Possible Benefits of Single Sex Education
All good teachers create a differentiated learning environment in their classrooms. Those teachers who have the advantage of teaching in a single-sex classroom can tailor every lesson, every unit, and every project for boys or girls. This is not to say that all boys think alike and that there isn’t any overlap with their girl counterparts. However, it is widely agreed that, in general, boys and girls learn, process information, and mature differently.
I worked at an all-girls school for a few years, and I loved seeing the students pile out of cars and buses at the start of the day. The girls were happy and messy! By messy, I mean their hair was piled on top of their heads and they wore little to no makeup. They wore the prescribed uniform, but with sneakers and a comfy sweatshirt over their white shirts.
My son attended an all-boys school outside of Philadelphia for six years – from 7th through 12th grade. Because we had moved around, this was his third school and first single-sex school. It was a great fit for him. There is so much for all students to navigate in middle school and for my son, attending an environment where everything was geared towards boys really opened things up for him.
As part of the admissions process, we, as a family, got to attend a student talent show. Our tour guide proudly told us that his little brother was planning on solving a Rubik’s cube for his act in the show. With a big, genuine smile, he said, "and no one will make fun of him here – we’re a brotherhood."
There’s a significant amount of research that says boys and girls learn differently and that there are real benefits to single-sex education. The International Boys School Coalition and the National Coalition of Girls Schools both offer strong, research-based arguments for the benefits of single-sex education.
An all-girls education can provide young women with a sense of empowerment and help them become leaders in their larger communities. Risk-taking is encouraged. Many of the stereotypes that are baked in at a very young age are not reinforced in a single-sex environment. The head of the school I worked for loved to tell prospective families about a group of lower-school girls who had come from a co-ed environment. They were asked to draw a scientist, a doctor, and an astronaut. Early on in the year, they all drew adult men in these roles. When they were asked to draw these professionals again at the end of the year, most of them drew women in the roles! One even drew a self-portrait of herself in a white lab coat with a beaker and a statement of self-description: "I’m a scientist!"
On the flip side, an all-boys education can provide young men with many of the same things—an educational space where they can freely discuss issues of masculinity in the current culture. When they are at school, they too are free from many of the stereotypes of what a young man or a boy does or likes. Ideally, an all-boys environment also creates strong leaders who can engage with their greater community with a sense of vulnerability and humility.
In many areas of the US, families have a wealth of choices when considering an independent school education for their children. It’s a big decision—a commitment to a community and a significant financial commitment. Even if it’s something parents may not have considered before, it may be worth exploring single-sex institutions when conducting a school search.
By Erin Brady
Erin Brady serves a dual role as Co-Director of Private Client Services and one of Bennett’s Global Team Leads, supporting Bennett’s consultants in Canada and parts of the U.S. In the latter, she oversees consultants working with families relocating to Greater New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Phoenix, and Toronto. She also serves as the Bennett International liaison for a leading global investment banking, securities, and investment management firm in New York. Erin joined Bennett in 2006 and has worn many hats over the years, consulting with families relocating to areas throughout the U.S and to non-U.S. locations; she eventually focused on U.S. boarding school and New York city placements, PreK through grade 12, though she was frequently called on for other tasks such as co-managing special projects and serving as the Senior Account Representative for a large Global Relocation client.
Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.