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Educational Advantages and Disadvantages of Co-ed Vs Same-gender Schools

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It is a general understanding that those countries and societies tend to progress which have higher educated population. The belief that education inculcates high moral values and teaches technical skills is the ground for this understanding. Therefore, nations try to make their educational system as effective as they could make. In pursuit of providing their children an effective education, however, people are divided on the views about co-education and same-gender school systems. This issue has long been debated over the years to choose the best option for the nurturing of their offspring. A number of researches have been conducted to evaluate the pros and cons of both the systems. These researches vary in the nature of study, size and society but the motivation behind all of them is to evaluate the behavioral, social and learning trends.

In 2006, the US department of education made changes to the Title IX legislation which had been passed in 1972. The new amendments offer more freedom in conducting same-gender classes in the schools. An increase was noticed in the number of schools offering single-sex education in 2009. The schools offering single-sex education were only eleven in 2002 which took a jump to 554 in 2009 (National Association for Single-sex Public Education). Most of these schools offer segregated classes in the same building and retain some of the healthy co-education activities. However, this huge rise in the single-sex education schools has stirred the need for evaluating different aspects regarding both the educational systems.

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A student’s performance is indicated by the grades he or she earns in a particular subject. Spielhofer et al. (2004) found that, in England, average academic achievement levels for males do not differ significantly between single-sex and coeducational settings, but there are some performance gains for lower-achieving boys in single-sex schools. For females, an advantage was found for those attending single-sex schools across a range of achievement outcomes, with the greatest advantages found in the area of science and for the lowest prior attainment group. The proponents of both the education settings choose to adopt the result which bolsters their argument the most.

Schools provide a learning environment and chances to improve the intellectual abilities of students. They engage in different activities from problem solving to debates and sports. Keeping in view this point, if a student hesitates to ask question because of the other gender it will leave a negative impact on his or her performance. In her book ‘Invisible Women’, Spender (1982) claimed that girls, especially in the junior secondary grades, are reluctant to express their views in front of boys. This reluctance certainly compromises a girl’s self-esteem, self-efficacy and leadership capabilities. In another research Gill (1992) reported that in a co-education environment boys tended to steal the attention of a teacher. But this increased interaction between teacher and male students was observed when the teacher is inexperienced. The experienced teacher managed a fair time distribution among all the students. It was also found out that boys frequently asked trivial questions in order to gain the attention of the teacher whereas girls relied on their friends and seating partner to seek clarifications.

Girls feel more comfortable in asking questions in the absence of the opposite gender. They involve more in group discussion and participate proactively in class. According to Streitmatter (1998), in a single-sex education environment, the girls asked the teachers questions more frequently and used the answers as group learning. In her findings, Streitmatter also observed that, in all-girls setting, 87.5% girls got an A in physics as compared to the co-education where only 14.3% girls got an A. This study reveals that girls benefit the most from class participation when the boys are not in the class.

Whereas the boys take a lead in participation in a co-education school and apt to play roles which require expression of emotions such as arts, drama and music. Boys feel less hesitation in playing roles like this when girls are not present. Caplice (1994) said, “If there are no girls around to ridicule boys participating in these activities [art, theatre, cheerleading] and no need for posturing on the part of boys to disassociate oneself from such “girlie” endeavors, presumably more boys will experiment and become comfortable in these areas”. This statement magnifies the mental barriers which are created by the society under the tags of girls-oriented and boys-oriented activities. As far as the education system is concerned, it should be dealt asa matter of mental capabilities which can be found in both male and female sex with equal probabilities. The breaking of these stereotypes will only lead to a harmonized learning and understanding between the two genders in co-education system which is currently absent. Another interesting advantage of segregating classes is that students who come from minorities and poor background tend to outperform in the class. The roots of this finding are embedded in the socio-cultural attitudes of wealthy people who send their children to single-sex schools in the form of private schooling. The psychological impacts on the minds of poor children empower them to excel in the class. That’s why the single-sex schools have a pride in higher minority graduates (Caplice, 1994).

Cornelius Riordan, professor of sociology at Providence College, studied the data on students who attended private Catholic schools. Riordan’s studies showed:

Poor and disadvantaged students, Riordan found, were especially likely to benefit from single-sex education. When he studied data on minorities attending Catholic schools, he found that black and Latino students in single-gender schools academically outperformed their peers in co-ed Catholic schools. “The more disadvantaged the student,” Riordan says, “the more likely these students are to gain an advantage from attending single-sex school” (as cited in Vail, 2002, p. 36).

Proponents of single-sex education also insist on the argument that learning mechanism of both genders is different. The psychological acceptance of knowledge and learning is different in girls and boys. Vast experiences and research on this topic present a manifestation of this argument. “Physiological and psychological differences between girls and boys require different teaching techniques at different times” (as cited in Caplice, 1994). One such example of requirement for different learning environment is the use of space. A research has revealed that male, in the process of learning, may require a bigger space than his female counterpart. If they are sitting on a table, the boy might spread his papers over the entire table leaving little room for girl which seems rude. However, this is just the learning mechanism of his brain that requires more spatial room.

