Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review

Liam Julian

U.S. Department of Education, Policy and Program Studies Service2005

Advocates of same-sex education have long held that teaching males and females separately garners better academic results. Any variety of social conundrums arise when boy meets girl, they say; absent these, same-sex education offers their students a more-focused and -serious learning environment that boosts classroom achievement. This literature review from the U.S. Department of Education (funded, if you can believe it, through the Women's Educational Equity program) probes the validity of that argument. It finds, albeit with qualifiers, that same-sex schooling has some definite advantages over co-educational setups. The department reviewed both quantitative and qualitative literature on same-sex and co-educational instruction and divided the best studies into 32 separate assessment areas. In 22 of these, same-sex schools outperformed co-educational ones. In contrast, co-ed schools came out on top in only two areas. For example, most of the studies examining how students in both types of schools are performing now show that same-sex education had positive effects on achievement. And in studies examining the softer side of student performance (i.e., self-esteem, etc.), same-sex education seemed to help foster higher educational and career aspirations for girls. Moreover, the review finds that students who attend same-sex schools are less likely to drop out of high school and less likely to be unemployed later in life. The report's authors make it quite clear that their conclusions are not rock solid. After all, it has been impossible to design "gold standard" randomized studies of single-sex public schools, since they have been more-or-less illegal for three decades under Title IX regulations. With the department primed to release new regulations allowing single sex schools under certain circumstances, such studies should become feasible (and a top priority). In the meantime, with the data in so many assessment areas showing positive outcomes for students in same-sex scenarios, allowing more experimentation in this area is a no-brainer. To read the report, click here

More By Author