Currently, single-sex education may be regarded as an old tradition owing to the aspects of modernization in the education sector and general community development. On the contrary, the single-sex school system has gained new momentum in the 21st century. Single-sex education may involve separation of boys and girls in classrooms or separate schools. For many years, the single-sex education has been a standard system in private schools. However, the concept is relatively new in public schools. There were only two single-sex public schools in the United States by the year 1995. However, the number is estimated to be approximately 400 currently. Many factors are a driving force towards this new development. For instance, recent research has shown major natural differences in terms of how both the male and the females learn. The gender differences in learning methods and outcomes have led to debate extending beyond pure academics. Other civil rights, political, legal and socioeconomic concerns have come into play. However, current research especially done in girls’ schools has supported single-sex education to co-education systems. The following research paper explores the major benefits accruing from the single-sex school system. The paper also reviews the pros and cons of single-sex education based on a review of the literature. Single-sex schools offer holistic development and generally perform better academically compared to coeducation systems.
Development of the Single-Sex Education
Policies and political decisions have greatly shaped the education system in the United States. Part of the innovations includes the introduction of the single-sex education programs which are consistent with the applicable laws. Murphy, attributed the evolution in the education system and massive adoption of the single-sex education program to Hillary Clinton's No Child Left Behind Act along with other politicians in the year 2001. The act allowed the federal funds to be used in innovative programs including the single-sex programs to promote the education sector. Hillary Clinton is also a beneficiary of the single-sex education program having graduated from all women's Wesleyan College. On October 25, 2006, federal regulations on the legal considerations before embarking on the single-sex education program were published. The federal government fully accredited the program on three primary requirements: Research had to be conducted after every two years in order to determine the effectiveness of the single-sex education program. Secondly, schools were also supposed to provide a rationale for establishing single-sex classrooms or schools. Another legal requirement is the provision of equal coeducational classes between the two genders in a close geographic proximity. Murphy, also advocates for evaluation of the effectiveness of the single-sex schools and classes on the basis of morality as most of the current studies are based on academic achievements. Boys and girls regardless of the socioeconomic background have different social needs. Therefore, a single-sex education program is the most effective in inculcating moral and character education. Coeducation both in private and public schools is free from controversy because the local school boards focus on the efficiency of running especially the local schools rather than basing the decisions on educational philosophies. Most Catholic private schools engaged in the single-sex education program on the basis that it promotes moral development rather than barriers to adolescent socialization as purported by critiques. Smithers & Robinson concurs with Murphy on the issues of behavioral and emotional in determining academic performance. Earlier assumptions that favored co-education is that it provides a conducive environment for social adjustment. However, recent studies have indicated students especially girls tend to be more comfortable when integrated into single-sex schools. In addition, an interplay of factors may contribute to the gender differences in a mixed co-education leading to lower academic performance. For instance, male dominance and unfair treatment by teachers using girls as a negative reference group is a factor that adversely affects girls in co-education programs.
Basow, explores the operation of gender in the education sector based on the classroom experiences, educational attainment and competition in single-sex schools. One major advantage of the single-sex education programs is in addressing the issue of gender inequality rather than promoting the same. In developing countries, such s Western Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute more than 60% of the illiterate adults due to lack of a mandatory system of education. In the United States, the problem has been addressed through the establishment of single-sex classrooms and schools especially for girls alone. Gender is a sensitive factor in shaping the education experience especially in terms of teacher behaviors and the curricular materials encountered in schools. For instance, the lessons in girls school should be emotion-laden while in boys' schools, activity-based lessons are recommended. According to Basow, there are differences in terms of psychological needs and expectations which calls for gender-specific teaching techniques. In addition, in mixed schools and classes, teachers primarily adopt learning techniques that tend to favor the girl child which disadvantages the boy child in the process. Subsequently, the disadvantages can manifest in severe ways such as poor grades, behavioral and learning problems and engaging in antisocial activities such as crime and drug use.
