By Dr. Raul Nidoy
Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF)
Association for Single-Sex Education in Asia (ASSEA)
Download the article in brochure form here.
Are there benefits to single-sex schooling?
The best research on this topic was sponsored by the U.S. government in 2005. The research demonstrated “a single-sex school advantage by far” over coed schools.
Do those results refer to academics?
Yes, they found better results in math, science, English, and social studies achievement. But advantages extend to social and emotional development of the children too.
But isn’t this just one study?
The U.S. study is a meta-analysis covering 2221 studies worldwide. Then they culled the 40 best. The review showed that “positive results are three to four times more likely to be found for single sex schools than for coeducational schools in the same study for both academic achievement and socio-emotional development.”
That’s quite impressive. Do they explain why girls’ schools and boys’ schools are better?
There are more than a dozen reasons! For one, teachers observe that there are less distractions. Children are prone to distraction. What more when they are with the other sex who have a different learning style, and who can catch their attention.
In single-sex schools children compete on fairer grounds. Girls develop faster than boys, and boys can easily get discouraged when faced with such competition. Then boys can pull down the performance of the girls.
But aren’t the kids helped by the presence of the opposite sex to behave better?
Not in the majority of cases. Based on studies, when kids of the same sex are together, they give themselves more mutual support, a sense of community and greater confidence. Thus, they participate more and are more engaged.
Won’t coed schools make children more well-rounded?
The opposite is true. Coed schools tend to perpetuate stereotypes of girls as good in creative arts and boys as strong in math, science and leadership. In single-sex schools, teachers can address the unique needs and interests of the students, making them strong in areas where they are usually weak. This is another explanation why students in single-sex schools perform better in academics.
Let’s not forget too that children don’t want to appear having some of the good habits of the other sex, lest they be teased as being girlish or boyish.
But isn’t it that kids get inspired by the opposite sex to study harder?
Again, you are talking about exceptions. In most cases, based on recent research findings, the effect of the interaction between the two sexes means less homework done, less enjoyment of school, lower reading and math scores.
You mentioned earlier that there are social and emotional advantages.
U.S. government research points to less sexual harassment, less delinquency and other student behavior problems, more community involvement, more positive self-concept among children, more positive student role models, more leadership opportunities, and higher career aspirations. Children in these schools put more value on grades and leadership rather than on attractiveness and money. These schools also allow for more opportunities for social and moral guidance.
I am concerned that my high schooler will not learn how to deal with the opposite sex.
As you might already have observed, the alumni of the top single-sex schools of this country are very capable of dealing with the other sex, and in fact they are known to have an edge on the basis of their culture, manners, and self-confidence. Boys’ schools and girls’ schools have the privileged condition of providing age and gender-appropriate guidance and social skills training to their students.
One of my concerns is that my children go to the best colleges.
Your child will have better chances to achieve that through a single-sex school. There was a randomized experiment done on this in Korea, whose results were published on January 2012. A randomized experiment is the most reliable evidence in all scientific research, since it eliminates bias and pre-selection. The study found that 45% of boys from single-sex schools entered college compared with only 39% of the boys from coed schools. For the girls, it’s 44% of girls from all-girls schools and 40% of girls from coed schools. So the research concluded that “Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools rather than attending coeducational schools is significantly associated with higher average scores.”
Could it be that single-sex schools are effective because well-to-do students enroll there?
Another surprise: Four studies have actually found that these type of schools “are significantly favorable for students who are historically or traditionally disadvantaged--minorities and/or low and working class and/or at-risk students.”
But if all of this is true, why isn’t single-sex schooling the mainstream way of educating the kids?
The news has not yet spread. That’s the reason behind this Q&A! And for your information, there is a revival of single-sex schools even in the public schools in the U.S. From only 4 single-sex public schools in 1998, there were already 540 such schools by 2010. An expert said that “21st Century education will be single-sex schooling.”
1. Mael, F., Alonso, A., Gibson, G., Rogers, K., & Smith, M., (2005). Single-sex versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review. Washington D.C. http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/single-sex/single-sex.pdf
2. Riordan, C. (2007). The Effects of Single Sex Schools: What Do We Know? Building Gender-Sensitive Schools: First International Congress on Single Sex Education. Barcelona.http://www.easse.org/docs/1209565580_Congreso%204.07.%20Ponencias%20y%20comunicaciones.pdf
3. Riordan, C., Faddis, B., Beam, M, Seager, A., Tanney, A., DiBiase R., Ruffin M., Valentine, J. (2008). Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools: Perceptions and Characteristics. Washington D.C. http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/single-sex/characteristics/characteristics.pdf
4. Riordan, C. (2009). The Effects of Single Sex Schools: Alced. Argentina. http://www.alcedargentina.com.ar/images/libroponencias.pdf
5. Park, H. , Behrman, J, Choi,, J .(2012) Causal Effects of Single-Sex Schools on College Entrance Exams and College Attendance: Random Assignment in Seoul High Schools. Philadelphia, PA. University of Pennsylvania, PSC Working Paper Series.
6. Martin, A. J., Marsh, H. W., McInerney, D. M., Green, J. Young People’s Interpersonal Relationships and Academic and Nonacademic Outcomes: Scoping the Relative Salience of Teachers, Parents, Same-Sex Peers, and Opposite Sex Peers. Teachers College Record. March 23, 2009, 1-6. http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentId=15593
Download the article in brochure form here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/64318356/Benefits%20of%20Single%20%20Sex%20Education.doc
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