Another example in support of learning requirement is the movement of both genders during the process of learning. Although movement is an excellent teaching strategy for boys and girls, yet the boys tend to benefit most from the movement of their body. Gurion and Ballew asserted in their research, “Movement seems to stimulate male brains and helps to manage impulsive behavior” (2003, p. 18). These different psychological factors fortify the claim that boys and girls can be better educated if they are provided with the right environment which is suitable with their brain’s demand.

The same-gender schools clearly display dominance in learning environment, but the social aspect of the education is controlled by the coeducation. Single-sex school students have minimum interaction with the opposite gender and, hence, have little knowledge about the other. This creates problems in social life of the students when lack of psychological awareness engenders mutual disrespect. The students fail to understand the natural difference of behavior and engage in disputes. Whereas the coeducation system nurtures the students in an environment which gives them time to understand the other gender. They appraise the emotional, psychological and intellectual intelligence and accept each other the way they are. This creates a harmonized society with mutual respect.

It is a general observation that boys or girls, who go to same-gender schools; find it hard to start a conversation with the other gender. This shyness and hesitation is not observed in the co-education schools (Chitra, 2018). The students are apt to talk to the opposite sex because they have developed mutual understanding through collaborative work in class and extra-curricular activities. This confidence gained in school’s benefit students at every level form colleges to their jobs. In practical life, while doing a job or business, people can have interaction with any gender. There is a big probability of having a boss of opposite gender. At that time, the people having brought-up of co-education schooling will be more comfortable and friendly with their boss.

It is very important for our generations to be familiar with the diverse culture of the world. The globalization of world has brought the cultures of every corner of the world into the surrounding of every person. Co-education prepares the students for the diverse world ahead and also develops self-esteem. A study reveals that students from co-education schools have more confidence in relationship building in a diverse environment than the students who belong to same-gender schools. They often demonstrate comfort in social situations, and 72 per cent of students say they easily make friends of the opposite sex.

It is a well-known fact that learning increases by a healthy competition environment. The understanding and perception about a particular subject strengthen under the light of multi-facet opinions. A co-education school provides an environment with competition and multi-dimensional point of views. The competition among peers is natural and when it comes to opposite gender the egos are involved (Chitra, 2018). In this arrangement, the failure of students helps suppressing the egos and develops a robust competition towards learning.

Except all the behavioral and learning aspects of co-education and same-gender schools, an important aspect is the management of resources for conducting this healthy activity of education. Ostensibly, segregation of students will require more teachers and funds in order to provide better facilities for every student. Hence the management of resources inevitably becomes a difficult task. In this situation, the co-education is suitable with the investment and resource management.

The students on the verge of teenage can develop personal feelings for each other which are intrinsic characteristics of both genders. An interaction of this kind would be a hindrance toward learning goals. Mael (as cited in Herr and Arms, 2004) says “preoccupied with the ‘dating and rating’ culture, students in the coeducational environment are thought to be unnecessarily distracted, concentrating on how they look rather than focusing on academics” (p.531). Inundated with the looks, the students become impervious to learning process affecting their academic performance.

School going students are in the fostering phase of their life. They develop character and moral values. They could make mistakes and need guidance. During this phase of their life, when their understanding is little, they have a great tendency to conclude their disputes with opposite genders with unethical activities. More vicious students can take revenge with harassment and causing emotional stress to the other gender.

This research based critical analysis of learning, behavioral and economic analysis of same-gender and co-education schools has enlightened with the advantages and disadvantages of both schools. Both the education systems strive for the better learning environment and character development of the children but inadvertently certain factors contribute to impede the process of both systems. The analysis suggests a greater learning environment in a same-gender school while the socialization and character building is more prominent in a co-education school. Girls have an inclination towards same-gender schools when it comes to learning. The boys take lead in a co-education system and try to gain the attention of the teachers which leaves girls at a disadvantage and may leave them with low confidence. On the other hand, co-education system also imparts an environment of increased interaction between both the genders which helps overcoming the fears of other gender and promotes a mutual respect between them. Co-education system can also provoke unethical activities and increased involvement of both genders in each other. The development of personal feelings hinders the process of learning and derails the concentration.

To conclude, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with each same-gender and co-education schools. A better learning environment is developed with positive social arrangement. There are no flawless systems in the world for education. Whether it is a coeducational or a single-sex school is just one of many factors which parents need to take into account when choosing a school for each of their children. The main question to be answered is which school provides the best match between its qualities and the goals and values that are considered essential for the child to achieve in its education. Drawing up a priority list of essential and desirable features may serve to clarify the parents’ thoughts about school choice. Therefore, the choice of a same-gender or co-education school depends on the child’s suitability with a specific environment that will offer minimum obstruction in the process of learning and developing a noble attitude.

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