The purpose of this paper is to prepare a proposal for a policy that enumerates the effectiveness of the existing policy laid down in relation to single sex education and coed education. As per the current policies which are in effect, under federal statute 34 CFR 106.34, in the Unites States the decision to choose a school, whether particular gender or coed, completely depends upon the student or the parents. This decision has to be voluntary and a person cannot, under any circumstances, be forced to adopt a decision under coercion of any kind or any other method of creating pressure. The practice of assigning students to single gender or coed schools with no choice to opt out from the arrangement is considered illegal in the United States.
Through this paper,appropriate action with respect to this policy would be devised, and the merits, as well as demerits of the current policy structure, would be discussed. Education, in itself, is the foundation of any society. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that the policies that are made in this regard should be effective and should help create a conducive environment for children so that they can grow up to become individuals who make a positive contribution towards society. (Boyce, Mary E., 2003)
Single sex education, though considered appropriate by many because it maintains a distance between the two genders, has its own sets of pros and cons. This was an old practice which was developed during the 18th and early 19th centuries; today it is making a comeback in the educational sector. Many private schools have followed this tradition, but this is the first time that even public schools have considering single gender classrooms and education policies. One of the driving force, which was found by the National Association for single sex public education, is that the learning pattern and speed of males and females are different and so teaching them in separate classrooms would make the environment more conducive for them. Another argument in favor of single gender education and which illustrates the before mentioned point is that when teachers have a classroom of only one gender of students they can adopt and use more effective methods of teaching as well as teaching aid which would be geared towards the students and help them learn better.
Research reports, based on analysis and research done on this topic, claim that single gender education helps in broadening the educational prospects for both girls and boys. Further, they claim that there is less pressure to compete with the other gender, and thus it helps in breaking down gender stereotypes. Apart from these arguments, which are purely academic in outlook, parents have advocated single gender education because they believe at certain ages the opposite gender can be a distraction. Considering these points Federal Laws have been passed which have made it possible for schools to allow parents and students the option of pursuing education is a single gender environment.
However, there are certain arguments that are not in favor of single gender education and which advocate that students should study in a coed environment. The first argument says that while people talk of gender specific teaching methods, there are very few teachers or educators who are trained to make use of such especially methods. At the end of the day, whether a teacher is addressing a class of boys or girls they would resort to and adopt more or less the same teaching methods. Most teachers are adept at including different teaching styles which satisfy the educational needs of girls and boys in the same classroom. (Chalmers, D., 2007) Also, it has been found that the differences in learning needs is not based on gender but the personal attributes of the students, and they would still think those needs whether the class was comprised of students of the same sex or both the sexes.
The next argument says that removing the pressure of competition between genders would not help improve the performance of students. On the contrary, when students compete with each other in classrooms, on an academic front, it instills the spirit of healthy competition in them and urges them to perform better. Looking at the future, people cannot always be compartmentalized based on their genders. When they start working, or even when they study towards professional qualifications they would have to work with members of the opposite sex. Single gender environment limits their capacity to feel comfortable with members of the other sex, and it often leads to issue with a cooperation.
The American Council on Education reports “there is less academic disparity between male and female students on a general level, and a far greater achievement gap between students because of their racial, ethnic or other such reasons.” Further, one can argue that the concept of single sex or single gender education is against the provisions of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which provides for equal education opportunities to members of both the genders. One may say that the opportunities provided to both genders are equal and in no way are different, but this does provide ground for gender discrimination. (Bess, James L. & Dee, Jay R, 2008)
The arguments given in favor of single gender education and coed education are logical and must be taken in consideration, but in order to propose changes in the policies towards this education system, one should look at conclusions drawn from papers that have conducted an analysis based quantitative research. One such study was conducted by the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. Under this study students were randomly assigned to single gender classes and coed classes with no option to opt out of these classes for the duration of the study. The results of the behavior study conducted on students of both classrooms and the answers given to survey questions by the students revealed the following observations:
- Girl, who attended single gender classrooms, were more likely to go on to attend college and get a profession degree. The same held true for boys who attended single gender classrooms
- The students at single gender classrooms scored significantly higher test results as compared to students from coed classrooms.
- The girls assigned to single gender classrooms had more confidence in their ability to learn science and take it up as a profession as compared to girls from coed classrooms who maintained that science is for boys.
- In terms of proficiency testing, the test results of students in single gender classrooms were significantly higher than students in coed classrooms.
- Some students were able to score higher marks during tests in single gender classrooms who had earlier been labeled as suffering from ADHD etc.
Keeping these observations in mind, one can conclude that single gender classrooms do provide new opportunities for students and in many cases they help in creating opportunities which did not exist before. One must keep in mind that there is no guarantee of 100% success in such endeavors because as per Dr Leonard Sax, “without proper preparation things can go horribly wrong”. (Bédard D., Clément M. & Taylor K. L., 2010)
However, at this juncture, this paper proposes that there are relative merits of single gender classrooms in public schools. This paper supports the current policy which provides that the decision to attend a single gender school should be voluntary. In addition to that, one change that can be brought to this is that, for schools that adopt the single gender education system, special stress and emphasis should be placed on training of the teachers so that they select the correct education methods. Also, the school should make certain provisions for interaction of both the genders outside the classrooms so that the concern people have that in a work environment or other social places where people of both the genders would meet would be awkward, and they would have work issues, can be suitably addressed. Apart from this, one can recognize that there are benefits and advantages of single gender schools and parents as well as students should have the right to choose which private or public school they want to go to as per their convenience or as per their choice and comfort. (Boyce, Mary E., 2003)
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