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Research paper about single-sex education

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1. Introduction

“ The American tradition favors pluralism, diversity, and choice. There should be coed schools for those who want them and single–sex school for those who prefer an environment free of the pressures of the dating game. “

(Diane Ravitch, “Why not a girls school ?”, New York Post 1997)

Single–sex education, also known as single gender education, is organization of education where girls and boys are divided into separate classes or schools to study. In many cultures single-sex education is also referred to as the basis of tradition as well as religion. It is prevalent in many areas in the world such as the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Korea, Japan and the United States. However, a methodical review published in 2005 covering 2221 studies was found out by the US Department of Education that the result of studies on the effects of single gender schooling are controversial. Advocates believe that it gives students positive impacts on test scores graduation and solutions to behavioral difficulties. Opponents, however, show that such effects is inflated and such segregation can lead to increased prejudice and cost students social skills. Thus, in this paper we will discuss about the merits and drawbacks of single-sex education.

2. Discussion of findings

2.1. Context of Single-sex Education in the United State

In the late 1980s educational leaders started to found single-sex classes as a potential solution to deal with the problems inside urban schools. However, efforts to create public single-sex schools faced disagreements in the courts during 1990s. School officials in Ventura California (1993) and Irvington (1994) tried to experiment with single gender education but failed because of legal challenges (Wash 1996, cited in Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools 2008, p.2). Opponents of same-sex schools argued that single-sex schools and classrooms might be a step back, taking us away from gender equality in education.

Since 1996 public single-sex schools opened at an increasing rate. By 2003 the number of single-sex public schools had risen to 20 and over 80 schools in many states.

Single gender schools in public have had different models. The classic model is that a school serves either boys or girls only. A school is often established for one gender but not for the other. For example, Young Women’s Leadership Schools only founded schools for girls and did not establish corresponding schools for boys. Another model is dual academy, in which boys and girls go to the same school but study in separated classes. In this school, boys and girls are permitted to interact in the canteen, cafeteria, hallways and some activities.

There are many reasons for establishing single-sex schools. According to the 18 principal survey respondents which were done by researchers for “Early Implementation of Public Single-sex Schools” in 2008, the main reasons were to increase the attention to academics (53%), to better solve individual student needs (29%) and to reduce discipline issues (18%). Almost half (47%) of coed schools became single-sex schools. Nearly one-fourth of the principals and teachers had been at their school before it had turned into single-sex school and most of these teachers (83%) and principals (73%) supported the conversion to single-sex schooling.

2.2. Advantages of single-sex education

Single-sex education gives students the best opportunity to reach their full academic potential. When girls and boys are together, there is a pressure toward between sex stereo-tying. They select their behavior they know and consider appropriate for their sex. For example, they often assume that computer science, engineering and physical education are “boy’s subjects” and music, poetry, history are “non-macho” subjects and just suitable for girls. However, in the single-sex environment, students are encouraged to choose freely which subjects they want to learn without thinking about their sex. Therefore, they will feel more confident to show off themselves. In a girls-only setting, it is not surprisingly if girls excel in math, sports and computers. In boy’s schools, boys can follow their interests and talents in some fields that are regarded as unmasculine without worry about looking foolish in front of girls. Students at single-sex schools have more diverse role models of their own sex. Especially, female who attended single-gender schools earn a 19.7 % higher wage than women who attended coeducational high schools (Billger, 2007. p.66).

Another argument for single-sex education is boys and girls learn differently. Leonard Sax, founder of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, believes “The kind of learning environment that is best for boys, is not necessarily best for girls”. There is a learning-style difference between girls and boys. Separating the sexes, teachers will have a better chance to meet individual learning needs by adjusting lessons accordingly. Thus, they would be able to concentrate on the learning-styles of each sex and use the styles to bring out the academic best in each student. David Chadwell (2012) showed that both genders see and hear differently.

He said that boys see everything as objects moving through space and prefer cooler colors like silver, blue, black, grey. Whereas, girls draw the world with textures and warmer colors like reds, yellow, oranges. Hence, the teacher should be constantly moving around the classroom, while teaching boys and use warm colors and sit girls in a circle when teaching girls in order to get their full attention. In addition, girls can hear higher frequencies than boys and are more sensitive to sounds. For example, girls feel intimidated when a teacher uses a loud tone while boys enjoy when a teacher uses an excited tone of voice.

