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02 December 2013

Should all students be taught in a single-sex environment?

Should all students be taught in a single-sex environment?

Is it right to separate pupils on the basis of gender in this modern age or is it more beneficial for students to attend same-sex schools? Would a more natural mixed environment be better preparation for the future? We asked Rebecca Bassey from Thames Christian College to respond.

90 per cent of pupils in Britain go to comprehensive schools according to Wikipedia and most of these are co-educational. Nationally only 400 state schools are single-sex, meaning that the majority go to mixed schools. In the independent sector, many schools are single-sex up to GCSE but have mixed sixth forms. Is this the right balance or should there be more single sex schools? What are the advantages of one against the other?

According to The Daily Telegraph's 2012 Secondary School League Table the top state school is a co-educational school. This goes some way to prove that pupils do thrive in a mixed school environment. Nonetheless, a single sex environment is greatly preferred by some parents, judging by how oversubscribed single-sex schools are.

One argument against mixed-sex schools is that the girls will get distracted by the boys. At my school we have a 'no dating' rule which was brought in at the request of the students. This popular rule enables us to form real friendships with the opposite sex without the pressure and distraction of dating. It also breaks down the preconception that boys cannot be supportive and reliable friends. Furthermore, it creates an environment where friendships are built for life between genders.

I believe one of the most important aspects of my school, Thames Christian College, is that it accepts boys and girls. I feel that mixed schools provide a healthy school environment. My perception is that girls-only schools can be bitchy and boys-only schools can be too macho and boisterous. In mixed schools, these tendencies are counter-balanced and the positive attributes of each gender negate the less desirable characteristics.

Psalm 144:12 says: "Make our sons in their prime like study oak trees, our daughters as shapely and bright as fields of wild flowers." This shows us that the different genders have different attributes and complement each other as God intended. God has created us as individuals and whether you are a boy or a girl he wants us to work together. Based on this I believe Christians should embrace and support co-educational schools. 

Some co-educational schools offer the best of both worlds with single-sex classes for some subjects when it is more beneficial, without losing the advantages of the mixed environment. For example in my school in Year 9, the girls were taught biology and sport separately meaning that in sport the girls could do netball and avoid doing rugby. In my research, seven out of 10 girls, when asked if they liked single sex classes within a mixed environment, agreed that, "it would be nice to have single sex classes for some subjects."

I have come to realise that boys and girls express their ideas in different ways and that they can benefit from each others' insights. It has been suggested in research that boys do better academically, with less disruption in class, in a mixed-school environment as they are spurred on by the girls who mature earlier and are more conscientious. The advantage to the girls is they benefit from the boys' more logical approach.

Mixed classes are held to be the best learning environment as they break down the belief that one gender is superior to the other. Personally, I believe a mixed environment is best as it is more natural - more realistic. A single sex environment does not prepare us for life in the real world and denies us the opportunity to have healthy friendships with members of the opposite sex.

In higher education institutions all classes are mixed. Therefore, we should look to familiarise our young people with a mixed gender environment so that when they move on to higher education they are not at a loss communicating with the opposite sex or struggle to develop relationships.

Overall, I believe young people should be fully prepared for the integrated society in which we live and work.