Girls from single-sex schools more competitive – study

Article by Brett Henebery
The Educator / 02 April 2019

New research about risk taking and competition in an all-girls’ school shows that girls from single-sex schools are more competitive than their co-ed peers.

The study by US researchers, titled ‘Risk taking and competition in an all-girls’ school’, found that female students from a single-sex school are more competitive than their female counterparts in a closely-matched co-educational school and comparative to behaviours of co-educated males.

Additionally, girls from the co-educational school, who competed in mixed-gender groups, competed at higher rates when they were assigned to majority-female groups.

This led the researchers to suggest that the gender composition of groups may be driving observed differences and to hypothesise that “nurture matters” in the debate on gender differences in risk-taking and competitive behaviour.

Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia’s (AGSA) executive officer, Loren Bridge, said internationally and in Australia, the evidence is gathering that girls in single-sex schools benefit and they benefit significantly from a girls-only learning environment.

“This is not just in terms of their competitiveness but also in their self-confidence, approach to challenges, leadership and academic achievement,” Bridge told The Educator.

“Study after study has shown that a girl’s environment plays an important role in explaining her social, emotional and academic wellbeing.”

Bridge said it is well-known that girls from single-sex schools behave more competitively than do coeducational girls, they are more assertive, willing to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes — skills that are advantageous for leadership and life success.

“Anecdotally too our students report that in a girls-only environment they are able to be more open and feel that every student has an equal chance to speak up and be heard,” Bridge said.

The study suggested that “nurture matters when it comes to making competitive choices”. Bridge says girls’ schools are successfully sustaining competitiveness in their students, and bucking trends in doing so.

“They are bucking the trend when it comes to girls’ participation in sport and in STEM subjects, and as recent VCE results revealed girls’ schools are outperforming both boys’ schools and co-ed schools,” Bridge said.

And to Bridge, this is no coincidence.

“Girls’ schools specialise in girls — in tailoring every aspect of teaching and learning to girls, purposely developing their confidence and leadership potential and empowering whatever is their specialty without the usual gender stereotyping,” she said.

“It is co-ed environments like universities and workplaces where women still experience discrimination, sexism and exploitation, that could learn most from this research.”