Academy of the Holy Names, which is an all-girl school, was founded in 1881 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

Examining the Advantages and Disadvantages of Single-Sex Education

January 28, 2019

At Academy, students may have trouble recalling what it is like to learn with the presence of boys in the classroom. However, a student’s school environment can play a significant role in how they behave in the classroom, especially when one gender is removed, as well as their likeliness to participate. With that being said, how large of an effect does a gender-controlled school setting have on the students attending that school?

When examining the difference in student behavior within a co-educational institution and an all-girl school, there are several factors, such as student participation, social skills, and level of focus to consider. According to “Hanger Hall,” when girls attend a single gender school, the school “teach[es] girls that there is enormous potential and power in being a girl.” Therefore, all-girl schools encourage young women to feel confident in who they are, which correlates to increased participation in the classroom.

Furthermore, in coeducational schools, students may feel intimidated by their male counterparts, who could prevent female students from wanting to answer in-class questions or to inquire about concepts that confuse them, which may have an effect on their educational experience overall. Girls refrain from participating due to their fear of being made fun of by their fellow classmates, which can lead them to see school as a place that is unsafe. Therefore, all-girl schools present students with the opportunity to develop not only their confidence as young women, but also their leadership skills.

Transfer student Catherine Neumeister (‘21) said, “I feel much more relaxed in the classroom [since transferring to Academy]. For example, when I used to ask questions in class that the boys might have considered ‘dumb,’ I’d get pestered or ridiculed for it without intervention from a teacher. Not only does this not happen at Academy, but if it were to, that behavior would not be tolerated. Additionally, while giving presentations or doing group work, everyone is cooperative and respectful. In a co-ed environment, boys and girls are trying to ‘prove themselves,’ but at Academy, everyone is working together towards similar goals.”

When female students become more engaged in their schooling, their overall performance improves. For example, a University of Pennsylvania working paper states that “high school female seniors who attend all-girls schools show significantly higher mean scores than their peers who attend coeducational schools.”

Maddie Chandler (‘19), who transferred to Academy during her sophomore year, said, “I don’t think changing to an all-girl school had a huge impact on my grades, but it definitely influenced my likeliness to participate in class. I was pretty close with everyone in my grade at my old school, so I wasn’t necessarily afraid to speak up, but now I definitely feel more confident participating in class.”

All-girl schools also encourage young women to be supportive of one another rather than always trying to compete.

Neumeister said, “I definitely prefer Academy’s all-girl environment. It builds stronger friendships and better focus among the students. Many girls at my previous school were very toxic towards each other when trying to make a good impression on the boys. At Academy, people don’t look at you weirdly if your hair is a mess or you’re not wearing makeup; you get to focus on your education first and foremost. Boys were constantly trying to ‘prove their masculinity,’ yelling and roughhousing in the hallways and doing silly things to get the class off-task, but I’ve taken notice that teachers at Academy have to raise their voice much less frequently than at my previous school.”

Despite the benefits of single-sex education, there are also disadvantages to this form of schooling. Firstly, those opposed believe that schools segregated by sex inhibit a student’s social skills. Being separated from male students, for example, may cause girls in a single-sex school to feel uncomfortable being around boys and forming friendships with them, which has the potential to stick with young women into their adulthood.

In addition, some people believe that single gender schools promote sexism. When genders are purposely kept apart, students may adopt preconceived notions and stereotypes about the opposite gender, creating toxicity.

Chandler said, “I would say that I do miss having boys in my classes sometimes. They definitely can be annoying at times and a distraction, but they give off a different type of energy and that always kept things interesting. I also liked being in a co-ed school because we always got to support the boys in sports by wearing their jerseys, and they always supported us, which was really nice, and I miss that.”

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