Boys and Girls Have Different Needs
By Father John Flynn
ROME, 15 JAN. 2007 (ZENIT)
Advocates of separate education for boys
and girls received support from a report published recently in England.
In December , Ofsted, the government's inspectorate for children
and learners in England, published a report titled, "2020 Vision." The
document looked ahead to see what personalized teaching and learning
might look like in schools 20 years into the new millennium.
The report supported the idea that boys should be taught separately to
stop them falling further behind girls, reported the London-based
Telegraph on Jan. 4.
The report itself contained a section commenting on the "gender gap" in
the educational performance of boys and girls. This difference in
performance has been shown to exist in many countries. A study published
by the Program for International Student Assessment in 2000 showed that
girls performed significantly better than boys on the reading test in
all but one country. Mathematics also showed a gender gap
in favor of boys
although this was much smaller.
The reasons for the gap are complex, the Ofsted report observed.
Research shows that even from a very early age boys place a greater
value on believing themselves to be better at mathematics and science,
and girls at reading and art. The differences in performance, however,
can be countered by teaching methods that are specifically designed to
help boys overcome their difficulties.
Moulsham High, for example, in Chelmsford, a town in southeast England,
has been separating boys and girls in the first few years of school
since the 1970s. And it has resulted in success for both boys and girls,
reported the Telegraph in a separate article Jan. 4, as part of a series
on single-sex schools.
"You only need to look at an 11-year-old boy to see that he is radically
different to a girl of the same age and deserves to be treated so,"
Chris Nicholls, the head teacher, commented to the Telegraph.
Moulsham divides the sexes when pupils join the school at 11. Once they
reach 14, they are mixed for some lessons, but for math, English and
science, single-sex lessons are maintained.
Chelmsford County High School for Girls is a school with consistent
success in single-sex education, reported the Telegraph on Jan. 11.
The school for girls aged 11-18, located in Essex county, outperformed
every other school in England, according to results published last
Glynis Howland, the school's acting head, told the newspaper that
single-sex education was vital to girls to give them the best chance to
Her argument about development was supported by an earlier report
showing that it's not only a question of test results. Girls who
attended single-sex schools go on to earn more in the world of work than
those in mixed education, although they do no better in exams, reported
the London-based Times newspaper Sept. 22.
Researchers at the Institute of Education's Center for Longitudinal
Studies studied 13,000 people born in 1958. They found that by the age
16, girls educated in single-sex schools were more likely to study
subjects that they enjoyed and were good at, rather than allowing gender
stereotypes to influence their choice of subject.
This pattern continued at university and work, thus enabling the young
women from girls' schools to enter areas of employment typically
dominated by men, and in which salaries tended to be higher.
"Single-sex schools seemed more likely to encourage students to pursue
academic paths according to their talents rather than their gender,
whereas more gender-stereotyped choices were made in coeducational
schools," said Alice Sullivan, co-author of the report.
Limits eased in U.S.
Positive results from separate education spurred changes in federal laws
in the United States late last year. The Department of Education issued
rules, taking effect Nov. 24, giving government schools more freedom to
separate boys from girls in the classroom, the Associated Press reported
"Some students may learn better in single-sex education environments,"
said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. "These final regulations
permit communities to establish single-sex schools and classes as
another means of meeting the needs of students."
Previously, under rules in force since 1975, single-sex classes were
only allowed in limited cases, such as sex education courses or gym
classes. Now schools are able to offer separate classes if they believe
it will offer educational benefits. Enrollment in a single-sex class
will be voluntary.
The changes will also make it easier to institute single-sex schools, as
long as local authorities can demonstrate that it also provides coed
schools with "substantially equal" benefits to the excluded sex.
Following the changes in regulations, a number of press reports
highlighted the growing support for giving parents the option of
choosing separate education for boys and girls.
Campbell Hall, a private North Hollywood mixed school, began eight years
ago to separate the boys from the girls in seventh- and eighth-grade
math, and it has worked so well that they are now doing the same with
science, the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 20.
The article observed that research has long suggested that girls in coed
settings defer to boys and receive less attention from teachers. The
idea of separating the sexes is, however, strongly criticized by some
groups, such as the the American Association of University Women and the
American Civil Liberties Union, the Los Angeles Times noted.
The results at Campbell Hall have, nevertheless, been positive. After
separating the sexes for math, girls are taking more advanced math
courses in high school and are participating more in class.
On the East Coast, the Smith Leadership Academy in Dorchester,
Massachusetts, is a charter school for about 200 sixth- through
eighth-graders, and is the only public school in that state known to
teach male and female students separately, reported the Boston Globe on
Formerly run as a Catholic school, it has had separate classes for boys
and girls since it opened as a charter school three years ago.
In DeLand, Florida, the Woodward Avenue Elementary School is another
single-sex education success story, said a Nov. 18 editorial in the
Faced with lower test results by boys, the school three years ago gave
parents the choice of enrolling their youngsters in single-gender
classrooms. Test results from the first year of the experiment showed
significant gains for pupils in the single-sex classes, the Chicago
Supporting the recent changes in federal rules, the editorial argued:
"The key here is choice." Not all children are the same, but by making
available the option of separate education for boys and girls parents
are able to choose the method that works best for their child.
Another experiment in separate education, this time in Canada, has also
shown positive results. Glenmerry Elementary School has improved test
results after separating the sexes, reported the Vancouver Sun on Nov.
After having separated the boys from the girls, the seventh graders have
achieved scores that are now at an all-time high, even higher than the
average scores in the region and the province. Moreover, the results
have improved for both boys and girls.
Lorraine Garnett Ward, in an opinion article published by the Boston
Globe on Oct. 30, said that what must we do to ensure that both boys and
girls grow to their full moral and intellectual potential.
An English teacher currently on leave, she argued that single-sex
schools and classes allow young people to free themselves from the
burden of learning differences between the sexes, and gives them the
opportunity to develop their potential. An argument that is increasingly
gaining force. ZE07011730