By Saloni Singhvi
Recently, there has been talk about implementing single-gender classrooms in public schools, because some say it would create a more tailored learning experience for both genders. Education experts have done analysis on both sides of the issue.
Advocates of single-gender classrooms say that the main benefit to these classrooms would be helping girls who are discriminated against in co-ed classrooms. Bonnie Shackelton of the University of Ontario finds that “students in coed classes are subject to sex and gender bias by their teachers and counselors on a reoccurring basis.” This results in disparate attention being paid to students needs; as Kelly Cable of the Center for Educational Policy notes, “in a co-gender environment boys are called on 8 times as often as girls” resulting in girls not getting the attention they need. Single-gender classrooms force teachers to focus on all students equally, reducing discrimination.
However, there are many negatives to be considered. Many experts conclude that having boys and girls learn in the same environment fosters positive communication and discourse. In single gender classrooms, Rebecca Bigler from UT Austin reports, “children who interact mostly with same-gender peers develop increasingly narrow skill sets and interests. Single-sex schooling reduces boys’ and girls’ opportunities to learn from and about each other [by placing a physical barrier between them at the classroom level.] On the other hand, children can interact well in co-ed classrooms. Bigler emphasizes that “the classroom is the ideal setting for [boys and girls to learn to work together] because it is both purposeful and supervised.”
Another detriment would be the costs of creating these classrooms. In the case of Jane Doe vs. Wood County, a federal court ruled that all single sex classrooms must be “opt in, [when] parents or guardians have signed a consent [form]”. What this means is that in every place there a single-gender class is offered, a co-ed option would also have to be made available. Cable explains that “Single-sex schooling may actually be more expensive than educators assume because, besides more training, schools may need to hire more teachers — two for the single sex classes and possibly one for the coed class. In many cases, schools will have additional administrative burdens, professional training costs, and evaluation and legal costs.” In an analysis of schools who have made the transition, the American Civil Liberties Union found that “As a result of prioritizing single-sex classes, these schools don’t have the funds to spend on techniques that have actually been proven to improve academic outcomes, like smaller class sizes and personalized learning environments with mentors, counseling, and other supports.”