Quick facts about girls’ schools
What are the benefits of a girls’ school?
Single-sex schools create a culture of strong academic achievement, particularly for girls
- A 2017 study of Year 3, 5 and 7 numeracy and literacy (NAPLAN) data by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) found that even when socio-economic status was taken into account, Year 7 girls at single-sex schools were 4.2 terms ahead of co-ed students in reading and 2.8 terms ahead in mathematics (Dix, 2017).
- A study of Korean students found that the “the net effect of having single-sex peers for three years is strongly positive for girls”. When classes were converted from 100% female to 50% female, girls’ achievement in languages (Korean and English) fell by 8-15% of a standard deviation (Dustmann, Ku and Kwak (2017).
- A report examining numeracy and literacy data for junior secondary students and the tertiary entrance scores of senior secondary students “confirmed the positive effects of single-sex schooling” in New South Wales, where there are 21 boys’ and 24 girls’ government high schools (Lu & Rickard, 2014).
- “Girls in single-sex schools perform better academically than their counterparts in co-educational schools, after holding constant measures of selection, background, peers and school factors” (Cabezas, 2010).
Girls’ schools buck the trend in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths)
- For girls, “single-sex settings resulted in much more favourable attitudes towards mathematics than those in coeducational settings” (Lee & Anderson, 2015).
- A researcher at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that, by Year 8, girls in single-sex schools are more likely to enjoy and be confident in maths than girls in co-educational schools (Ryan, 2016).
- A Swiss study identified a “very robust” positive effect on mathematics proficiency for girls randomly assigned to single-sex classes in a Swiss high school and found that single-sex schooling strengthens girls’ self-confidence in mathematics (Eisenkopf, Hessami, Fischbacher & Ursprung, 2015).
- A 2017 report by Monash University found that girls at single-sex schools were more likely than girls in co-ed schools to study chemistry, physics, intermediate-level mathematics and advanced-level mathematics (Forgasz & Leder, 2017).
Girls feel empowered to defy gender stereotypes
- An all-girl environment can stimulate discussion, dialogue and self-discovery in an atmosphere that “for the most part” is “free from ridicule and the fear of undermining self-image”. (Younger, 2016, September).
- Australian and British researchers have found that girls in single-sex schools are less affected by ‘stereotype threat’ where girls are stereotyped as ‘bad’ at something, including science and mathematics (Booth, Cardona-Sosa and Nolen, 2013).
- An American study of co-ed schools found that “adolescent females may shy away from competition and perform less well in mathematics in the presence of males” and may, therefore, benefit from single-sex classes in mathematics and science (Hill, 2015).
- Austrian researchers have found that “in more female environments, girls are less restrained by gender stereotypes and are more likely to consider traditional male school types and careers” (Schneeweis & Zweimüller, 2012).
Girls’ schools build self-esteem and enhance wellbeing
- An American study found that “participation in single-sex programs can help in easing social anxieties girls may experience while in middle school”. Girls “found the setting to be more supportive than a mixed-sex classroom” which resulted in a “perceived improvement of academic performance and increased focus and engagement” (Hart, 2016).
- Girls in co-ed schools feel more pressure to be thin than girls in single-sex schools because the presence of boys in schools “may inflate appearance concerns and lower self-esteem” among girls. On the other hand, single-sex schools encourage “improved self-esteem” and “psychological and social well-being in adolescent girls” (Cribb & Haase, 2016).
- Less than 1% of girls in single-sex schools in the United States experience bullying compared with 21% of girls in co-ed schools. It was also found that girls attending single-sex schools are less likely to conform to gender stereotypes and more likely to play ‘masculine’ sports including football, basketball and baseball (Johnson & Gastic, 2014).
- A British report found that girls are often victims of sexist language and bullying in co-educational schools. In addition, some co-educational schools, “mindful of bad behaviour from boys, had policies of alternate boy-girl seating, effectively using the girls as buffers to keep the boys apart”. The report noted that “girls noticed and resented this policy” (Institute of Physics, 2015).
Girls’ schools tailor teaching to girls and provide an aspirational environment
- “Single gender classes provide a learning environment where the female voice is not marginalised. The personal attributes of the teachers, most notably their encouragement, care and availability, motivate these female students from single gender schools to excel” (Tully & Jacobs, 2010).
- Girls at girls’ schools have “higher aspirations”, “greater motivation” and are “challenged to achieve more than their female peers” at co-educational independent and public schools (Holmgren, 2014).
- Girls from single-sex schools achieve “significantly higher” university entrance scores and are more likely to enrol in a university degree than girls who attend co-ed schools (Park, Behrman and Choi, 2012).
- Graduates of all-girls schools are “more likely to begin college aspiring to become engineers” and “more confident in their mathematics and computer skills, than women from equivalent backgrounds who attend coeducational schools” (Sax, 2009).