Last Sunday, 7 October, Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes programme aired a segment titled ‘The Answer’ which looked at the age-old debate of single-sex verses co-educational schooling.
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot posited that social interaction is critical to human development and so a learning environment that restricts interaction to girls-only or boys-only must be therefore be detrimental. But what if the social interaction experienced in a co-ed learning environment is the cause of low self-esteem, lack of confidence, body image issues, gender stereotyping, bullying and harassment?
Research actually shows that girls in co-ed high schools can be the victims of implicit bias by teachers who steer girls away from ‘hard’ subjects like advanced maths, physics and computer science, and a recent British parliamentary inquiry found that girls in co-ed schools are subjected to daily sexual harassment (including 29% of girls aged 16-18 who experience unwanted sexual touching at school).1,2
There are numerous studies that show unequivocally that students in single-sex schools benefit from a learning environment free from gender stereotyping, unconscious bias and social pressure 3,4,5. For girls it is the social and emotional support, confidence, and approach to challenges, risks and leadership opportunities that girls’ schools provide. Simply put, every aspect of a girls’ school is tailored to girls and how they learn, without competition and social pressure from boys, and this is enormously empowering for girls.
Dr Nicole Archard, principal of all-girls school Loreto College Marryatville in Adelaide, South Australia, is interviewed for the story, along with principal of co-ed Barker College in Sydney, NSW, Philip Heath. Both principals agreed that choice was what was most important — there is no one-size-fits-all school and parents should have options to choose the school that best suits their child.
View the 60 Minutes segment: https://www.9now.com.au/60-minutes/2018/extras/latest/october/the-answer
- Institute of Physics [United Kingdom]. (2015) Opening Doors: A guide to good practice in countering gender stereotyping in schools. Retrieved from: https://www.iop.org/education/teacher/support/girls_physics/reports-and-research/opening-doors/page_66438.html
- Commons Select Committee [United Kingdom]. (2016, September 13). ‘Widespread’ sexual harassment and violence in school must be tackled. Retrieved from: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/news-parliament-2015/sexual-harassment-and-violence-in-schools-report-published-16-17/
- Sax, L. (2009). Women graduates of single-sex and coeducational high schools: differences in their characteristics and their transition to college. Los Angeles: UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
- Hart, L.C. (2015). Benefits Beyond Achievement? A Comparison of Academic Attitudes and School Satisfaction for Adolescent Girls in Single-Gender and Coeducational Classrooms. Middle Grades Research Journal (Vol 10:2)
- Cribb, V., & Haase, A. (2016). Girls feeling good at school: School gender environment, internalization and awareness of socio-cultural attitudes associations with self-esteem in adolescent girls. Journal of Adolescence. Vol 46 pp 107-114