Single-sex schools are schools that only admit those of one specific gender, believing that the educational environment fostered by a single gender is more conducive to learning than a co-educational school. Studies conducted have shown that boys gain more academically from studying in co-education schools, but that girls find segregated schools more conducive to achievement. However academic results are not the only criterion on which the success of the education system should be judged. In the United States, a long-standing controversy over the Virginia Military Institute resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling, in June 1996, that the institute must admit women. Nevertheless the Court left room for private (i.e. not state-run) single-sex institutions and other such schools, where needed, to redress discrimination. Proponents of single-sex schools maintain that, by removing the distractions of the other sex, students learn more effectively and feel better about their education. Opponents maintain that co-educational schools in contrast are important in that they prepare students better for the real world, and do not attempt to segregate students from the realities of adult life. This debate can apply both to secondary school and college level, but single-sex institutions are found more frequently at the former.
Women in particular benefit from a single-sex education; research shows that they participate more in class, develop much higher self-esteem, score higher in aptitude tests, are more likely to choose ‘male’ disciplines such as science in college, and are more successful in their careers. In the USA Who’s Who, graduates of women’s colleges outnumber all other women; there are only approximately 50 women’s colleges left in the States today. Elizabeth Tidball, who conducted the Who’s Who research, also later concluded that women’s colleges produced ‘more than their fair share who went on to medical school or received doctorates in the natural or life sciences’, typically male fields.
Other studies have found that women in fact are not any better off in single-sex institutions. A 1998 survey from the American Association of University Women, a long-time advocate of single-sex education, admitted that girls from such schools did not show any academic improvement. That they are more inclined towards maths and sciences is of questionable importance to society as a whole. As the report noted, "boys and girls both thrive when the elements of good education are there, elements like smaller classes, focused academic curriculum and gender-fair instruction". These can all be present in co-educational schools. It has been argued that Tidball in her research made the mistake of not controlling for other characteristics, namely socio-economic privileges of those at elite women’s colleges.
Without a doubt, American schools are failing. According to the Global School ranking released in December 2013, the United States dropped to 36th place - America might be considered a Super Power - but it lags dramatically in education. Clearly there is a problem and some feel that drastic measures need to be made in order to correct the downward trend. Those that advocate for same-sex schools make the argument, that not only is it beneficial to promoting the educational status of women, but that it also removes the social interaction between the sexes that many educators feel has become a major distraction. "Students don't come to school for the academic stimulation or challenge, they come for the social interaction with the opposite sex," has been a long believed conception by many educators in this country today.
Would same-sex schools be a good alternative to traditional co-ed public schools? Even though it's not the only idea to help eradicate the growing problem in public education in the United States, could it be considered a good step forward? What ideas do you have that could help alter the current trend downward in America's educational system?