Opinion: Co-ed or Single-sex schools: What is the better choice?

The Armidale School, located in New South Wales. Students are seen walking out of school.

Australian Schools Directory

The Armidale School, located in New South Wales. Students are seen walking out of school.

In 2016, The Armidale School, located in New South Wales decided to break its more than 120-year tradition of exclusively educating boys. They said they wanted to grow without changing culture and tradition. But despite their convincing: culture did change. So, as someone who has endured both environments and is approaching my final year of high school, it has me thinking, would it be better to experience education within a co-ed or single-sex environment?

Research suggests that girls who attend single-sex schools are more confident about themselves as learners in subjects such as math and science, compared to a coeducational environment.

At the last school, I attended – which was an all-girls establishment – I took part in assisting in an activity day between the middle school students from my school and the all-boys school a street over. Acknowledge by not just myself, but many of my other peers and teachers who were helping out, students who usually took the initiative, were timid and yielded their power.

In the absence of boys, girls can also feel less constrained and engaged in classroom discussions. Many students I interviewed from my last school thought that the all-girls environment was more comfortable and gave room to be focused on school work. A

n interviewee said “Within single-sex schools, you don’t have to face as much gender discrimination and sexism as you would in a co-ed environment. It is a safer space where girls can definitely speak their mind more freely and maintain confidence.” Supporters of the single-sex model argue that because studies show that boys and girls learn differently, they should be in a school that caters to those differences, and single-sex schools take these differences into account to build individualized programs that maximize achievement.

“Girls and boys do learn differently,” says Dona Matthews, an author and education psychologist at Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “Girls are more likely than boys to prefer cooperative and collaborative learning. Boys tend to be more competitive and to benefit from their competitiveness.”

But many peers didn’t agree with these ideas. A representative from The Armidale School said that “The interaction between boys and girls isolates some of the less desirable aspects of both,” he says. However, the “machoism” cultures in boys’ schools have reignited the debate over whether single-sex school environments breed hypermasculine tendencies, and they raise the question: do the social effects of educating co-ed outweigh the widely viewed academic gains of single-sex education?

Boys may learn to develop healthy relationships, and value and respect girls, this is less likely to occur in single-sex boys’ schools. Another interviewed peer said that “Having attended both co-ed and single-gender schools, I see the benefits of both, but I find there are many advantages of co-ed. For example, we can learn from each other, it can enhance the feeling of competition among one another, we can develop confidence, leadership, and emotional growth being with the opposite gender.

At the end of the day, the real world is a blend of both genders, and going to a co-ed school can prepare you for that, rather than being at a single-gender school your entire education before college.”

Another interviewee agreed with this point by saying, “co-ed schools give you a certain exposure to the real world that you don’t get at a single-sex school.” A student from the Armidale School had said that “There is no doubt in my mind it has been a good change. The social environment in the school is a better one now than it was before.” In 2016 they did not expect to see the strong benefits of changing to co-ed as they have.

So, what is the right choice?

Some would say that the co-ed experience prepares them for the real world, while others would say that single-sex schools are catered to the learning of that specific sex. Having attended an all-girls establishment for 12 years of my academic experience, it has been an interesting transition. I am finding that I enjoy the normality of the co-ed environment, as it is something I had never experienced within school walls, but, I think the comfortability with others and willingness to approach new things was more prominent in single-sex surroundings.

The truth is, it really depends on the person. One has to take into account what will optimize their learning experience and how they will thrive socially.