Single-sex vs. coed schools: Which is better?


Fact Box

  • In response to the US Department of Education’s Title IX regulations in 2006 that allowed for more public schools to implement single-sex classrooms, the ACLU stated that it “opposes sex-segregation in public education that perpetuates antiquated gender stereotypes.”
  • As of 2019, over 360 public schools in the US offered single-sex schooling or classrooms. 
  • Due to educational reform, by 1861, the first American colleges and universities to turn coeducational were: Oberlin College, Hillsdale College, Franklin College, Baylor University, and Otterbein University.
  • Diane Halpern, past president of the American Psychological Association, claims that there is no difference in learning between the genders, saying the “‘underlying biology, physiology and social psychology of learning’ was exactly the same across the sexes.”

Sheryll (Single-sex)

Both boys and girls demonstrate better academic performance when schooled in a single-sex environment. Many studies even find that a student's grades will actually fall when moved from a single-sex environment to a coed one--and will then continue to decline the longer they stay in that coed space. Academic performance has also declined when schools transition into becoming coed, even if classrooms, on their own, remain single-sex.

Students tend to perform better in single-sex environments because they are less likely to suffer from gender stereotypes. Though it is often unintentional, teachers in coed schools differentiate between males and females in their classrooms when assessing academics, evaluating behavior, and enacting discipline. On the other hand, single-sex schools wouldn't be able to do this even if they wanted to. Instead, each student would be guaranteed the right to be treated as an individual. 

Research also indicates that students in single-sex settings are less likely to feel influenced by social pressures. Boys in coed spaces, for instance, are usually less likely to take courses in the arts or tackle advanced academic subjects for fear of being labeled a 'nerd.' Meanwhile, girls are known to avoid science and technology subjects because they don't want to appear tomboy-ish. These would most certainly become non-issues in single-sex schools, as both boys and girls would feel at liberty to pursue whatever they intend to without worrying about conforming to gender norms. 

Allowing students to develop in single-sex classrooms also removes many of the common adolescent distractions present in coed ones. Free from the pressures of dating and teen relationships, students can prioritize academic achievement. 

Maha (Coed)

Primarily for cultural and religious reasons, single-sex schools had been the norm for centuries in America. Studies are quickly proving these to be the only grounds to consider such environments for students. 

Upon analyzing research from 184 global studies, the American Psychological Association revealed that same-sex education has a 'trivial and, in many cases, nonexistent' impact on students' achievements and academic interests. The APA further refutes the supposed benefits in math performance attributed to both genders in single-sex schooling. 

Moreover, single-sex education may be problematic for transgender students, who make up 2% of the 15.3 million high school students nationwide. It's a delicate juggling act to respect and support trans students while also trying to uphold the single-sex schools' intended environments. 

Gender-isolated education has been criticized for failing to prepare students for the future. A study by Arizona State University revealed coeducation offers more societal benefits over single-sex education, as school is an excellent place to 'bring people together and engage in positive contact.' Coed schooling can improve the relationship between boys and girls; therefore, enabling both genders to communicate better, work more collaboratively, and build friendships. 

Coed schools may also be the cultural change required to overcome the gender stereotyping that leads to discrimination and unfair treatment. A growing body of research shows schools that socialize students and promote cross-gender interaction are more effective at counteracting gender biases and differences.

In the end, parents must choose what is best for their children; however, more benefits come with the coeducational school environment that simply aren't available if learning in a single-sex school.

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