Statistically, the single gender classroom tends to show better academic results over those where students are mixed. This happens not only in the US, but is a fact that is also shown in statistical results in countries like France, England and Australia and other similar countries where this issue has triggered a lot of research and debate.
Ironically, among those supporting the idea of the single gender classroom are some feminist groups, the very same that a few decades ago fought to give women the same rights in education, military and social status. Their argument is that, while mixed schools can help women with their relationships with the opposite gender, this kind of mixed gender education has also increased the awareness and differences between boys and girls. This also has inhibited girls’ participation and it has increased the competition, leaving them often in a disadvantaged position.
Those against mixed schools argue that these institutions do not pay special attention to the differences between the two sexes, and their different rhythms in maturation and psychological changes during the childhood and teenage years. They also argue that same-sex teachers tend to aid students of their same gender, whether consciously or unconsciously, creating a disadvantage for the opposite sex.
For those who support a mixed education, there is the argument that the single gender classroom is often related to certain religious or cultural groups and this can create a differentiated kind of education among those receiving it, focusing in certain aspects and leave others completely unattended. They also argument that currently, only children who live in a household with a higher income are able to attend these schools, which creates a false environment of convenience.
Although currently the single gender classroom represents just a small percentage of all the schools in the US, same-gender education is generating more and more interest and debate among those who support this kind of education as well as in those groups supporting it.
According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, NASSPE, the public educational system should offer this option to parents. They consider that having the choice to receive education in a school where only one gender attends is a matter of social justice; parents with lower income should have the same opportunities to send their children to a same-gender school if they choose to, regardless of religion or income.
This organization promotes a separated education for boys and girls as a mean to focus more in the differences and pay closer attention to their development. They also consider it is important to acknowledge that it is impossible to measure boys and girls under the same rules, for they start their sexual and psychological maturation at different age.
Single gender classrooms were included in the public educational system in 2006 as part of the “No Child Left Behind” law, which promotes education for everyone. This, after more than 30 years after the law which imposed mixed education in the public schools of the US. These new regulations allow public schools to offer courses to a single sex group of students, but must be checked every two years by the authorities to determine if they are the solution to the equality problems caused by a mixed education in the first place. However, schools that offer single gender classrooms are not required to follow these check-ups every two years or justify their methods. Instead, they have to offer similar courses, infrastructure and services similar to those found in the same school level and district.
Everyone agrees that throwing kids from different social strata and gender is not optimal. They carry with them into the classroom the education they receive at home and instead of helping to create a better and more egalitarian atmosphere, they tend to form groups with kids coming from similar backgrounds. This exaggerates the differences among them. The single gender classroom offers a big advantage on this, helping to overcome those disadvantages originated by a mixed education.
Another aspect which should be considered is the sexual development of the two different groups. While those who support the single gender classroom argue that it helps give a more individualized attention to each child, those against it argue that a single gender classroom can yield to a higher rate of homosexuality. This has created big arguments, for those supporting mixed schools think that such an environment helps children and teenagers identify their bodies better, since they have the opposite gender to look for. This can yield to competition among them, which is unavoidable, but also can help them identify their sexuality better. They consider that in a school where only boys or girls attend, once the sexual maturation begins, having no counterpart, they will seek to release this tension among themselves, thus increasing the risk of a higher rate of homosexuality.
The arguments are still going. There are advantages and disadvantages but not until the single gender classroom has been through tested for a long time, will the first results be seen. Unfortunately, today there are very few options for everyone and the old mixed schools are still the vast majority all around the country and the world.
Additional articles about the single gender classroom.
Make Single-Sex Classes a Priority in Your School
Pros and Cons of Single Sex Classes in K-12 Education