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Single-sex education (SSE), also known as Single-gender education, is the practice of conducting education where male and female students attend separate classes or in separate buildings or schools. The practice was predominant before the mid-twentieth century, particularly in secondary education and higher education. Single-sex education in many cultures is advocated on the basis of tradition, as well as religion and is practiced in many parts of the world. A number of studies starting in the 1990s are showing statistical data that children from single-sex schools are outperforming students from coeducational schools[1]}. In 2002, because of these studies and bipartisan support, the US law of 1972 that made coeducation in public schools mandatory was revoked and funding was given in support of the single-sex option. There are now associations of parents who are advocating for single-sex education.

According to supporters, gender roles can be subverted in a single-sex environment (e.g. Sax, 2005)[2]; boys will be more likely to pursue the arts, and girls more likely to pursue mathematics and science. Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, an Icelandic educator who introduced single-sex kindergarten to Iceland in 1989, stated: "Both sexes seek tasks they know. They select behavior they know and consider appropriate for their sex. In mixed schools, each sex monopolises its stereotyped tasks and behavior so the sex that really needs to practice new things never gets the opportunity. Thus, mixed-sex schools support and increase the old traditional roles."

There are some neurological and chemical differences that can be observed in adults. The average woman is believed to use the left hemisphere of the brain more often; this area of the brain is associated with speaking, reading and writing. Likewise their frontal lobe (facilitates speech, thought and emotion) is more active. Some argue that this must thus hold true for girls of all ages as well.[3] Thus, girls retain and process information better with open ended assignments that allow them to fully express themselves.[4]

According to some studies (Kadidy & Ditty, 2001, Elliot, 1971, Cone-Wesson & Ramirez, 1998) females hear better than males which would call for males to sit closer to the front of the classroom to hear instruction better; as males usually are seated in the rear of the classroom, this would be a change from the traditional seating arrangement. Also females have higher levels of estrogen in the brain which reduce aggressive behavior and is thought to create a calmer classroom atmosphere.[3] They are also more likely to assume a leadership role in a single-gendered classroom than in a co-educational one.[5]

In short, some such as Dr JoAnn Deak, argue that all males and females receive and process information differently, hear and see differently, and develop at different paces[2]; therefore, they argue, different teaching styles and classroom structures should be adopted to accommodate both sexes. Further research involving classroom observation and gender specific instruction implementation should be monitored and considered, especially concerning the differences within a group of one sex as opposed to the rest of the class[6].

"Girls and boys are as different from the neck up as the neck down," according to psychologist JoAnn Deak, author of Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters. Dr. Deak says research has shown that our brains are differentiated along gender lines when it comes to our learning styles. There are exceptions and shades of gray, of course but in general according to Dr. Deak: • Female brains are predisposed to excel in language, auditory skills, fine motor skills and attention to detail • The female brain is more decentralized, using a variety of parts or locations for a single task • The female brain is more integrated, allowing both brain hemispheres to work together via a more developed corpus callosum, the bridge between the right and left brain hemispheres • In the female brain, thoughts and emotions are much more complex, integrated and intertwined than in the male brain.

Supporters argue that socialization is not the same as putting together, but is a matter of educating in habits such as respect, generosity, fairness, loyalty, courtesy, etc. And this can be done with more success knowing the distinct tendencies of boys and girls.

Catholics usually refer to teachings of Pope Pius XI in 1929. He wrote an encyclical entitled "Christian Education of Youth" where he addressed the topic of coeducation. He said there, after condemning sex education, "False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method "co-education". This too, by many of its supporters is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin."



Some, such as Dr Alan Smithers, feel that the majority of single-sex learning facilities are unequal compared to co-educational ones. They hold that a supposed System bias will reinforce gender stereotypes and continue supposed societal inequalities in opportunities afforded to males and females. They feel that it might accentuate sex-based educational limitations and discrimination. Boys' schools might not offer home economics classes, while girls' schools might not offer metalwork, woodwork or as wide a variety of sports. Some critics of single sex education argue that without the presence of the opposite sex, students are denied a learning environment representative of real life. This might deprive them of the opportunity to develop skills for interaction with peers of both genders in their work environment and could even foster ignorance and prejudice toward the other gender.

Schools and institutions


A single-sex school is a school that advocates single-sex education. This has been the traditional situation for independent school in the United Kingdoms, especially public schools and grammar schools, but many of these have now become coeducational. In the state sector of the U.K. education system, the only single-sex primary schools are Winterbourne Junior Boys' School and Winterbourne Junior Girls' School (both in the London Borough of Croydon). The number of single-sex state schools has fallen from nearly 2,500 to just over 400 in 40 years. According to Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at Buckingham University, there was no evidence that single-sex schools were consistently superior. However, a 2009 analysis of Key Stage 2 and GCSE scores of more than 700,000 girls has revealed that those in all-female comprehensives make better progress than those who attend mixed secondaries.The largest improvements came among those who did badly at primary school, although pupils of all abilities are more likely to succeed if they go to single-sex state schools, the study indicates.[7] A Government-backed review in 2007 recommended that the sexes should be taught differently to maximise results, amid fears that girls tend to be pushed aside in mixed-sex classrooms.


In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of single-sex public education in the 1996 case of United States v. Virginia. This ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concluded that single-sex education in the public sector is constitutional only if comparable courses, services, and facilities are made available to both sexes. The No Child Left Behind Act contains provisions (section 5131.a.23. and 5131c) designed by their authors—Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) -- to facilitate single-sex education in public schools. These provisions led to the publication of new federal rules in October 2006 to allow districts to create single-sex schools and classes provided that 1) enrollment is voluntary, and 2) comparable courses, services, and facilities are available to both sexes. The number of public schools offering single-sex classrooms rose from 11 in 2002 to 540 in 2009, according to the web site of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.[8]


In Australia, the proportion of students from independent schools attending single-sex schools, dropped from 31% in 1985 to 24% in 1995. In secondary schools, 55% of boys and 54% of girls went to single-sex schools, in 1985. However by 1995 the proportion attending single-sex secondary schools had dropped to 41% of boys and 45% of girls.[9]

Middle East

However, in the Middle East in most schools it is mandatory for schools to be single-sex schools. Each school accepts boys or girls exclusively. In places where sharia is the law students attend sex-segregated public schools. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, single-sex public schools have been in place since the Islamic Revolution.[10]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences. Dr. Leonard Sax. Doubleday Press ISBN 978-0385510738
  3. ^ a b Gurian, M., Henly, P., Truman, T. (2001). Boys and girls learn differently! San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  4. ^ Ferarra, 2005. The single gender middle school classroom: A close-up look at gender differences in learning. The Australian Association for Research in Education Retrieved from:
  5. ^ Grossman, H. & Grossman, S. (1994). Gender issues in education. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Diana Jean Schemo (2006-10-25). "Correction Appended". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  9. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics Retrieved August 17, 2007
  10. ^ AdventureDivas: IRAN: Groundwork

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