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The Consequences of Single-Sex Education

The Consequences of Single-Sex Education

Co-education has been the norm in the American education system throughout the past three centuries. Recently, there has been a growth in interest in single-sex education arrangements. In 1972, Title IX of the anti-discrimination law was passed prohibiting sex discrimination in education; what was just the norm was now the law (Hughes, 2007). However, in the 1980s, several decisions were passed by the Supreme Court, allowing single-sex education with the condition that education for both sexes was comparable and all facilities were available to both sexes. More recently, the No Child Left Behind policy was passed. This policy allows schools to make any adjustments necessary to ensure that all children have access to the same quality of education (Hughes, 2007). The policy provided the opportunity to revisit the idea of single-sex education arrangements. This arrangement has mainly been used in private schools, but more public schools are examining the possibility of separating boys and girls in teaching. Nonetheless, single-sex education is not without controversy. While some support this kind of education arrangement, many believe that it has too many disadvantages. The purpose of this research paper is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of single-sex education.

Overview of Single-Sex Education

Single-sex education is a relatively old approach to sex education that separates girls and boys when teaching. While this can be considered a relatively old approach, it has recently started to gain popularity as more public schools consider it an approach to teaching sex education. The growing popularity of single-sex education is cross-national. Several countries have been exploring the idea of single-sex classrooms or entire schools. Some countries that have explored this idea include Britain, Australia, and Canada (Smyth, 2010). The United States public school system has also been exploring this idea. However, these schools have been held back by ambiguous snit-discrimination laws. The legality of single-sex classrooms was not understood until 2006, when the Supreme Court decided that these schools were legal as long as there were no differences in resource provision between the gendered schools. Before then, schools that were interested in single-sex education provided them in classrooms within coeducational schools. For instance, they would get girls on the side and teach them separate from the boys (Smyth, 2010). Today, however, some public schools have been open to creating full-on single-sex schools. According to the National Association of Single-Sex Education, over 400 public schools in the United States provide some form of single-sex education. The driving force of this movement is the inherent differences between girls and boys. Single-sex education is based on the notion that boys and girls learn differently. However, this idea has been widely debated. The single-sex education movement has triggered a debate that extends beyond academics. Political, socioeconomic, legal, and civil rights issues related to this form of sex education have been concerns have been raised. As the debate heats up, it is important to understand both sides of the argument. Therefore, this paper evaluates the reasons that have been presented in support of and against single-sex education.

Advantages of Single-Sex Education

One of the main arguments for single-sex education is that it allows the use of teaching strategies geared towards particular genders. Some researchers argue that there are some significant learning differences between boys and girls. According to Leonard Sax, the creator of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, the environments that are appropriate for learning are different for boys and girls. The design of the classroom and the school environment should be different depending on the needs of the boys and the girls. Having students in a coeducational setting makes it difficult to create a learning environment that meets the needs of both boys and girls. According to Gurian and Ballew (2003), one of the differences in the learning environment for boys and girls in space. Boys tend to use more space in their younger learning ages compared to girls, who prefer to sit together in smaller spaces. Boys are naturally always on the move, which causes them to require more space than girls. On the other hand, girls tend to be better at adopting collaborative learning that gets them to sit in groups that require smaller spaces. Separating students in terms of their gender enables educators to design schools that meet the specific needs of different sexes. This kind of design is believed to enhance academic performance.

Single-sex education has also been promoted as a strategy for improving behavior. Single-sex learning, especially for adolescent students, is believed to improve the students’ behaviors. Hughes (2007) argued that students tend to develop a culture within the school that affects their behavior and academic performance. In co-education settings, it is easy for this culture to be inclined toward socialization. Adolescence is a period of significant biopsychosocial development. During this stage of development, students may start to prioritize socialization with the opposite sex (Stromquist, 2007). In coeducational settings, the students may end up getting distracted by socialization, leading to negative effects on their academic performance. Single-sex education has also been connected to a reduction in disciplinary problems. Schools that only have one sex have lower disciplinary issues compared to co-education schools. Additionally, single-sex schools record much higher attendance rates. Therefore, single-sex education arrangements cause destruction to reduce, disciplinary issues to decrease, and attendance rates to increase. If these changes are to go by, these schools will positively affect students’ academic achievements.

Single-sex schools have also been suggested to break down gender stereotypes. Some researchers believe that these schools play an important role in eliminating gender divisions in the academic pursuits between genders. There are often some gender differences when it comes to the paths that students take in school. For instance, boys are more likely to pursue math and science subjects than boys. In co-education schools, girls may feel the pressure to compete in such male-dominated subjects. Separating schools based on sex, however, gives the girls the confidence that they need to pursue any subject without the pressure of being limited to female-dominated subjects. Single-sex schools are believed to instill confidence in female students that they would otherwise not have.

Disadvantages of Single-Sex Education

Nonetheless, many scholars have criticized single-sex education settings for various reasons. First, these education settings are believed to limit some important aspects of child development. Restricting students to single-sex environments limits their opportunity to learn how to interact with people of the opposite gender. Since male and female characteristics are so different, it is important to socially develop children from a young age to learn how to understand and accommodate these differences (Stromquist, 2007). For example, boys may not have the same communication strategies or emotional reactions as girls. Understanding these differences is important for people from opposite genders to communicate and interact with each other in a healthy manner. Life does not end in school; after school, the students are introduced to an environment where they have to interact with people of the opposite gender. With limited social skills, the students may experience challenges adjusting to this new environment (Stromquist, 2007). Therefore, having students in a mixed-sex education environment, at least in their crucial years of social development, is advisable.

Single-sex education has also been criticized as an approach to learning that can cause significant achievement gaps between students from different social and cultural backgrounds. First, single-sex education schools can demonstrate significant achievement gaps in some subjects achievements. Doris, O’Neill, and Sweetman (2013) studied the possible effects of single-sex schools on math achievement between genders. The study found that there was a big gender differential for children educated in single-sex schools compared to those in coeducational schools. Therefore, mixing students can be more beneficial in eliminating educational disparities between genders. Aside from gender, single-sex schools can cause learning inequalities in racial and ethnic minority communities. In communities that do not have enough public schools, many students can be forced out of good schools because of gender limitations (Williams, 2004). Maintaining general accessibility in public schools is necessary for ensuring that all community members have access to good quality education.

Some researchers have also suggested that coeducational classrooms decrease overall performance for both boys and girls. Pahlke, Hyde, & Allison (2014) performed a meta-analysis of several research studies examining the effects of single-sex classrooms on academic performance compared to coeducational classrooms. This analysis found the claim that single-sex classrooms improve performance to be false. Instead, students who were part of mixed-sex classrooms had much better performance. Therefore, placing children in separate classes can negatively affect their academic achievement.

Discussion and Conclusion

Single-sex schools are a relatively new concept in the American educational system. Like most new things, there ought to be some controversy over this kind of education arrangement. A majority of people are used to coeducational schools; hence, they will likely criticize a new educational arrangement. Nonetheless, introducing such a significant change to the country’s educational system requires an in-depth assessment of the possible benefits and drawbacks. This essay has examined the positive and negative effects of single-sex education. This form of education separates male and female students in the classroom or the entire school. This analysis shows that there are three potential benefits to such an arrangement. When education is separated by gender, there is a chance to design it in a way that considers gender differences in learning. Single-sex classrooms are designed specifically for the learning needs of the gender of focus. Additionally, this form of education has been found to improve behavior management in school. Children in single-sex schools have been found to have better behaviors than those in coeducational schools. Single-sex education is also believed to eliminate gender stereotypes in education. This arrangement allows students to be freer in pursuing educational paths that are not gender-determined. On the other hand, single-sex education has its drawbacks. This kind of educational arrangement limits important aspects of social development. Interacting with the opposite gender is important for child social development, and single-sex schools eliminate this interaction. Additionally, this form of education arrangement has been found to cause significant achievement gaps between male and female students. It can also enhance the disparities in educational attainment for racial and ethnic minorities. Some studies also suggest that single-sex classrooms can reduce overall achievements for both male and female students. Therefore, as much as single-sex education is gaining popularity, it is important for stakeholders in education to carefully examine their influence on the students’ current and future life. Current research is balanced for and against single-sex education; hence, it is up to stakeholders’ objective judgment to determine what is best for the students.


Doris, A., O’Neill, D., & Sweetman, O. (2013). Gender, single-sex schooling and maths achievement. Economics of Education Review35, 104-119.

Gurian, M., & Ballew, A. (2003). The boys and girls learn differently action guide for teachers. 1st ed. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Hughes, T. A. (2007). The Advantages of Single-Sex Education. Online Submission23(2).

Pahlke, E., Hyde, J. S., & Allison, C. M. (2014). The effects of single-sex compared with coeducational schooling on students’ performance and attitudes: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin140(4), 1042.

Smyth, E. (2010). single-sex education: What does research Tell us?. Revue française de pédagogie. Recherches en éducation, (171), 47-58.

Stromquist, N. P. (2007). The gender socialization process in schools: A cross-national comparison. Background Paper Prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2008.

Williams, V. L. (2004). Reform or Retrenchment-Single-Sex Education and the Construction of Race and Gender. Wis. L. Rev., 15.


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The Consequences of Single-Sex Education

Term Project Directions:

Research Paper:

For the research paper you are expected to write a paper that should be no less than seven pages long, excluding the title and reference page(s). You should research the topic using library resources and additional readings and references at the end of the chapters assigned. The paper must follow APA format, including citations for all references you use and submitted to See the Resources section for assistance with APA. Also, see the possible topics section below for help on choosing a topic.

Possible Topics

  • Cross Cultural

    The Consequences of Single-Sex Education

    The Consequences of Single-Sex Education

Choose one culture and demonstrate how men’s and women’s roles are portrayed. Compare and contrast this culture to the United States.

  • Gender and the Media

Demonstrate the most recent research on how gender and gender roles are portrayed in the media.

  • The Role of Hormones in the Development of Gender Roles

Demonstrate the most recent research on the role that hormones might play in the development of gender roles.

  • Single-Sex Education

Illustrate the most recent research that evaluates (not describes) the consequences of single-sex education.

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