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How Does a Single Gender School Affect High School Students?

by Amy Pearson

Single gender high schools give boys and girls an opportunity to learn in an environment that is tailored to gender-specific needs, although opinions vary on their effectiveness. Supporters claim single gender schools allow students to pursue learning with fewer non-academic distractions. Critics point to the lack of research supporting long-term academic gains to suggest single gender schools offer few benefits.

Girls

Girls' high schools give young women an opportunity to focus less on issues such as appearance or popularity and more on learning. According to the Parents League of New York, culture often does not encourage young girls to develop aggressive, competitive personalities that are associated with many scientific fields. Girls' schools give teenage girls an opportunity to explore all subjects without fear of not fitting in. Offering young girls a supportive high school environment, focused on their unique learning needs, may lead to even bigger gains in college and beyond.

Boys

The academic pursuits of teenage boys can be easily distracted by social pressures that may be less prevalent in an all-boys' environment. Boys may be more inclined to pursue studies in performance arts or English when there are fewer pressures to conform to societal norms. The International Boys' School Coalition reports that there are innate differences in the ways boys and girls learn. Boys' schools can cater to these differences by including more physical activity into the curriculum and making allowances for boys' maturity levels, which generally develop more slowly than girls'.

Advantages

Single-gender high schools can use teaching methods that cater to natural maturity and activity level differences found in teenage boys and girls. They can provide students with the opportunity to focus on academics, while reducing some feelings of competition within their gender as girls and boys are not competing with each other to gain favor among the opposite sex. Reports suggest single-gender high schools may result in a reduction in rates of teen pregnancy and drug abuse, according to Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

Disadvantages

Critics of single-gender high schools fear that segregation of students perpetuates gender stereotypes. Not all girls' or boys' individual interests align with a gender-specific curriculum. Variables such as parental influence or socio-economic level may play a bigger part in the success of high school students than gender. Discipline issues actually increase in some single-sex schools and test scores are often not changed at all. Research reported by the U.S. Department of Education states that long-term academic gains are not shown to exist in same-sex schools and there is only limited evidence that benefits can be measured at all.

About the Author

Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.

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