On this page:
- Single-sex education: arguments for
- The uniqueness of female students
- Catholic schools for girls
- Questions to consider
Schools can also be divided into coed and same-gender environments (i.e., in which there are separate schools for girls and boys). Although the vast majority of schools in Poland are coed, girls-only and boys-only options are still available and enjoy great popularity.
In Poland, coed schools are the norm.
Of course, that wasn't always the case. At first, only boys and men were educated, and when the need to educate girls was noticed, separate schools were created for them. Until the mid-nineteenth century in Poland, as everywhere else in the world, there were only separate schools for each sex—first for boys and then for girls.
It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century, when emancipation movements appeared, that coed schools began to emerge. In small towns and villages, especially at the lowest education level, coed was especially appealing givenl the availability of teachers and/or premises.
For more on coeducation, read "Coeducational schools in Poland," where we present the main arguments for and against these schools.
Single-sex education: arguments for
As education became accessible to both genders, gender-specific schools didn’t disappear. Schools educating each gender remained to help boys and girls develop and learn differently and meet their different needs.
Here are the main arguments for single-gender education:
• These schools can better tailor lessons and curriculum to their students.
• Boys and girls learn differently, and single-gender schools can adapt to these differences without compromise. Many of the alleged skill differences between boys and girls are due to the fact that subjects are not taught in a way appropriate to their respective learning styles.
• In areas where boys and girls often do well—whether intellectually, physically, or behaviourally—they’re not held back by the other gender In areas where they may struggle, they’re not suppressed by the other gender or constrained by simplified gender stereotypes.
• Students can more easily develop their true identity.
• In adolescence, students can be more themselves without competition between the genders.
• Learners can try different things and discover their unique interests and skills without the limitation of stereotyped gender roles.
• Without being distracted, students can more easily focus on learning and extracurricular activities—areas that bring greater benefits. They don't have to be "cool" at the expense of academics or development.
• Attending a single-gender school doesn’t prevent students from interacting with the opposite gender, whether in extracurricular activities or outside of school. Before children enter the world of relationships, they’re strong and fully-formed individuals.
The uniqueness of female students
Although society has changed, girls-only schools can still be very beneficial for many girls. They can make it easier for girls to concentrate on their studies.
A study by the National Association for Choice in Education (NACE) and other studies found that girls in these learning environments are more interested in science and technology, and take part in a wider range of extracurricular activities.
"Girls and boys really learn differently," says Dona Matthews, author and educational psychologist at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto. “Girls more often than boys prefer to learn in a collaborative and team learning model. Boys are more competitive and benefit from this trait.”
The main benefit of separate schools for boys and girls was highlighted in the 2008 study “Individual Education and Academic Achievement at School and Life.” The study found that this option helps students succeed in subjects that are less obvious for their gender—for example, girls do better at math and science, and boys do better at languages.
For girls, a significant benefit lies in developing their personality in an environment free from the entrenched traditional gender stereotypes that can stop them from displaying many types of behaviour. In coed schools, girls often withdraw during science lessons because boys often dominate there. When there are no boys in the classroom, they feel more at ease studying this subject.
In many ways, gender dynamics haven’t changed in many countries around the world, and public life is still overwhelmingly the domain of men and women are confined to the home, says Burch Ford, president of the US-based National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS). "Schools for girls provide not only a physical but also a psychological space where that part of our culture stays behind the door, and girls are free to discover who they are and who they want to become."
Girls who attend girls-only schools outperform their female peers in coed institutions (on SAT exams an average of 28 to 43 points), and nearly 100% of female graduates continue their studies at universities, according to NCGS. "In girls-only schools, there are no social consequences to speaking out, questioning others' opinions and being themselves, which allows girls to develop the critical and creative thinking skills that are essential in the 21st century job market," says Ford.
Single-gender education eliminates aggressive behavior in girls who try to impress their peers in this way. Girls mature faster emotionally, they begin to dress up and provoke their male friends who, at their level of development, aren’t ready for it yet. Girls, instead of focusing on their studies, show a premature interest in the opposite gender, which becomes very important to them.
Girls' parents emphasize that they’re relieved their teenage daughters don’t have to deal with peer pressure in a coed classroom, where some girls are forced to become adults too early or behave in certain ways to impress the boys. In their opinion, a girls-only environment gives them a lot of freedom to see who they are and discover who they want to be.
Catholic schools for girls
Studying at a Catholic school is one of the options for supporters of single-gender education. These schools teach in the spirit of Christian values. They’re sometimes run by church institutions, although not always. Some of these schools, many of which are single-gender, are run by individuals or secular organizations.
Education in Catholic schools for girls is not only focused on academics, but also emphasize spiritual growth. Many proponents of single-gender education believe this is an excellent learning environment—safe and focused on developing identity and personality without external distractions.
Questions to consider
According to experts, as many as 80% of boys and 80% of girls have brains similar enough that the same teaching/learning styles are appropriate for them. But what about the 20% that don’t?
As a parent, you may feel that your daughter or son doesn’t fit the norm. The following questions will help you with this:
• DOES YOUR CHILD WORK BEST IN A GROUP OR DO THEY PREFER COMPETITION?
Girls usually learn best in collaborative settings, while boys like competition.
• DOES YOUR CHILD ENJOY READING OR PHYSICAL EXERCISE MORE?
Boys generally need encouragement to sit quietly with a book.
• DOES YOUR CHILD LEARN BEST THROUGH LISTENING, LOOKING, OR ACTION?
While girls tend to learn well when content is conveyed verbally, boys seem to benefit more from hands-on learning.
• DOES YOUR CHILD TEND TO EXPRESS THEIR FEELINGS MORE THROUGH HUGGING OR ROUGH PLAY?
While most girls hug and kiss, boys prefer rough behaviour and playful fights.
• DOES YOUR CHILD EASILY UNDERSTAND COMPLEX INSTRUCTIONS, OR DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE THEM ONE BY ONE?
Most girls are better at multitasking and dividing their attention.
• DOES YOUR CHILD LISTEN PATIENTLY OR DO YOU HAVE TO REPEAT INFORMATION?
Boys tend to be less able to concentrate.
Is separating girls from boys the best solution? Although the question of single-gender education vs. coeducation raises many problems for parents and students to consider, no answer is right or wrong. "It's very much a matter of individual preferences," says Matthews. "For some girls and some boys, a heterogeneous environment is entirely appropriate, and for others it’s a complete failure."
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