[DEBATE] What’s better? Coed vs single-gender schools

[DEBATE] What’s better? Coed vs single-gender schools

Single-gender schools promote an individualized learning environment

Because all students in the Mounds View School District experience coeducational education, they may feel closed off to the idea of single-gender schools. However, single-gender schools often benefit the education experience, reducing the harmful gender stereotypes that plague both girls and boys at coed schools and creating a safe learning environment for students of all genders. 

If you were asked to describe a stereotypical computer scientist, you would probably describe something of a socially-awkward geek. They may have a triple-monitor PC setup or a screen time average of eight to nine hours per day. And, most likely, they would be male.

STEM subjects are often perceived as more masculine while liberal arts subjects are perceived as more feminine. These biases are often internalized by teachers and students, leading to disparities between the percentage of women and men pursuing STEM-related careers. 

Girls attending single-gender schools seem to be more likely to pursue STEM classes and programs than their coed counterparts. A study from the University of Sydney found that, even when accounting for socioeconomic factors, STEM participation in 11th and 12th grade was significantly higher among girls attending all-female campuses. Perhaps this is because it is far more difficult to believe that boys are better at science and math when there are no boys for girls to compare themselves to.

On the flipside, boys from all-boys schools are more likely to pursue post-secondary education. According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, boys from all-boys schools are over 8% more likely to pursue an education at a four-year university, even when accounting for socioeconomic disparities. Interestingly, it also seems that boys from all-boys schools are more likely to engage in STEM courses than boys from coed schools. According to the same study, boys attending all-boys schools and expecting to attend a four-year college are more likely to pursue a STEM-related college major than their coeducational schools counterparts (32% vs. 23%).

While liberal arts classes are arguably just as important as STEM courses, with 75% of the fastest-growing careers requiring skills in STEM according to the Australian Department of Education, the increased participation in STEM courses and degrees among single-gender school students demonstrates higher earning capabilities and potentially higher job satisfaction.

While it would be false to say that differences in learning styles between girls and boys is simply a biological manifestation, whether heavily influenced by gender stereotypes or not, learning styles are an important consideration when it comes to debating coed vs. single-gender schools. 

According to WebMD, brain scans have shown differences in the development of different brain regions between girls and boys. In girls, it seems that parts of the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, which are responsible for language, thought and memory, develop sooner than in boys, which could explain girls’ success in vocabulary and writing. In boys, areas of the brain responsible for spatial and mechanical functioning tend to develop earlier than in girls, which may explain their preference for movement and pictures. Single-gender schools use these differing learning styles to their advantage, catering their lessons and curriculum to each gender.

While single-gender schools seem inherently exclusionary to anyone who does not identify as cis-gender and many fail to accommodate nonbinary and gender-non-conforming students, many schools are taking strides to make their campuses more accessible to transgender students. Barnard College, a women’s college, recently launched the “Trans@Barnard” initiative aimed at providing housing accommodations and updated name forms to transgender students.

Overall, single-gendered schools offer students significant advantages. With statistics proving that students at single-gender schools perform better than coed students, it makes sense why many parents opt for single-gender schools for their children.

But coed schools promote inclusivity and equality

Many families consider single-gender schools as their best option for their children’s academics. However, choosing single-gender schools over coeducational schools can leave students struggling after finishing their education. In today’s progressive society, where diversity and equality are of utmost importance, coed schools are more beneficial in preparing their students because they expose students to the opposite sex, allow students to experience different genders’ perspectives and promote gender inclusivity.

For one, single-gender schools perpetuate the harmful myth that girls and boys inherently have different “learning styles.” Boys aren’t biologically programmed to be better with cars and numbers, and girls aren’t inherently better at reading and writing. Caryl Rivers, a Boston University professor, disputes and discredits many studies claiming boys and girls learn differently, noting that many researchers only seek to prove what they already assume.

Although some may argue that gender-specific curricula can aid in developing girls’ and boys’ strengths separately, Dr. Diane F. Halpern, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College, believes that segregating classrooms by gender can lead students to experience difficulties after finishing school. 

To prevent this, coed schools ultimately prepare students for the real world. For example, in the workforce, employees of different genders work alongside each other, and having students learn in a diverse environment in advance will provide a smoother transition from the school setting to the workforce. 

Coed schools also encourage interactions with the opposite sex. These interactions expose students to different perspectives every day. Without this, children, such as those who attend single-gender schools, can find themselves stuck in a bubble, surrounded by people with similar experiences who don’t understand the complexities of the real world. 

Because children often restrict their contact to students most similar to themselves, such as same-gender peers, they often don’t experience the benefits of interacting with students of different backgrounds. Arizona State University conducted a study in 2022 that paired preschool students with opposite-gender classmates in a sort of “buddy system.” The study was based on intergroup contact theory, which hypothesizes that when people connect with members of different groups, they’ll form stronger relations with that group in general. This study proved just that, as not only did the students form stronger relationships with their buddies, but they also grew more comfortable interacting with all students of the opposite gender.

Single-gendered schools also suffer from exclusionary policies against non-gender-conforming students or even transgender students at times. In May 2022, a discrimination case was filed against Carinity Education Southside in Brisbane. A 12-year-old trans girl’s enrollment application was denied, while her cisgender sister’s application was accepted. The school specifically stated that she was denied because of her assigned sex. 

Due to the segregating nature of single-gendered schools, it’s extremely difficult to provide an inclusive environment for students who do not fit into their restrictive gender classifications. Putting students who do not identify as male or female into a school specifically made for a specific gender is invalidating. In the end, the benefits of coed schooling are much more impactful to the development of young students. They facilitate better social maturity within student populations, creating a more successful and empathetic society as a whole.

About the Contributors
Anna Honebrink, Staff Reporter
Anna is a junior staff reporter, and this year is her first year on The Viewer.
Via Yang, Staff Reporter
Via is a junior staff reporter, and this year is her first year on The Viewer. Awards: Best of SNO - ALL1N the fight against cancer
Lale Baylar, Opinions Editor
Hi! My name is Lale, and I'm the Opinions editor and illustrator for the The Viewer 2023-24. I like to draw & paint as well as watch thrillers in my free time. I also enjoy trying new restaurants or baking new recipes at home. I'm in MV's Orchestra, Mustang Mentors and love volunteering at Kinderberry Hills and the Bell Museum. You can reach me by email: [email protected] :)
Donate to The Viewer
$10
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal