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Single-Sex Education: The Pros and Cons

Single-sex education (teaching boys and girls in separate classrooms or schools) is an old approach that's gaining new momentum. While single-sex education has long existed in many private schools, it's a relatively new option for public schools. The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education estimates that approximately 400 public schools now offer some form of single-sex education. What is fueling this movement? And what are the risks and benefits of single-sex education?

A driving force in the single-sex education movement is recent research showing natural differences in how males and females learn. Putting this research into practice, however, has triggered a debate that extends beyond pure academics. Political, civil rights, socioeconomic and legal concerns also come into play. As the debate heats up, it helps to understand all sides of the issue.

Tips for Parents Considering Single-Sex Education

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether or not single-sex education (public or private) is the best approach for your child. Following are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Nature vs. Nurture

Before weighing the pros and cons of single-sex education, consider the influences of "nature versus nurture." Many factors affect each child's learning profile and preferences:

  • Some factors relate to the child's nature, such as gender, temperament, abilities (and disabilities), and intelligence.
  • Other influences stem from the way parents and society nurture the child: Family upbringing, socioeconomic status, culture and stereotypes all fall under the "nurture" category.

According to Leonard Sax, founder of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, "...whenever girls and boys are together, their behavior inevitably reflects the larger society in which they live." Depending on one's point of view, this statement can trigger arguments both for and against single-sex education.

Making the Case for Single-Sex Education

Those who advocate for single-sex education in public schools argue that:

  • Some parents don't want their children to be in mixed-gender classrooms because, especially at certain ages, students of the opposite sex can be a distraction.
  • Leonard Sax and others agree that merely placing boys in separate classrooms from girls accomplishes little. But single-sex education enhances student success when teachers use techniques geared toward the gender of their students.
  • Some research indicates that girls learn better when classroom temperature is warm, while boys perform better in cooler classrooms. If that's true, then the temperature in a single-sex classroom could be set to optimize the learning of either male or female students.
  • Some research and reports from educators suggest that single-sex education can broaden the educational prospects for both girls and boys. Advocates claim co-ed schools tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, while single-sex schools can break down gender stereotypes. For example, girls are free of the pressure to compete with boys in male-dominated subjects such as math and science. Boys, on the other hand, can more easily pursue traditionally "feminine" interests such as music and poetry. One mother, whose daughter has attended a girls-only school for three years, shares her experience on the GreatSchools parent community: "I feel that the single gender environment has given her a level of confidence and informed interest in math and science that she may not have had otherwise."
  • Federal law supports the option of single-sex education. In 2006, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings eased federal regulations, allowing schools to offer single-sex classrooms and schools, as long as such options are completely voluntary. This move gives parents and school districts greater flexibility.

May 19,2010
im doing a report for school; the pros of coed school. this article really helped thanks a bunch!!

May 12,2010
its not that boys and girls learn differently when they are sharing a room with the opposite sex, but its the ability of each student that makes them succeed in class, school, etc. everyone has individual needs. not all the girls have the same problem as the boys. Some boys may have the same problems as some girls, or vice versa. So what they say in this article that the opposite sex is the reason (distraction) why they don't learn equally as when they are in a single sex classroom, is false because everyone learns at its own pace.

May 04,2010
I think there are positives and negatives to single-sex and co-ed schools. I went to co-ed schools all my life and wished I had gone to an all girls high school. I think over-all, if teachers are trained properly and the curriculums are established for girls and boys, single-sex classes would be a positive. Perhaps have one school, but separate out the classes, especially gym class. Then there is intermingling of the sexes but classroom settings that focus on school work instead of staring at the cute boy or girl in class (for example).

Apr 27,2010
Single sex schools are regressive and are extremely sexist. Studies show that Boys and girls learn perfectly when together!

