Benefits and Disadvantages of Single Gender Education


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Research paper about the advantages and disadvantages of children studying in a single-sex school. It includes a definition of single sex schools and the difference between these and co-ed schools; as well as the history behind single gender education (origins). In this paper you will learn the academic benefits of single sex education, as well as the psychological and social disadvantages it can bring to a child.

Trabajo investigativo sobre las ventajas y desventajas de la educación separada (o segregada) por sexos.

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Benefits and Disadvantages of Single Gender Education

  1. 1. Benefits and Disadvantages of Single-Sex Education Can you imagine yourself walking through school and seeing only students of your samegender? You would be taking classes, eating lunch and spending your recess with only girls (ifyou are a girl) or only boys (if you are a boy). This is how single-sex schools work. Single-gendereducation consists of separating males and females and putting them in different classrooms orbuildings, in order to teach them differently and by separate. On the other hand we have theopposite of single-sex education: co-education (also called mixed-sex education). This is themost common form of schooling and it consists of the integration of both genders in the sameeducational institution or classrooms. There are some benefits and disadvantages of studying ina girls-only or boys-only school, now a day. This form of education can improve a child’sacademic performance and, at the same time, cause him or her some psycho-social problems. First of all, it is important to know where this idea of same sex education came from andwhy it is becoming popular now a day. Single-sex education is not something new; it wasactually predominant before the 19th century and the main reason for separating both genderswas religious beliefs or cultural customs. “Before the 19th century, single-sex schooling wascommon. During the 19th century, more and more coeducational schools were set up.” (Single-sex education, 2012, para. 2) Thirty years ago the belief was that same sex education createdtoo many stereotypes about gender; so co-ed became popular in order to eliminate thesestereotypes. Later, professionals that supported single-sex education started saying that co-education also created stereotypes. Now a day, the debate over which form of educationcreates stereotypes and which one eliminates them still has no clear answer. Regardless of this
  2. 2. debate, “there has been a resurgence of interest in single sex schools in modern societiesacross the globe, both in the public and private sector,” (Single-sex education, 2012, para. 2)due to educational researches that show that girls and boys learn differently. According to the National Association of Single-Sex Public Education (NASSPE), “Justputting girls in one room and boys in another is no guarantee of success. As with anything elsein education, adequate preparation in proven, evidence-based strategies is key,” (n.d., par. 2).David Chadwell, South Carolina’s coordinator of single gender education, states that bothgenders see and hear differently; which is why they should be taught differently, by wellprepared teachers. He believes that “The composition of the male eye makes it attuned tomotion and direction. ‘Boys interpret the world as objects moving through space,’ he says,” (asmentioned in Kaufmann, C., n.d., para. 4) He suggests that the teacher should be constantlymoving around the classroom, while teaching them, in order for her to become that mentionedobject and get their full attention. Acording to him “The male eye is also drawn to cooler colorslike silver, blue, black, grey, and brown,” (as mentioned in Kaufmann, C., n.d., para. 5) whichcan explain why boys tend to draw moving objects, like cars and planes, using dark colors, likethe ones mentioned before. In the other hand, Chadwell mentions that “The female eye, on theother hand, is drawn to textures and colors. It’s also oriented toward warmer colors—reds,yellow, oranges—and visuals with more details, like faces,” (as mentioned in Kaufmann, C., n.d.,para. 6). This is why he suggests that, in order for teachers to get the girls attention, theyshould use these colors as much as possible and sit them in a circle. Finally, he states “Boys andgirls also hear differently… Girls have a more finely tuned aural structure; they can hear higherfrequencies than boys and are more sensitive to sounds,” (as mentioned in Kaufmann, C., n.d..
  3. 3. para. 7) for example, girls feel intimidated when a teacher uses a loud tone while boys enjoywhen a teacher uses an excited tone of voice. It is important to mention that according toNASSPE, “Advocates of single-sex education do NOT believe that ‘all girls learn one way and allboys learn another way’,” (n.d., para. 1). In the pros of single sex education we have the academic improvement. First of all,classes can be differentiated by gender and teachers can spend extra time with topics that boysor girls may struggle with. When teachers apply Chadwell’s techniques for teaching boys andgirls, it will become easier for them to concentrate, understand, and learn their daily lessons;which will result in a decrease of discipline problems and an increase of their academicachievement. The fact that boys and girls study separately allows them to concentrate more ontheir studies because it removes the distractions of coeducational social pressures; just likeDamour states about the girls in single-gender schools: “During the school day, they’re notdistracted by the cute boy down the hall, and they’re not worrying about how they look or whatthey’re wearing,” (as mentioned in Novotney, 2011, para. 26). Single-sex education also allows students to have the freedom to branch out and trynew things without feeling that they have to impress the opposite gender. This can contributeto their academic improvement as well as it can help develop the students’ confidence (which isthe second advantage of this type of schooling) because it allows them to explore and discovertheir interests and abilities freely. Russell (2007) explains this very well: “Girls are more outspoken and competitive when boys are not around to tease them. They also feel more comfortable participating in sports and traditionally male
  4. 4. dominated fields when boys are not watching. Conversely, boys become less competitive and collaborate more because they don’t have to worry about girls’ opinions of them. They can also feel free to participate in the arts with a class full of other boys,” (para. 5-6).As mentioned before, boys and girls can experience new things; and since the other gender isnot around to judge them, stereotypes on gender should be lower. Not everything is positive; there are also disadvantages in same sex education, startingwith the social problems that this could create in a child. Children never learn to interactnormally with the opposite gender if they are separated during school hours. According toLewin (2011), “The strongest argument against single-sex education… is that it reduces boys’and girls’ opportunities to work together,” (para. 4). This separation also creates less sympathyand comprehension towards the opposite sex. Bigleret al. (2011) stated, “When teachers makechildren’s sex salient, students choose to spend less time interacting with other-sex peers,”(para. 12). Coeducation advocates also argue that girls don’t develop their masculine side andboys don’t develop their feminine side, when growing up in a single-sex school. Even thoughboys do participate in art classes and girls also do so in sports, that alone is not enough forthem to develop their masculine and feminine side. With these classes they only acquireknowledge and develop just part of their opposite side; the experience of interacting with theopposite gender is what will help boys and girls develop their opposite side completely. Another disadvantage of single sex education is the psychological problems that appearalong with the social problems. People who are against single-sex education believe that when
  5. 5. children are separated by gender, they can start discriminating towards the opposite sex andthey start accepting more gender stereotypes. According to Novotney (2011), “Coeducationadvocates and researchers also report that segregating students by gender — be it via entireschools or simply classrooms — can lead to greater gender discrimination and make it harderfor students to deal with the other sex later in life,” (para. 8). Once they grow up, males andfemales also get frustrated because they don’t know how to interact properly with oneanother. Children may develop low self-esteem. In this type of schools; the students (especiallygirls) do not feel the pressure to impress the opposite sex; this is why it seems that thesestudents have higher self-esteem. But the truth is that when these students grow up and facethe real world (mixed gender) their self-esteem lowers and it takes them a couple of years toregain it. According to Haag (n.d.): “Smiths 10-year study of students attitudes and achievement in one all-boys and one all-girls high school in Australia that had made the transition to coeducation found that both girls and boys self-concept declined initially but after 5 years increased to a level above that which was measured when the students were in single-sex classrooms,” (para. 4). As part of the disadvantages of single-gender education, I believe it is important tomention that there are a lot of doubts regarding the reliability of the information about thisform of schooling, due to some findings which revealed that the information is often supportedby weak or dated scientific studies. For example, NASSPE argues that there are manydifferences between boys’ brains and girls’ brains. But according to Conley (2011):
  6. 6. “Supporters of single-sex schools argue that boys and girls brains are wired differently, and therefore require different teaching styles to maximize education, but study authors note that neuroscientists have not found hard evidence that show differences in girls and boys different learning styles,” (para. 4).According to Bigler et al. (2011), “Neuroscientists have found few sex differences in children’sbrains beyond the larger volume of boys’ brains and the earlier completion of girls’ braingrowth, neither of which is known to relate to learning,” (para. 8). These are the onlydifferences found between both genders’ brains; which can make us wonder if NASSPE hasactually done research about the so mentioned differences. There have also been researches that show single-sex education does not actuallyimprove a child’s academic performance. Conley (2011) states, “…a review commissioned bythe U.S. Department of Education found little overall difference in academic outcomes betweenchildren in single-sex schools versus those in coed schools,” (para. 6). Bigler et al. (2011) stated: “Although excellent public single-sex schools clearly exist, there is no empirical evidence that their success stems from their single-sex organization, as opposed to the quality of the student body, demanding curricula, and many other features also known to promote achievement at coeducational schools,” (para. 7).In other words, most of the children who have excellent grades in a single-sex school could dojust as well in a co-ed school. Coeducation advocates and researchers also argue that single-sexschools are often seen as successful, not because the children who enter the school actuallyimprove their academic performance, but because the students that are accepted are thosewho are already academically advanced. According to Novotney (2011), “Many experts say
  7. 7. much of the success of single-sex schools stems from a demanding curriculum and a focus onextracurricular activities — gains that would have been seen regardless of whether the oppositesex was in attendance,” (para. 6). We have already seen the academic benefits of single sex education, as well as thepsychological and social disadvantages. The existing doubts about the reliability of theinformation, about single-gender education, have also been exposed in this research, in orderfor the reader to have the full picture about this uprising form of education. It is now up to youand your child to decide if single-sex education is appropriated for him or her. After all, childrenare all different and unique, which is why they deserve to have the education that best fits theirneeds. Just like Baumeister (2008) states, “Lets have coed schools and single-sex schools andsee which works best. Most likely, one will work best for some kids, the other for other kids. Inthat case, society will function best if we offer both opportunities and let the students choose,”(para. 3).
  8. 8. References:Baumeister, R. F. (October 18, 2008) Single sex schools?Psychology Today. Retrieved from:, R.S.; Eliot, L.; Fabes, R.A.; Halpern, D.F.; Hanish, L.D.; Hyde, j.; Liben, L.S.; Martin, C.L. (September 23, 2011) The pseudoscience of single-sex schooling. Science, 333 (6050). DOI: 10.1126/science.1205031Conley, M. (Sept. 22, 2011) Single-sex schools have negative impact on kids, says study. Retrieved form: study/story?id=14581023Haag, P. (n.d.) K-12 Single-Sex Education: What Does the Research Say? ERIC Digest. Retrieved from:, C. (n.d.) How boys and girls learn differently, Readers Digest. Retrieved form:, T. (2011, September 22) Single-sex education is assailed in report. The New York Times. Retrieved From: (n.d.) Single-sex education. Retrieved from: introduction.htmNovotney, A. (February 2011) Coed versus single-sex ed. Monitor on Psychology, 42 (2). Retrieved from:
  9. 9. Russell, S. (Oct 5, 2007) Same-Sex Schooling - Pros and Cons. Retrieved from: http://sophia- education. (April 9, 2012) In Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from: