When you think of single sex education as a choice or an option, the subject becomes a little easier to understand in the 21st century. Private schools have offered single sex education for decades. Indeed many of our older schools were founded with the purpose of educating boys or girls separately.
Characteristics of Single Sex Schools
What grades do they offer? Typically single sex schools are high schools offering grades 9 through 12/PG. There are a handful of single sex schools which offer the middle school grades 6 through 9. Even fewer schools offer PK-12. You will also notice that middle school grades go up to grade 9 and high school begins with grade 9 as well. Actually grade 10 is probably the most common entry point for private high schools. That’s one reason for the overlap.
Single sex schools come in both boarding and day versions. There are single sex religious schools, military schools and so on.
The Advantage of Single Sex Education
The proponents and opponents of single sex education have firmly-held views. I think it is fair to say that the actual research into the advantages and disadvantages of single sex education is pretty meagre. I list the primary sources for you to read in depth. That’s why I concluded long ago that single sex education needs to be thought of as a choice. It is not better than coeducation in my opinion. Nor is it worse. It is simply an option for us parents to keep in mind as we go through the process of choosing the best private school for our child.
Having said that, in my long career as a choir trainer in the Episcopal Church from 1969 to 1997 I had in depth experience working with boys and girls choirs. Hindsight reminds me that the boys were just as good musically as the girls and vice-versa. But then I expected nothing less. Those young people were rubbing shoulders with Bach, Mozart, Handel, Faure, Allegri and many other great composers. Great music deserved their best efforts. Their best efforts are what both boys and girls delivered.
Were there differences in the way they approached singing? Yes indeed. For starters it was not considered very masculine for a boy to sing. Period. The fix for that? I arranged for a couple of fine English choirs to give concerts. Suddenly the persuaders (parents) were showing up with sons in tow at audition time.
The tie in with single sex private schools? The approach is the same. Show young men and young women how to do things well and be people they never thought they could be. We teachers have that uncanny ability to observe a child and almost instantly visualize him or her 5, 10, 15 years down the road. We light the fire. We keep fanning those flames of learning and exploration until suddenly there’s that defining moment when she decides “I want to be Secretary of State” or he says “I want to be like Yo-Yo Ma” Then show them how to make those dreams come true.
Explore single sex school web sites. Visit the schools. You will hear them say that their school creates the right environment for a boy or girl to be all that he or she can be. That is admirable. And as you explore the option of sending your child to a single sex school, when you find a school which meets your requirements and truly is the best fit for your child, don’t give it another thought. Go for it. Remember: the only thing which matters in choosing a private school is to find the school where your child will be happy. The last thing you want is a miserable child who hates her school. Single sex or coeducational.
Once again the research and data is limited. Do boys or girls get better test scores in a single sex setting? Some say yes. Some say no. I suggest that you look at data such as matriculation results. That’s a fancy way of saying “Where did their graduates go?” If they went to colleges and universities which you would like your child to attend, then there’s your answer.
A single sex school may be right for your child. But you will never know until you explore this private school option.