In the UK, the debate over whether single-sex or co-educational schools are more beneficial for students’ development is one that has seen good arguments from both side of the fence. This paper will examine the advantages of both single-sex and co-ed schools as well as the disadvantages of each. It will show that both types of schools have their benefits, and each has its limitations. However, there is no strong argument one way or another that one is better than the other. At the end of the day, it all comes down to preference.
Single-sex schools have several advantages: they provide students with an environment free of distractions from the opposite sex which can help them to improve their learning (Johnson & Winterbottom, 2011), give students an opportunity to bond with peers (Booth & Nolen, 2012), and in the case of women can help them to earn more in the labour markets (Sullivan, Joshi & Leonard, 2011). First, same sex schools can allow students to focus on what matters—education and study rather than members of the opposite sex. This is especially true for students who are older: their bodies are changing and their hormones are strong. Sex can be a very distracting issue for learners, so having an environment free of this distraction can facilitate the educative process (Johnson & Winterbottom, 2011). Second, a same sex environment opens the door to creating better and lasting bonds among peers. These bonds can facilitate the growth and development of character and assist the students later in life as they advance into their careers (Booth and Nolen, 2012). Third, Sullivan et al. (2011) have shown that, at least in the case of women, girls who attend a single-sex school earn a higher wage than girls who attend co-ed schools in the UK. These three advantages serve to make single-sex schools attractive.
On the other hand, co-ed schools also have their advantages: they can provide more diversity of environment which can give extrinsic motivations to students (Mujtaba & Reiss, 2013), they allow schools to focus on gender-relational issues so as to assist in the development of students and in the closing of the gender gap (Younger & Warrington, 2007), and they are generally freer of the type of ceilings that are found in single-sex schools (Malacova, 2007).
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First, co-ed schools offer more diversity, which is good for students who thrive on external motivations: the more diverse an environment, the more likely the right kind of stimulus or motivation is to be found. Second, gender-relations can be approached more easily in a co-ed school, which can allow administrators to devise effective learning strategies for students and assist in eliminating the gender gap in education (Younger and Warrington, 2007). Third, in single-sex schools, there are various ceilings found when in comes to improvement or getting ahead in education: in co-ed schools, there is generally more opportunity for students to succeed and to rise above the bar (Malacova, 2007).
Both single-sex and co-ed schools have their advantages, therefore. Single-sex schools can foster an environment that allows students to focus on education rather than on intermingling with members of the opposite sex; they can facilitate greater bonding among peers, and they help to prepare girls to earn more in the marketplace (Johson & Winterbottom, 2011; Booth and Nolen, 2012; Sullivan et al., 2011). Boys, on the other hand, can benefit more from co-ed schools in terms of having no ceiling to prevent them from succeeding beyond expectations; students in co-ed schools can benefit more from the diversity of experience, and schools can work to close the gender gap (Mujtaba & Reiss, 2013; Malacova, 2007; Younger & Warrington, 2007).
Single-sex schools do have their disadvantages at the same time that they have their advantages. For instance, first of all, they keep students from experiencing what it is like to be part of a diverse environment and thus they do not facilitate the development of gender-relations in a way that some advocates would prefer to see. However, it might be that some students and families prefer an environment in which there are no distractions, so what may be a disadvantage to some is more of a pro to others (Johnson & Winterbottom, 2011). Secondly, single-sex schools only help girls to obtain a higher wage in the labour market. The same does not apply to boys (Sullivan….....
Booth, A. and Nolen, P., 2012. Choosing to compete: How different are girls and boys?. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 81(2), pp.542-555.
Johnson, N. and Winterbottom, M., 2011. Supporting girls’ motivation in science: a study of peer?and self?assessment in a girls?only class. Educational Studies, 37(4), pp.391-403.
Malacova, E., 2007. Effect of single?sex education on progress in GCSE. Oxford Review of Education, 33(2), pp.233-259.
Mujtaba, T. and Reiss, M.J., 2013. What sort of girl wants to study physics after the age of 16? Findings from a large-scale UK survey. International Journal of Science Education, 35(17), pp.2979-2998.
Sullivan, A., Joshi, H. and Leonard, D., 2011. Single?sex schooling and labour market outcomes. Oxford Review of Education, 37(3), pp.311-332.
Younger, M. and Warrington, M., 2007. Closing the gender gap? Issues of gender equity in English secondary schools. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 28(2), pp.219-242.