, when both conservative and feminist forces began to advocate for it, the first group concerned about sexual freedom, the latter about empowerment. This renewed interest has help ensure that the single-sex school is not going away.
The pros of single-sex schools
What can single-sex schools do for your child? First and foremost, they can offer an intuitive approach to learning. Many people believe that girls and boys learn differently, and so teaching should focus on and exploit those differences. For example, it is thought that room temperature can affect learning rates in male and female students. It follows that learning can be enhanced by adjusting the thermostat in gender-specific classrooms.
More importantly, teachers in single-sex schools can be trained to teach in gender-specific ways – ensuring higher rates of success for your child.
In a compendium of studies published by the National Association for Single Sex Education (NASSE), the following important conclusions, from a variety of countries and studies, were found:
Single-sex schools produce students who attend college at a higher rate, and perform better on college entrance exams.
Grades are better in single-sex schools, especially but not limited to when teachers receive training to teach specifically for those genders.
In single-sex schools, boys tend to get better grades in English and foreign languages, and girls get better grades in maths and science.
Single-sex schools have students who outperform students at coed schools.
Students at single-sex schools benefit from improved self-confidence and belief in their own strengths.
These are just a few of the many findings that confirm that single-sex schools offer opportunities for better grades and performance for their students. The ability to remove distractions and gender stereotyping creates a learning environment that produces well-rounded and successful students, and adults.
You don’t need to rely on these studies. The best way for you to decide whether single-sex education is best, based on grades or other factors, is to examine the school yourself. For example, the Hornsey School for Girls offers detailed information on its successful educational programs. The Hornsey School has seen its students achieve great progress in nearly every academic area. Its excellent teaching staff is also responsible for success in the school’s performing arts programs and programs for students with disabilities. Taking a look at the school’s history will tell you if it’s a good fit.
The cons of single-sex schools
Single-sex education is not without controversy. Advocates for coeducational classes believe that single-sex schools are artificial environments and those students need to learn to get on with both genders for the sake of their future adult life. Others believe that teachers can adapt their teaching in coed classes to catch up to, and match, the results of single sex classes. Researchers disagree on whether boys or girls benefit more from single-sex education, making it difficult to unequivocally say that it benefits one sex more than the other.
Regardless of the dissent, research seems to bear out that grades are better in single-sex schools. They are certainly worth considering when you are looking at the long-term success of your child.