Researchers from around the world have not yet reached a consensus on which is better: co-ed or single-gender education. This is due in part to the many different sociocultural characteristics influencing individual schools. Every child, family and school is different. Still, some research-based statements can be made about how co-ed education affects students in the classroom -- and while many factors are positive, a few are negative.
Girls Get Less Attention
Female students are at a disadvantage in certain areas in co-ed classrooms -- specifically, when it comes to commenting in the classroom. Teachers tend to interact with boys more, according to the National Education Association (NEA): They give lengthy, verbal responses to boys' questions and comments. On the other hand, teachers generally respond to girls' comments by nodding or with a short "OK." In a co-ed classroom, some girls may not be able to get a word in edgewise. In addition, girls are reprimanded more frequently than boys are for calling out without raising their hands.
Boys Get Less Help
The stereotype of male independence comes with a price: Girls tend to get more help in the classroom from teacher than boys, according to the NEA. In a co-ed classroom, it's the girls who will be helped more when they struggle, whereas boys are likely to be told to work it out on their own. The NEA also points to studies showing that boys do better academically in single sex schools and take a greater interest in exploring new activities. Because boys are more fidgeting and less restrained than girls, they receive a disproportionate amount of discipline and rebuke for failing to pay attention. Youthful energy is punished instead of harnessed.
Girls Are Less Confident
The NEA reviewed several studies on same-sex education and came to the conclusion that one benefit of all-girls' schools is that girls tend to be more confident in the classroom when their male counterparts aren't present. This means one disadvantage of co-ed education might be that girls are less confident around the boys in the classroom -- more hesitant to try new things, take the lead or show off their math, science and technology skills -- fields traditionally dominated by males.
Boys Are Less Cooperative
The same NEA review of multiple studies found that boys also benefit from same-sex classrooms: They tend to be less competitive and feel less peer pressure, especially in the area of physical development. In a co-ed classroom, boys are more reluctant to engage in cooperative learning due to their tendency to be more competitive with each other around their female classmates.
- National Education Association: Research Spotlight on Single-Gender Education
- National Education Association: Educating Boys for Success Are Today's Classrooms Biased Against Boys?
- ASCD: Single-Gender Classes Can Respond to the Needs of Boys and Girls
- The Atlantic: Stop Penalizing Boys for Not Being Able to Sit Still at School