There are conflicting studies about the comparative efficacy of coeducation versus single-sex schools. For example, a 1998 study by the American Association of University Women found that separating boys and girls did not improve the quality of education. However, a controversial 2001 study by Amanda Datnow, Lea Hubbard and Elisabeth Woody pronounced a negative verdict on single-sex education in California, and a 2008 U.S. Department of Education study gave limited support to single-sex over coeducational schools. Likewise, in 2006, two studies in Britain and in Canada supported coeducation over single-sex education. More comparative studies are needed across a wider range of age and social-economic groups for more definitive information to emerge, but the existing studies show both advantages and disadvantages of coeducation.
Advantages in Lower Grades
Boys and girls in coeducational grammar schools can positively influence each other by modelling gender differences in learning and problem-solving. While the academic performance of girls often sets the standard by which boys are also measured, the competitive nature of boys can propel them to succeed once they understand what is required. In addition, boys often learn effective and efficient strategies for organising and managing a learning task from girls. Likewise, girls learn to venture beyond their cautious learning comfort zone by observing the risk-taking, tinkering behaviour of boys, who may try and discard several problem-solving strategies without letting failure get the best of them.
Advantages for Teens
Co-education advocates recognise that the two genders work, play, study and live together in the real world. Adolescents and teens learn by trial and error to respect and understand members of the opposite sex by engaging in learning tasks and socialising together on a daily basis. Through regular practice they learn how women and men develop appropriate roles and behaviours in society.
Disadvantage: Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Distraction
Some parents and educators believe that students find it easier to concentrate on learning when they are not exposed to the daily distraction of male-female relationships that preoccupy the attention of adolescents. Teen pregnancy is a real problem among high-schoolers. Some parents believe that satisfying friendships made at single-sex schools will make it less likely for their daughters and sons to engage in risky sexual behaviours after school hours.
Advantage: More Inclusive Viewpoints
Teacher Ron Fletcher, who has taught in both coeducational and single-sex schools, feels that discussions of literature and social issues are enriched when both genders participate in expressing their ideas and opinions. Issues of voting rights, war and the draft, education and health rights and separation of church and state are among those that benefit from lively discussions in a co-ed class.
Equality of the Sexes
Educators have conflicting opinions about whether equality between the sexes is better served by coeducational or single-sex schooling. Some educators report that boys, whose intellectual development typically lags behind girls by several years, are disadvantaged in coeducational schools. Others say that girls in coeducational schools are treated differently from boys in science, math and computer or technology classes because teachers tend to give more attention and learning opportunities to the boys. Many educators believe that students learn best how to confront issues of gender equality in a learning environment where the sexes are equally represented and not artificially segregated.
- U.S. Department of Education: Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools: Perceptions and Characteristics
- Ridley College: The Benefits of the Co-Educational Environment
- Women's eNews; California Study: Single-Sex Schools No Cure-All; Elizabeth Zwerling; June 2001
- The Boston Globe; Ask The Teacher: Single Sex Schools Have Many Benefits; Ron Fletcher; January 2005
- Instructor Web: The Pros and Cons of Coeducational Schools
- Teaching Expertise: Gender Differences in School: Implications for Education; November 2008
- Ipswich Junior Grammar School: Benefits of Coeducation in the Early Years of Learning
- Guardian: Single-sex Schools "No Benefit for Girls"; Anushka Asthana; June 2006
- National Association For Single Sex Public Education: The California Experiment
- Education Bug; CoEd or Single Sex Education; Mary Elizabeth