Headmasters Hot For Girl/Girl Action, Looking For All-Asian Satisfaction

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Why do students at girls-only schools in Hong Kong do better than the average, while girls in Belgium do better at coed schools? Is it that results vary by region and environment? Or, as Cathy Young pointed out years ago, are the benefits of gender-specific education largely unproven? Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, has disappointing news for single-sex education stalwarts: His new study The Paradox of Single-Sex and Co-Education: The Latest Research (not available online) argues that there don't appear to be any benefits to girls-only schooling, and that the slight advantages in test scores probably result from the fact that single-sex schools tend to be private. (Caveat: just as kids today sometimes say "ba-a-a-d" when they mean "good," the UK terminology for "private" and "public" schools is completely confusing.) From an article in the Observer:

Smithers, who will present his findings at a co-education conference at Wellington College in Berkshire, said that whether a school was single-sex or not had little impact on how well it did. His exhaustive review of data from across the world showed no evidence that single-sex schools were consistently superior. In Hong Kong, where 10 per cent of schools are single-sex, girls appeared to do better. But in Belgium, where co-educational schools are in the minority, boys and girls who study together get the best results. He highlighted the fact that 40 per cent of people who had a single-sex education wanted their children to go to a co-educational school.

The work was carried out on behalf of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, an organisation that represents the headteachers of some 250 leading independent schools in Britain. It comes after research published last month in Scotland showed that even in a co-educational school, separating pupils into single-sex classes failed to improve boys' performance. Rather than raising success rates, the move led to greater indiscipline, it found.

Single-sex believers aren't even waiting until tomorrow's presentation of the study to start defending. "There are irrefutable differences between girls and boys," says Brenda Despontin, president of the Girls School Association. "Girls have a greater ability to focus for longer, boys want to change [activities] more times. The requirements of a lesson and how it is structured are different. Parents want their girls feeling confident and comfortable about who they are. Sometimes having teenage boys around can be inhibiting for girls and vice-versa."

So let the war on boys go on!

Related: "There's no cock in this cockpit," promises the tagline for Where the Boys Aren't 17. (Talk about falling behind in gender-segregated studies: Why hasn't there been a new WTBA release in three years?)

NEXT: Big Government vs. Big Mac

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  1. [i]Girls have a greater ability to focus for longer[/i]

    If this statement is true of school-age children, it definitely reverses itself in adulthood.

    jafager

  2. Jason,

    Don’t try and puzzle it out.

    Girls are all equal to boys (when it’s to their advantage) otherwise they are DIFFERENT (when it’s to their advantage).

    It’s a trick, get an axe.

    Jake
    (who loathes the ‘sex card’ shell game)

  3. I dunno about learnin better at same sex schools, but there may be perceived environmental advantages that many parents consider a positive.

    I can see if, for example, you had a child who spent more time socializing and flirting and trying to date and they let their schoolwork slide, then it might benefit the student if they are put in an environment where they have less of those types of distractions….

    But this is more on a case by case basis….
    I never believed that education via same sex classes is inherently superior to education received via mixed sex classes….

  4. We live in a world where you will have to work in a co-ed environment and must have the ability to deal with the opposite sex on a professional level if you are to succeed. Given that, it seems awfully unwise to segregate children by sexes.

  5. I attended Brooklyn Technical H.S. when it was all boys.I don’t know if I had a better learning experience,but it was socially retarding spending four years with six thousand nerdy guys.

  6. Girls have a greater ability to focus for longer

    Having taught at elementary, middle, and high school levels, I can attest from experience that it depends on what age group you’re working with.

    In Elementary Schools, girls tend to outperform boys in just about every subject. The boys in the class tend to be more disruptive/talkative.

    This reverses itself in Middle School, where girls become more interested in the social aspects (boys, flirting, friends) of school than in their studies, while many boys are beginning to be a little more serious. In a Middle School class I’d much rather have all boys than all girls.

    By High School, both boys and girls tend to be about equally bad in academics, with boys gaining the edge in math and science and girls excelling more in language and writing skills.

    I’d say it depends a lot on the age and population that you’re dealing with.

    I for one would like to see single sex ed. given more of a chance in this country. It couldn’t be any worse that what we’ve got now – and might even be better.

  7. But in Belgium, where co-educational schools are in the minority, boys and girls who study together get the best results. He highlighted the fact that 40 per cent of people who had a single-sex education wanted their children to go to a co-educational school.

    I’m no statistician, but. . . doesn’t this at least imply that the majority of people who had single-sex education want the same for their kids? After all, forty percent is less than half.

  8. We live in a world where you will have to work in a co-ed environment and must have the ability to deal with the opposite sex on a professional level if you are to succeed. Given that, it seems awfully unwise to segregate children by sexes.

  9. I’m no statistician, but. . . doesn’t this at least imply that the majority of people who had single-sex education want the same for their kids?

    Yeah, the article’s full of weird and elliptical stuff like that; that’s why I wanted to get the full study, but alas, it’s lost in some all-girls school in the stratosphere.

  10. The problem you have is in not seeing that single-sex has to be better for all, just beneficial for some. With the amount of variation between the sexes clear, it pales given the variation between individuals. So what if 40% of single-sex educated people want different for their own children, those are their children, and for the 60%, assumingly, who do want single-sex education for their children they should have the clear right to it. At the very lest one can assume in a ?completive education market? such schools would exist, rationally.

    I am quite surprised the Reason did not pick-up on the notion that any one educational standard will ever be right for every individual student, nor that testing scores are rarely the best and only indicator of educational value as ChicagoTom pointed out.

    Sorry, but this has been bad form all round?.

  11. I’ve never found Asian women attractive. They have vaginas and breasts.

  12. “…but alas, it’s lost in some all-girls school in the stratosphere.”

    Um, I better go looking for it for you Tim. I’ll take one for the team on this one. Especially if it’s in Hong Kong. I’m so noble.

  13. I think ChicagoTom has it about right on the issue of single-sex classes. I’m just posting here to defend the British terminology for naming schools.

    Private tutoring is, obviously, a situation where only the children of the person paying for the tutor can be taught by them. Public schools are schools that are open to anybody, as long as they pay the fees. State schools are schools that are open to anybody and the state pays the fees. It actually makes perfect sense. Public schools aren’t private, they’re just not paid for by the state.

  14. That’s in England. In Scotland, a “private school” is a fee-paying school (cf. “private sector”), and a “State school” is a state school.

  15. Why the bad vibe toward “single-sex believers” and “stalwarts”? Ideally, parents who want their kids to have a single-sex education should be able to get it, and parents who want their kids to have a coed education ahould be able to get it, regardless of whatever is “proven” by “research”. (I’m not disputing the research, here, I’m just saying that it should be ok to not give a rat’s ass about it.) Is there a single Reason editor that will disagree with that?

  16. and that the slight advantages in test scores probably result from the fact that single-sex schools tend to be private.
    I don’t see that in the linked article.

    What I do see in the article, and elsewhere, is this:
    “But they are generally independent, grammar or former grammar schools and they do well because of the ability and social background of the pupils.”

    IOW, as usual, ability (IQ) makes more difference in educational results than any differences between same-sex vs single-sex schools, or public vs private schools. (And, for that matter, makes more difference than levels of school funding or various teaching methods.)

    Besides, all the information I’ve seen says that private schools, in the US sense, perform slightly more poorly than public schools when the socio-economic status (Newspeak for “ability”) of the students is taken into account.

  17. Jennifer, perhaps a portion of the remainder were indifferent to either single-sex or co-ed schools. If that were the case, your inference would be incorrect.

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