As a society, the pendulum swings on gender roles and preferences, starting in early childhood, but the issues go beyond whether boys or girls prefer trucks to dolls or pink and blue.
The differences are “real, biologically programmed and important to how children are raised and educated,” writes Dr. Leonard Sax, in Why Gender Matters. (The Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, 2005)
“Single-sex schools recognize, understand and make use of the biologically different ways in which children think, feel and act.” “Recognizing gender-specific learning styles enables teachers to custom-design their teaching methods to meet the needs of their students.”
One headmaster believes that his school fosters an environment that guides and channels the natural exuberance and drive of boys. “Teachers at single-gender schools generally say that most children feel more comfortable in a single-sex setting, and, as a result, are more likely to lower their guard and express their feelings. Peer relationships are typically better, and the rapport between students and their teachers is stronger,” he says.
National research on the topic suggests that girls are more responsive and engaged in all-girl settings. “I enjoy seeing girls participate so much in class discussions … and, like it or not, girls seem to talk more in class in an all-female school. I often see a whole classroom of eighth-graders sharing ideas in an animated manner,” says Sharon Johnson-Cramer, author of the article
What a Single-Sex School Is Really Like(www.csmonitor.com/1998/0331/033198.feat.learning.3.html), published in The Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com) (electronic edition).
However, some experts challenge portions of the single-gender argument. In 1998, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) published
Separated by Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls
The report “challenges the popular idea that K-12 single-sex education is better for girls than coeducation.”
According to the report, boys and girls thrive on a good education, regardless of whether the school is single-sex or coeducational.
The report does say that girls in single-gender classrooms tend to perform better in math and science.
Bottom line? Every child’s needs are different. Examine your child’s learning style and tendencies, then make a decision that’s based on knowledge, research and knowing what’s best for your child.