Should You Send Your Child to a Single-Sex School?

Can students learn better in a single-sex setting compared to a co-ed environment? Some studies have concluded that boys and girls can benefit from learning when separated rather than being in the same classroom. Does the practice have any validity, and is placing your child in such a school the right choice?

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Why Single-Sex Schooling?

One of the main theories behind same-sex schooling is simply that boys' and girls' brains are different. Girls, for instance, develop language skills earlier than boys, while boys tend to understand visual-spatial concepts quicker than girls. Thus, boys will generally do better in math and science while girls will be stronger in writing, language and the arts.

What single-gender schooling can do, some believe, is play to the strengths of either sex. Also, areas that tend to develop more slowly can receive more focus in a single-sex school setting. The stress to 'keep up' with those of the opposite sex is removed and some say the atmosphere is generally more relaxed and conducive to learning.

'Positive Effects'

'There is extensive research to support the positive effects of single-gender education,' Austin, Texas school district spokesman Alex Sanchez told The Statesman in October 2011. Sanchez's statement came in response to a recommendation to add one all-girls and one all-boys school to the district, which is already home to the popular Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.

Sanchez is right: there are many studies the world over that suggest the advantages of same-sex learning. A study in Australia, for example, found that of 270,000 students, both genders performed 'significantly higher on standardized tests' when attending same-sex schools. In Britain, studies show that the top elementary and high schools are single-gender schools.

In addition, some believe that same-sex environments eliminate what they say are 'distractions' of the opposite sex. This alone, proponents say, can lead to a better focus on academics.

A Case for Co-Ed

On the other hand, the argument can be made that co-ed academic settings can better prepare students for what they will face in the 'real world': working alongside both men and women.

Greater diversity, more experience (single-sex public schools have been illegal since 1972), exposure to a wider variety of learning styles and the benefit of boys and girls witnessing each other learn what might be labeled as 'stereotypical' topics (such as a boy in music or a girl in sports) have all been listed as possible advantages of co-education as compared to single-sex schooling.

Doing What's Best

Despite numerous study results, many parents remain unconvinced when it comes to single-sex education. In 2008, a survey conducted by Knowledge Networks, an online research group, found that only 14% of parents asked would 'definitely' choose a same-sex school for their child.

Basically, both educational models have their strengths and weaknesses. What it ultimately comes down to is: in which environment do you believe your child will thrive? No decision that has your child's best interests at heart can be the wrong one.

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