Education: single-sex and coed. Is one “better”?

With the diversity of education system offered in the United States today, many parents often wonder what the best route for their children’s success is.  Some feel the more controlled route of single-sex education will better serve their children’s future in the long run.  However, other parents feel that their children will be more greatly benefitted by a traditional co-ed education.  I have seen this debate play out in my own family between my cousin and I, both of us of the same age.  I went to a public coed high school and he went to a private single-sex high school.  He is now attending Notre Dame this fall as a Freshman, while I am obviously here in Happy Valley.  This sparked my mom to jokingly say at the family BBQ this summer that perhaps she should have sent her son to a single-sex school as well.  This actually got my attention and made me wonder if there is any legitimacy to those arguments.  This blog gave me the opportunity to do a little research and see for myself if there is a “better” education option between single-sex and coed.



Now, in the U.S this debate is mostly just opinions on either side referring to potential pros and cons of each education system.  This leaves us with little in the way of scientific research on account of parents understanding unwillingness to allow their kids grades to be tracked through some sort of experiment.  Also, in the U.S there are a number of confounding variables that could get in the way of such an experiment.  For instance, socioeconomic status in the U.S is certainly a confounding third variable that will distort whether or not single-sex schools are any better than coed schools.  Specifically, socioeconomic status could potentially account for a higher quality of teachers at private single-sex schools rather than coed schools.  

This was discouraging news for me to discover on my initial hunt for the answer to my question.  However, I soon discovered this study that was taken in Seoul, South Korea by a research team from the University of Pennsylvania.  In this study all of the variables for the experiment are perfect, except for the fact that the children in the study itself are not American.  Teachers are evenly distributed out so there is no worry of bad teachers in certain schools weighing down otherwise bright students.  The students in South Korea get randomly assigned to either a single-sex school or a coed school anyway just because that is the way things are done in Seoul.  Under this perfect storm of scientific experimental circumstances, the researchers managed to determine that both boys and girls placed in single-sex schools were able to achieve higher academic ceilings in the areas of college attendance and test scores in comparison to their coed counterparts.  



This study left two new lasting questions in my mind.  First, does a study that takes places in a country as different from the U.S as South Korea still apply to American children?  Second, does this data collected actually show that single-sex schools are “better” than Coed?  I feel as if both of these questions can have evidence and opinions on both sides of the fence.  This is a question that I am not sure science will ever be able to entirely answer.  Simply on account of how different the pace children’s brains develop is.  Also, it is usually not taken into account in this debate the other areas of education outside of the direct classroom that can only be found coed schools.  For instance, there are critical social skills being developed by students at coeds at a young age that will help them in all career fields down the road.  This is a factor that should also be taken into account along with the standardized test scores in any education debate.  Therefore, after concluding my research, I feel as though there is no such thing as a “better” education method between single-sex and coed.

7 thoughts on “Education: single-sex and coed. Is one “better”?

  1. Hannah Morgan

    I think this is a really interesting debate, as it doesn’t seem like there could ever be a universally true answer. I went to a public, co-ed school and after middle school, there was a large group of students who transitioned to private, single-sex schools. I definitely see the value in single-sex schools, and although I’ve never experienced it, it makes sense that students would tend to be more focused and more willing to speak up in class. On the other hand, a co-ed school prepares you for the standard dynamic throughout the rest of your life. It’s very rare for girls and guys to be separated after high school, so it seems like it would be an easier social transition coming from a co-ed high school. Ultimately, I think it comes down to individual personality in terms of what type of school is best for a student.

  2. Jillian Nicole Beitter

    Great post! I can really relate to this blog post because I went to a small all-girls high school. All throughout elementary school and up to middle school, I went to public school (co-ed). When I began high school though, I transferred over to an all-girls high school. From experience, I would have to say that the educational opportunities were a lot better than those at my co-ed high school. I don’t know if this goes for all single-sex schools, but I felt like I was given a better education. The work was more rigorous and I think having no guys around definitely helps with focusing. All my friends would always say how nice it was to wake up in the morning and not have to worry what you wear or look like. You weren’t trying to impress guys and frankly, they weren’t a distraction. I’m not saying that all guys are distractions, but that’s how it seems to come across a lot of the time. Personally, I never had an issue in the years before when it came to distractions, but for some reason, I just learned better in a smaller community. My school was especially small on top of the fact that it was all-girls, so it allowed me to get to know everyone and get a lot more one-on-one time with my teachers. Essentially, I felt like I was able to succeed more.

  3. Maura Katherine Maguire

    This post is one that really hits home. I attended an all girls high school and cannot find any bad things to say about it. While I love the CO ed atmosphere of Penn State there is something so special about an all girls school. I was able to be myself and mature not feeling nervous or pressured. Everyone around me was dealign with the same things and I felt comfortable and safe. I feel my all girls high school education has prepared me for anything thrown my way.

  4. Yinghui Huang

    This topic attracts me. It has been a controversial topic these years. I didn’t have experience of studying in a single-sex school before, so I don’t have much to comment on single-sex school. I feel really great about co-ed school. Boys and girls sometimes have different thoughts toward the same thing. It’s always interesting that you can hear various voices. It’s kind of like the bump of thoughts. Also study in a co-ed school helps me gain more social skills, which is quite beneficial for the future. Because it’s impossible that you only face single-sex people when you are in work career. I think that’s one of the essential advantages that co-ed school has. But single-sex school has its own advantage. Some of my friends choose to study in all-girls high school. Their school provides courses like tea ceremony, etiquette, dancing,etc which my co-ed school doesn’t have. So it may be hard to determine which one is exactly better. There’s an article
    also related to this topic arguing about single-sex school and co-ed school.

  5. Nathan O'brien

    I’m glad that you mentioned the difficulty of conducting a study in this subject area, as well as stating that there are likely some confounding variables in play. I feel as though even though the study was conducted in South Korea, it still has some relevance to U.S schools, although it is a very interesting point to bring up. Here’s my personal opinion on this matter, I think single-sex schooling has both pros and cons to it. I feel as though students learn more academics when in single-sex environments, however that does not necessarily make them better. This is based off of my personal experience, but I feel as though it’s necessary for males and females to interact with each other throughout their schooling. The more time you spend around the opposite gender, the better you can understand them, which I think is a very important aspect to consider. I looked at this website to get some better insight on my views on this topic

  6. Colleen Bridget Mcshea

    I love when people bring up this topic because I went to an all-girl high school and I absolutely loved every second of it! I do agree that it is healthy to learn in a co-ed setting, so I’m glad I’m getting that opportunity now, but I have to say that attending a single sex school was one of the most unique and amazing experiences I will ever have. I don’t know if the same goes for boys, but at an all-girl school there is such a great sense of sisterhood and it was so close-knit that it felt like home away from home. Not only can you throw your hair up in a bun without worrying about how you look, but the closeness of everyone in the school makes learning much easier and more comfortable. I don’t believe I’d be the person I am today without attending a single sex high school. Here is a link to my high school’s webpage if you’d like a closer look at what a real single sex school is like!

  7. Samantha Francesca Sichenze

    This issue always interested me, especially since I came from an all-girls high school. Some girls feel that they can’t act smart in front of guys or they’ll get distracted and not focus in class. I enjoyed going to an all girls high school because you never felt like you needed to impress anyone and you can be yourself. However, now that I matured, I can see the importance of going to a co-ed school. In the real world, you’ll be working with people of the opposite sex and you need to be exposed to that beforehand. In this article,, it explains some pros and cons of a co-ed school. In all honestly, I feel the question of single-sex or co-ed is all based off personal opinion. It all depends on which works best for you and what type of environment you can succeed in.

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