What Are the Advantages of Single Sex Education?

Important Information for Parents

Students Working on a Science Experiment in Class
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Is a single-sex school right for you? If you're not familiar with this learning environment, it can be hard to decide. Here are some important things to know about single-sex education. 

The Basic Difference

Fundamentally, the biggest difference between coed schools and single-sex schools (all boys schools and all girls schools) is the students. Coeducational classes have boys and girls, while single-sex schools only have either boys or girls. According to the National Coalition for Girls Schools and the International Boys' School Coalition, more than 500 single-sex institutions are counted as members. 

It's important to note that schools do not need to be coeducational to employ single-sex learning environments, and it's not only seen private schools. In fact, the New York Times reported, "there are about 750 public schools around the country with at least one single-sex class and 850 entirely single-sex public schools." Some schools enroll both genders, but divide classes into single-sex learning environments. 

The Right Setting for Your Child

Some children thrive in a single-sex school. Why? For one thing, the social pressures can be significantly lower. Your child can grow at his own pace. This often is a good thing for both boys and girls, as they typically mature at different rates.

The faculty at single-sex schools also keenly understand how their students learn. They adapt their teaching styles to those specific needs.  

Many proponents of single sex education argue that boys in coeducational settings are less likely to take courses in the arts or tackle advanced academic subjects simply to avoid being typecast as a nerd. Similarly, girls avoid the sciences and technology subjects because they don't want to appear to be tomboys. Single-sex schools are flourishing once again as parents realize that allowing their son or daughter to learn in his or her own individual way is a very important consideration in choosing a school.

Today, many parents are embracing the opportunity to choose where their children attend school. 

Student Behavior in a Single-Sex Environment

Your child's happiness is one of the most important factors in selecting a school. Equally important is finding a school with inspiring, gifted teachers. But we parents also need to consider three other factors: letting your child be herself, the teaching style and what's being taught and, finally, the socialization of our children.

Boys tend to soften their competitive edge and become more collaborative in a single-sex setting. They can just be boys and not worry about what the girls might think or how they are perceived by girls. Boys enjoying poetry and playing in an orchestra as opposed to a marching band are the kind of thing you will see in a boys' school.

Girls often are less shy in a single-sex environment, which means they often take more risks. They become more positively competitive. They embrace sports with gusto without worrying about appearing like tomboys.

Gender Learning Styles

If the teacher understands how to teach boys or girls, they can employ specific teaching strategies and engage classes in activities that accomplish specific goals. Often girls are empowered to become leaders, and boys are taught to better collaborate. In the right environment, students will quickly feel comfortable exploring non-traditional subjects. For girls, this is often mathematics, advanced sciences, computers, technology, and woodworking. Boys often participate more in the arts, humanities, languages, choirs and orchestras in single-sex settings.

Children will break out of their stereotypical roles and behavior when they are left to their own devices. Single-sex education has a delightful way of encouraging children to be fearless, to be curious, to be enthusiastic - in short, to just be themselves.

Understanding Blended and Co-Institutional Schools

Many Roman Catholic schools have their own unique approaches to single-sex schooling by offering co-institutional or blended schooling. Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, has two distinct high schools operating under the same roof: one for boys, the other for girls. This is the co-institutional approach. St. Agnes and St. Dominic School in Memphis, Tennessee, blends its single-sex education with co-educational depending on the grade level involved.

Compare the separate campus, the co-institutional and the blended schools. Any approach might be right for your son or daughter. Boys' schools and girls' schools have many advantages to consider.

Learn More about the Background of Single-Sex vs. Coed Classrooms

We have spent several generations advancing the equality of the sexes. Beginning with the women's suffrage movement and continuing through to the present day many legal and social barriers to women's equality with men have been removed. Much progress has been made.

With that in mind coeducation which is based on that laudable theme of equality seems like the right way to go. That's why most private and public schools use the coeducation model. Most of the time that works well.

On the other hand, some research seems to suggest that boys and girls learn in different waysResearch shows that a girl's brain is different from a boy's brain. If you accept that premise, coeducation probably will not work satisfactorily for every child. Coeducation does have the advantage of being politically acceptable. Recently public schools have begun to experiment with single-sex classes, and, in some cases, single-sex schools.

The Research

Perhaps the most revealing research on single-sex versus coeducation is Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review. This study was commissioned by the federal Department of Education and was released in 2005. What were its conclusions? Basically, it seems to conclude that there is not enough evidence to suggest single-sex education is better than coeducation or vice-versa.

Another national study from UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies claims to show that girls from single-sex schools have an edge over their coed peers. Want to learn more? Check out some of these resources:


Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski