Single-sex education is a contentious topic. There have been plenty of studies which suggest there is no long-term benefit in segregating boys and girls. There are also suggestions it may be detrimental.
But when it comes to educating girls it is not the entire story there is a range of other factors which come into play.
Innate sexism in the schools
Long gone are the days when boys went to the woodworking shop and girls were sent off to home economics, or family and consumer science as it’s now called. But there is still a bias with boys subjects being sciences and mathematics and girls being more inclined to arts and humanities.
As we know this is nonsense. The 2018 Prize in Chemistry went to a woman. There’s no such thing as a women’s topic. In Iran, for example, women are allowed to go to university which is a progressive stance, but they are actively excluded from topics like engineering – they ‘boy’s’ topics.
Girls’ schools by necessity are different
At a girls-only school all topics are by definition girls. A teenager with a propensity to physics will be encouraged to do physics and the math going along with it.
Putting girls into a single-sex school places them in competition with other girls without artificial boundaries. The result has to be cleverer girls and ones who have fewer preconceived ideas and hopefully receive less negative information on what they can and cannot do.
With all the stereotypes removed girls should be able to get an education without messages to be passive and to be good.
Opposition to single-sex schools
The current pendulum is against single-sex schools. The ACLU takes it as far as sending cease and desist notices and many schools do for fear of a lawsuit. The opposition arguments do carry some weight.
They point out that students who are able to get into higher level education which single-sex usually reflects are already academically advanced and these schools simply eradicate the children who underperform.
If the entire graduating class is in the top 2% your exam results and where the students go onto is going to be better than a middle range school every time.
They will also point out that we need coeducation because we live in a world of gender fluidity, we might as well start with it.
Agreed – if it were a level playing field
The opponents’ ideas are legitimate and strong. At least they would be if we were talking about a position of equality. But as we know we are not. Girls start at a disadvantage. They continue from a position of being back footed throughout their education until they are spewed out into a job market which pays them $0.80 on the dollar.
Until there is equality in the wider world, there is a place for girls only education – if only as a way of creating a generation of women who start without prejudice or society-imposed limitations.