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Of course, coed was not always the norm. At first, only boys and men were educated, and when the need to educate girls was noticed, separate schools were created for them.
It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century, when emancipation movements appeared, that coed schools began to emerge. Although in small towns and villages, especially at the lowest education level, the reasons for coeducation were more practical, namely, the availability of teachers and/or premises. Separate schools for each sex, however, dominated until the middle of the 20th century, especially at the level of secondary and higher education. Soon, however, they were almost completely replaced by coed institutions. In 1972, the U.S. even issued a statutory order for all public schools to be coed, which was not lifted until 2001. Single-sex education was then subsidized and the number of non-coed schools increased significantly (from 4 in 1998 to 540 in 2009).
Coed schools in Poland
There are many types of coed schools in Poland at all levels of education. These are both public and private schools, including international, bilingual and language schools, special needs schools, schools for gifted children, sports, art, music, and religious schools. Also alternative schools, e.g. Montessori schools or Waldorf schools.
In addition, there are boys-only and girls-only schools, but these aren’t as popular as in other countries. Rather, they’re an educational alternative. They operate mainly in large cities and their surroundings, e.g., in Warsaw, Poznań, Gdańsk, Katowice, Łódź. Some of them are Catholic schools.
Arguments for coeducation
The argument most often given to justify this model of education is that it adapts to life in a society that does consist of both women and men. Here are others:
• Lack of unequivocal research results showing better learning outcomes in single-gender schools.
• The argument that boys and girls learn differently is based on the results of studies which show the differences in the perception and processing of information between the genders aren’t significant and don’t have an obvious impact on the effectiveness of learning.
• To the argument that the learning of students of both genders in one class causes tensions, supporters of coeducation point out that tensions can also arise in a single-gender environment.
• Research shows that up to 80% of students’ (both boys’ and girls’) brains are similar enough to enable them to respond to the same teaching style.
• The learning process is richer when boys and girls inspire each other in the classroom.
• The presence of boys and girls in the classroom creates a balance that is mutually beneficial. Where boys excel, they raise the bar for girls and vice versa. Diversity allows students to try harder and to challenge themselves.
• Students have more opportunities for social development.
• Students learn to be tolerant of people other than themselves and to treat each other with respect. Students interact with both male and female role models.
• Especially in the older grades, many students appreciate friendships with the opposite sex.
• Coed schools offer students a better opportunity to learn comfortable interactions with the other sex.
Arguments against coeducation
The arguments against coeducation are in fact arguments for single-gender education:
• A single-gender school can better tailor lessons and curricula to its students.
• Boys and girls learn differently and same-gender schools are able to adapt their teaching to these differences. Many of the alleged skill differences between boys and girls are due to the fact that subjects are not taught in a manner appropriate to their respective learning styles.
• In areas where boys and girls often do well—whether intellectually, physically, or behaviourally—they are not held back by the other gender. In areas where they may have difficulties, they aren’t dominated by the other gender or restricted by gender stereotypes.
• Students are less confused about developing their unique identity.
• During adolescence, kids can be more themselves without gender competition.
• Kids can try different things and discover their unique interests and skills, regardless of social expectations related to gender roles.
• Without being distracted by the presence of peers of the opposite sex, students are more focused on learning—areas that pay off more later in life. They don't have to be cool and can focus on their studies.
• Attending a single-gender school doesn’t prevent students from interacting with the opposite sex, whether through extracurricular activities or outside of school. Before children enter the world of relationships, they’ll be strong and fully-formed individuals.
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