Single-sex education also declines the distractions. In coeducational classrooms, boys and girls are easily distracted by others. They want to impress each other and often act out in ways that are detrimental to their individual learning. They concentrate on how they look to attract opposite sex rather than focusing on academics. Moreover, in mixed schools, boys and girls have many chances to interact with each other so it seems to be easy for them to fall in love. Unwanted pregnancies are common among them. While girls at single-sex schools are more in control and have more autonomy to prevent unwanted pregnancies (NASSPE).

2.3. Disadvantages of single-sex education

According to Lewin (2011), “The strongest argument against single-sex education is that it reduces boys’ and girls’ opportunities to work together”. Students, who are separated by gender, may not know how to interact normally with the opposite gender if they are separated during school hours. Boys who spend more time with other boys become increasingly aggressive. Similarly, girls who spend more time with other girls become more sex-typed. As a result, when they grow up, males and females also get troubles because they do not know how to sympathize and comprehend with one another. In coeducation, students will have the experience of interacting with the opposite gender, which can help them develop their opposite side completely.

The second disadvantage of single sex education is the psychological problems that appear along with the social problems. People who are against single-sex education believe that when children are separated by gender, they can start discriminating towards the opposite sex and they start accepting more gender stereotypes. Liben (Child Development 2010) did a research which evaluated 57 3- to 5-year-olds at two similar preschools. After two weeks, she found that children in the classrooms in which teachers avoided characterizations by sex showed no change in responses or behaviors. However, children in the other classrooms showed increases in stereotyped attitudes and decreases in their interest in playing with children of the other sex. They also were observed to play less with children of the other sex. This result suggests that students are strongly affected when the surrounding environment makes gender divisions clear, even though they are already well aware of gender.

There have also been researches that show single-sex education does not actually improve a child’s academic performance. A review commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education found little overall difference in academic outcomes between children in single-sex schools versus those in coed schools (Conley 2011). In other words, most of the children who have excellent grades in a single-sex school could do just as well in a co-ed school. Coeducation advocates and researchers also argue that single-sex schools are often seen as successful, not because the children who enter the school actually improve their academic performance, but because the students that are accepted are those who are already academically advanced.

2.4. It is about choice

“There is a great variation among girls and a great variation among boys and for that reason, choice is a good thing,” says Sax. “One size does not fit all.” Single-sex schools are offered as an option rather than a requirement. Children are all different and unique, which is why they deserve to have the education that best fits their needs. Therefore, let’s have coed schools and single-sex schools and see which works best. Most likely, one will work best for some kids, the other for other kids. In that case, society will function best if we offer both opportunities and let the students choose.

3. Conclusion

The above analysis has shown the background of single-sex education and its advantages and disadvantages. Even though single gender education used to be hindered in the past, it becomes quite prevalent these days. Same sex education helps students reach their full academic potential, declines the distractions and offers a suitable kind of learning environment for each gender. However, single-sex education somehow may lead to the discrimination, it limits the opportunity to work cooperatively and co-exist successfully with members of the opposite sex. Therefore, single-sex education should be an option, and let students decide which is best suited to their individual needs and talents. Because single-sex education also has many effects on students’ psychology, further study is required.


Amy, N. 2011, ‘Coed verus single-sex ed’, viewed 3 March 2013,
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/coed.aspx. Billger, S. 2007, Does attending predominately female schools make a difference? Labor Market Outcomes for Women, Springer US, Illinois State University. Bonnie, F., Margaret, B., Andrew, S., Adam, T., Cornelius, R. 2008, Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools: Perceptions and Characteristics, US Department of Education, Washington, D.C. Conley, M. 2011,’ Single-sex schools have negative impact on kids, says study’, viewed 10 March 2013, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/single-sex-schools-negative-kids-study/story?id=14581023. David, C. 2012, ‘Single-Gender Classes Can Respond to the Needs of Boys and Girls’, viewed 3 March 2013, http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/512-newvoices.aspx. Kristin, S. 2012, ‘Single-sex education: the pros and cons’, viewed 3 March 2013, http://www.greatschools.org/find-a-school/defining-your-ideal/1139-single-sex-education-the-pros-and-cons.gs. Lewin, T. 2011, ‘Single-Sex Education Is Assailed in Report’, viewed 28 February 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/education/23single.html?_r=0. Liam, J. 2005, Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review, US Department of Education, Washington, D.C. National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, viewed 30 January 2013, . Quotations on Single Sex Education, viewed 30 January 2012, http://www.nyfera.org/?page_id=654.

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