The Debate About Single-Gender Education

It is well-established that boys and girls learn differently. Because of the ways boys and girls brains develop, Girls tend to have a larger and faster-growing hippocampus than boys which causes them to excel in vocabulary, reading, and writing. Boys, on the other hand, have a more defined cerebral cortex which helps them to learn through movement.
While these differences are more pronounced at a younger age, by the time students graduate high school the differences are much more difficult to discern.

As research into the differences in learning styles between girls and boys first came out, there was a move to separate students into single-gender classrooms. In 1999, Jefferson Leadership Academies in Long Beach, California became the first public middle school in the country to offer single-gender classrooms in hopes that it would help boys and girls each get the best education possible. The idea was that boys would be more focused, and girls would more likely participate in class.

In 2007 Jefferson Leadership Academies reversed their decision and returned to coed classrooms for a combination of different reasons, most notably that there was a lack of real evidence that the single-gender classroom was making education better for any of the students. There are still many schools that choose to maintain this style of education, and there are students and their families who prefer it, but the benefits of coeducational classrooms are evident to many.

One big pushback against single-gender classrooms is that it doesn’t in any way reflect real life. If we use the example of boys needing help to focus and girls needing the courage to speak up, a coed classroom helps students to cultivate these critical skills which they will take with them into each next stage of their schooling and then into adult life. Putting boys in girls together in the classroom creates the first of many challenges they will learn to overcome through experience.

Additionally, the differences between genders can be used as a powerful tool in the coed classroom. For example, boys tend to mature more slowly than their female classmates. Girls can set a good example for behavior for their male classmates. Of course, these stereotypes are not true of all individuals, however, research has found them to be consistently reliable.

All families and their children are different, and we support whatever decision you make to advocate for the education of your children. At St. Barnabas School we celebrate the differences in all children. If you’d like to learn more about our school, or take a tour with your family, contact us today.

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