23 July 2013

The Benefits of Single-Sex Education

No matter how long you’ve been out of school, it’s still easy to picture what it looked like. The lockers in the hallway, the drama in the lunchroom, and the cute boys on the football team are images common to many, made even more memorable by the uncountable amount of movies that been set in high school. 

Why would film writers and producers use school as their setting? They have realized that the tension and dynamics of high school is the perfect driving force in their plotlines, movies like The Breakfast Club, Ten Things I Hate About You, High School Musical, and Easy A. Each of these films uses the social structure of high school, girls and boys placed together in a closed environment, trying to find their place as people, and struggling to fit in while being noticed by the opposite gender. It’s these parts of high school that make them ideal settings for movies, but it’s also these same features that sometimes make high school a hard place to do what they came for: learn. For these reasons, along with some compelling research and data, many forerunners in education are suggesting that single sex schools may be an environment that, while less fitting for the movie scene, will be more conducive to our children’s education. 

Following the Research

The idea of single sex education may seem to be old-fashioned to some, but as LaunchEducation.com reviewed the latest research on the learning traits of boys and girls, we began to see a picture of how single sex education may soon be put back into practice. The previously accepted fact that girls learn better in all-girl classrooms remains, but researchers have now found that not only does this hold true for boys as well, but a single gender environment seems to have an even greater affect on boys’ learning.


A study at Stetson University indicated that in a co-ed classroom, girls reached around 59% proficiency as compared to the girls in a single-sex classroom who reached 75% proficiency, an improvement of 16%.  When the same study was performed with boys, the findings were even more significant. Only 37% of boys reached proficiency in the co-ed classroom, whereas 86% of boys reached the same level in a single-sex classroom., indicating a 49% improvement. It is that drastic difference in performance that is causing many schools and parents to consider single-sex education.

And these findings are not limited to one grade level; rather, all ages demonstrate similar findings. 
Students studying: Stockvault

Despite these findings, many parents are hesitant about the idea of sending their child to a single-sex school. After all, many parents are familiar with the typical high school scene since that is what they experienced. However, with the many potential benefits of single-sex education, it is time for parents to give this idea some serious thought.

No More “Girly” Subjects

While many are trying to break the gender stereotypes, the stigma still remains that boys are better at math and science while literature and the arts are girl’s subjects. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 30% of the degrees in math or science are awarded to women. While teaching in a mixed-gender high school, students can be pressured by these stigmas. Girls may let boys take the lead in the sciences while boys are hesitant to participate in literature and arts for fear of looking “sissy.” However, in a single-sex school, roles can no longer be assigned by gender. This frees boys to participate in creative subjects and allows girls to step forward and take leadership in the typically male-dominated sciences. 

The tutors at Launch Education note that while there are differences in learning styles for many girls and boys, there are still exceptions. Some students do very well in mixed gender classrooms and tutoring sessions while others perform far better in all boy or all girl classes. Other students perform best in one-on-one teaching environments or smaller classes. These are factors that many studies overlook when separating boys and girls, while simultaneously shrinking class size. Launch Education continues to explore the effects of a student’s environment on performance and improvement. It may be the case that we begin to see a strong revival in single sex education, but it is important to look at the myriad of other factors that affect student performance as well.

Helping Boys with the Ants in their Pants


During their education, most teachers spend time studying the differences in the psychology of males and females; however, actually implementing this knowledge in the co-ed classroom is difficult. Using a strategy geared to one gender often means inadvertently ostracizing the other. While a teacher may try to engage boys in more dynamic, active methods of learning, the girls are hungering for more reflective feedback and encouragement 

Even the ideal temperature for learning in the classroom differs from boys to girls. Studies have shown that boys do better at colder temperatures while girls can focus better in warmer environments. By splitting students into single-sex classrooms, teachers are better able to meet all the students’ needs in their classroom and maximize their learning potential.

Removing Posturing, Hormones, and Sexual Tension


Imagine that movie scene where the boy is listening attentively to the teacher and suddenly that cute blonde girl walks into the classroom to deliver a note; the boy’s eyes follow her as she leaves, his attention stolen for the rest of class. Or picture another familiar movie scene where the girl finds herself sitting by the cute boy in her math class and starts pretending to be incapable of math so he will tutor her. While these scenes are obviously exaggerations of the reality, they still hold some truth. 

From as young as 5th and 6th grade, students are beginning to enter puberty, a time of raging hormones and awkward adjustments to the opposite sex. Teachers are constantly battling the students’ bodies for the attention of their minds while the opposite gender surrounds and distracts them. Within single-sex classrooms, students are faced with less distraction from the opposite gender. Plus, they feel less pressure to perform and less intimidated to speak out. In all grades, students in single-sex classrooms display more focus, which also results in better discipline and less disruption in class. 

Returning Schools from Entertaining to Educating

While the co-ed classrooms may be the perfect movie setting, maybe it’s time we learned something from these films about how distracting these environments can be. Instead of regarding single-sex schools as old-fashioned or extreme, we should see the truth of what they can be: simpler and more effective. Single-sex classrooms are an effort to bring education closer to its goal of preparing and teaching students. Who can argue with that? As more schools try single sex education, parents should consider helping their boys and girls learn in a classroom that caters to them individually and helping them reach their maximum potential.

19 comments:

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No doubt, the very fact that students are less distracted in this environment can be a huge positive.

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Daniel Prowriter said...
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Daniel Prowriter said...

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