Apr 26,2010
dont like it... sorry. but i think when u learn as a whole the whole co-ed thing is good but when u haave a orginizaton such as just wait come.. its better if the boys and girls are apart. :)

Apr 15,2010
Single sex schools are not good because they do not give you the same oppertunity to us as a co-ed schools do... you shoulkd post some things for debate teams. That is why I am doing this, because of one of my classes. It is hard to find out things that are good about co-ed schools and bad things about single sex schools

Apr 13,2010
no same sex classes, same sex classes are a big NONO

Apr 07,2010
This did not help me at all : (

Mar 26,2010
No single sex schools!!!!

Mar 26,2010
coed schools are better for boys amd girls because they learn to interact with each other. it's better for the real world because men and women interact all the time SN

Mar 24,2010
i think it would be a good idea because it gets the kids to do their work then focusing on the oppsite sex!

Mar 24,2010
very helpful used it for school, much thanks :)

Mar 19,2010
I think that singal gender schools is good for students, because girls and boys both think diffrently. they also distract each other from their school work

Mar 19,2010
Single sex schools can decrease guys grades because they like to compete againest the oppisite sex for sports and school work. So boys won't work as hard if they don't have girls to compete to.

Mar 18,2010
Single sex schools should be banned. Opposite genders need to be comfortable with eachother because they intereact in the real world. Hi, my name is Sally and I go to Northwestern College. I used to go to an all girls school when i was in highschool, middle, and lower school. When I came to college I was nervous around guys because I had never actually interacted with them enough to learn how to. Co-ed schools are better because they teach kids how to interact with the opposite gender

Mar 16,2010
i think we should not have gender separtion in any thing acppate for bathrooms and lockerrooms thank you and good night

Mar 15,2010
I really think that single sex schools are much better than coed school. This is a fine website for the debate's con side (against SS school). But the pro side dont really makes sense and have enough statistic

Feb 23,2010
this website is very helpful !!!!:D

Feb 22,2010
this is a great article. i used it for an essay and got recommended for Clemson college.

Feb 18,2010
yes, sex ed should be taught as freshman so they know the dangers.

Feb 18,2010

Feb 18,2010

Jan 25,2010
this is helpfull. but you have to relize with the rate of teachers dropping this is a very bad idea. same sex schools will soon be un supported with the lack of teachers and the cost of taxes going. im only 14 & i know this.

Jan 25,2010
Everything that says single-sex school are better because they increase confidence...that's nonsense. One day you're going to have to work out in the world. you're not going to have a single-sex workplace...your confidence wont be boosted there.

Jan 11,2010
This website helped me a lot with my research paper.

Dec 01,2009
Everyone that says that same sex schools make boys and girls illequipped in later life are in fact mistaken. its not like girls have never met boys and vice versa. this helps every one out by nurturing their own personal skills without the criticizm from other genders. also the brother and sister same sex schools sometimes have dances, so they can interact.

Nov 24,2009
wow, there is some great stuff in this article but I personally would hate to have to go to a single gender schools. for 1) i like boys WAY too much to go to school w/o them and 2)i like being put with boys because it gives me a chance to show that I can do just as much and as well as them. I've gone to co-ed schools all my life and I have maintained a 4.0 i like competition and boys are definantly fair game.

Nov 06,2009
i dont think there should seppret classes cause girls and boys would not know how to interact with eachother later in life

Nov 06,2009
We should not support this because what will we do when we get into the real world with both genders?

Aug 03,2009
I attend a single-sex (girls) selective entry (as in you have to pass a test to get there, you can't pay your way in) government high school in Melbourne, Australia. I hate the fact that there are no boys. Worse is that none will talk to me while I'm in my school uniform because of way people stereotype us as nerds. We have a brother school a little over fifteen minutes away but we never do anything with them. The only reason that I do not leave is that the government school I am zoned for, though it is coed, is a hole and I cannot afford a private school. I know I'm there for my education but I feel that in the future, many people who attend single sex schools will not be able to communicate with the other gender.

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