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.