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How Can Gender-Based Classes Be Bad for School?

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

Gender-based classes mean that boys or girls are isolated from the opposite gender in a school. Some public and private schools in the U.S. maintain gender-specific class formats. While proponents argue that boys and girls learn better in classrooms suited to gender learning styles, others point to key drawbacks in this approach.


Some detractors of gender-based classes actually agree that the notion of separating students to address different learning styles is valid. However, despite consistent traits and learning styles associated with genders, individual variances exist in boys and girls. Counter to gender tendencies, some boys may prefer a calm, quiet classroom and some girls might prefer a more active one. Rather than stereotyping student learners by gender, it might work better to separate students based on learning styles as assessed through testing.

Promotes Discrimination

In an October 2011 editorial in "The New York Times," Arizona State University Professor of Child Development Richard Fabes argues that gender-segregated classes do little more than promote gender discrimination. Fabes maintains that studies show little, if any, academic benefits to students in segregated classrooms. Proponents have reasoned that gender segregation gives lower-income students similar same-sex educational advantages experienced by students in expensive private schools. Fabes notes that this point is not valid unless specific scientific data proves same-sex education has inherent merit to kids.

Lack of Gender-Balanced Preparedness

A key criticism of gender-based classes lies in the fact that students don't get as much opportunity to interact in social settings with the opposite gender. If students spend years in school with same-gendered students, they may lack adequate preparation to work in a co-gender environment in the workplace. As students get older, they may lack comfort working with or near opposite-gendered coworkers and may even have trouble respecting them if they aren't used to it.

False Structure

Single-sex classes may also create a false sense of how the world works for students. A key component of same-sex education is that classrooms are developed to suit one gender, and teachers receive special training to educate a particular gender. Boys classes tend to allow more mobility and physical movement, for instance. Setting class structures to ideals for a particular gender may give students the false sense that potential employers will accommodate them similarly. Employers might expect, though, that workers adapt to the rules of the workplace that aren't catered to a particular gender.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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