Another argument placed by Basow is based on the brain development, structure, and organization between boys and girls that result in learning differences. Prenatal sex hormones influence brain development, organization, and structure such that men have more lateralized brains while women have the capacity to use both the hemispheres of the brain jointly. Consequently, girls are more predisposed to a development of strong verbal skills as well as the capability to integrate such skills in emotional development. On the other hand, boys tend to develop strong visual-spatial skills and aggressiveness. However, gender differences in learning are often overshadowed by other factors such as environmental influences and individual differences. However, the gender gap is a significant element in the determination of performance in cognitive tasks as well as in academics. An example is in the performance differences between boys and girls in geometry. Generally, boys tend to have better skills in navigating an object and identifying a route which contributes to good performance in geometry and map reading than girls. On the contrary, girls are better than boys in measures of verbal and landmark memory and fine-motor coordination. In another longitudinal study comprising of about 400 participants aged between 3 and 27, it was established that the sequence of brain development between boys and girls in different. The development peaks at 11 years of age in girls which is a year or two earlier than in boys. During adolescence, boys also indicate a steeper rise in the development of the white matter compared to girls. These differences in brain structure, development and coordination contribute to the learning differences and academic performance between boys and girls. Therefore, a single-sex education program is effective in addressing the differences and provide research-based based learning.
Another reason single-sex education is recommended is the differences in cultures where both boys and girls grow up in. As soon as a child is born, they are treated differently depending on their sex. The cultural differences influence the developmental patterns and socialization experiences. Girls are handled gently, talked to softly and encouraged to develop strong emotional and social ties at maturity. On the contrary, boys are roughly handled and are encouraged to develop autonomy and assertiveness at maturity. These cultural expectations influence the developmental patterns and learning outcomes between boys and girls. Therefore, it is difficult to offer lessons and educational programs for both sexes without being biased. In addition, the such a system of education is likely to cause disinterest in one gender which can contribute to poor educational attainment and school drop, especially for boys. Smithers & Robinson suggest that a shift towards single-sex classes is likely to improve the academic performance especially among boys who have demonstrated dismal performance, especially in English over the years. For instance, in the year 2005, only 11.4% of boys were awarded an A in English GCSE compared to 18.7% of girls. In addition, girls were more than 18% more likely to attain A-levels in overall subjects compared to boys.
Hughes suggest that single-sex education, especially in the public school environment, is effective especially for teachers to focus on the learning style differences between girls and boys and provide the most effective form of teaching. In addition, single-sex public schools record an improvement in student achievement and improved behavior especially among students from the minority groups or students from disadvantaged families. In addition, Hughes insists on the need for school districts to give opportunities for parents to choose between coeducation and single-sex education. In co-education programs, boys and girls tend to be distracted by one another as well as limited participation in learning. Students also act out in a bid to impress one another in coeducational systems in ways that are detrimental to their academic performance. Girls particularly do well in single-sex schools because they are willing to ask for help and engage in discussions with others. The inclusion of the single-sex system in the public schools has opened up opportunities for poor and disadvantaged groups since initially only affluent families used to sent their children to single-sex private schools.
Discussion and Conclusion
Single-sex education is a research-based response to gender differences and how they influence educational needs. Most current research favors single-sex education when considering the holistic development of a child by including emotional, behavioral and psychological welfare in education. However, the separation of boys from girls in classes or schools has drawn a lot of controversy and cross-fire from right groups. Most rights groups argue that establishment of single-sex classrooms is a desperate way to hide the cavernous gap between the black males and other students. This raises the concerns that school districts are not opting for the establishment of single-sex schools for academic benefits. In addition, other scholars argue that academic performance and behavior is solely dependent on the individual child regardless of the type of schools they are in. Therefore, public schools should provide parents with an opportunity to choose between single-sex or coeducation schools depending n their preferences. The achievement gap between girls and boys is as a result of a multivariate of factors and, therefore, separating boys from girls in classrooms is not likely to address the gap. Other scholars have argued that separating boys from girls has similar effects with segregation based on ethnicity or race as well as boosting exist attitudes and stereotyping. Instead of separating students in classes based on gender, public schools should strive to teach a diverse body of students to respect one another and work together. However, the advantages of a single-sex education system outweigh the disadvantages in terms of emotional and behavioral development considerations between genders. Although the coeducation is mainly supported on promoting healthy competition in academics, psychologists argue that self-confidence and participation in learning is much limited in a coeducation programs compared to single-sex schools. Furthermore, single-sex education, especially in local public schools, is addressing underlying social issues such as educational needs for the minority and poor communities who cannot afford private schools which focus on single-sex education.