“I want my son to realize that women have roles in society as well.”
“I don’t want my daughters to have a phobia against men when they grow up.”
These are some of the common arguments from parents who are against single-sex education. In fact, the growing disdain towards same-sex education contributes to the recent decline of single-sex education : over the past three decades, according to the Guardian, the number of single-sex state school declined from 2,500 to just over 400 while 130 schools in the UK do not offer it.
In spite of the numerous advantages given by proponents of single-sex education, there is an increasing number of people who defy them. Diane Halpern, former president of American Psychological Association, claimed that segregating females and males not only “foster sexism and stereotypes” but also proves futile; there is no concrete evidence that substantiates the widely held belief that single-sex education yields benefits. For instance, an analysis of 184 studies that tested 1.6 million students from 21 nations failed to discover any advantages of single-sex education.
An interesting perspective brought forth by a staff columnist for the Daily Campus, Alex Oliveira also brought into question on whether or not single-sex education bridges the gap in gender decisions on STEM careers. Oliveira describes such education as an “oversimplification” that “ignores the fact that all students are individuals” who learn all differently. She further goes on to argue that dividing girls and boys will confuse the divisions in their “expectations for each other” since we are in fact establishing a set goal for the genders: girls to STEM and boys to arts. Another obvious argument is futuristic: if students do not engage in works with the opposite sex, they will not be able to cope when in the workplace. Canberra Grammar School (CGS) and other single-sex schools have recently transitioned to co-ed for the purposes of the future.
As a student who has attended a girls school in Australia for several years, I find the arguments of those who are against somewhat ludicrous. While attending Canberra Girls Grammar School (CGGS), I was able to develop strong interests in a variety of subjects including maths, creative writing, and textiles; the upperclassmen there have taken up even careers such as mechanical engineering and actuarial studies after they enrolled in a building class at CGGS.
As classrooms are orientated for girls, they engender affinity and understanding for one another as they participate much more actively. Of course, when transitioning to a coed school, it was difficult to adapt to having both genders. However, it was not that bad of a transition because I had opportunities in and out of school to interact and work with males, and I think this is where most miss the point: going to a single sex school doesn’t mean you are completely precluded from the opposite gender. You can still have numerous outside of school activities that you can participate in, and even activities at school. For example, CGGS interacts with the boys’ school several times a year in musical festivals, formals, and other collaborative activities.
“ There’s a lot less to worry about since you didn’t have to be as careful as you would have to be in a coed school. Even if you get in a verbal fight, things were settled within minutes…we had much tighter bonds than guys do in coed school since we went through a lot together and I still miss this brotherhood.” —Geo Han (’17), student who attended all-boys school.
When asked to Karen Kim (‘18), who attended a girl’s boarding school, maintained that she disliked the school. Karen noted that while many believe that it is safer to attend a single sex school (especially for girls), she disagrees. Others who were interviewed repeated the idea of “dullness” without both genders. However, for mothers, it is divergent as they hold strongly to the belief that it is better and safer for their kids to go to single sex schools.
As the gap between those who are for and against single-sex education enlarges, it is vital for us to take into account both sides of the case. Even though coed schools may be advantageous to those of single sex, there is no doubt that there are still people who prefer single-sex education over co-ed. So what do we do?
We should not diminish single sex education and those who do attend them. There are students who prefer them and others who don’t; it all depends on their personality traits and learning styles.
—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)