As the PSLE examinations draws to a close, the next thing most parents consider is the secondary School their little one will end up in for the next 4-6 years. There are many factors to consider when choosing a secondary school. Here, we want to focus specifically on one: single vs co-ed schools.
There are significant discussions online regarding the merits and demerits of single-sex and mix-gender schools. Many of the points raised are well considered and valid. In this article, we distilled the main points to help you decide if a single or co-ed school is better for your child.
1. School opportunities and CCAs
One of the main considerations when considering single-sex vs integrated schools is the co-curricula opportunities presented to enrolled students. In Mixed Schools, there is often a social expectation that certain CCAs are more suitable for guys and others for ladies. Certain uniform groups like the NCC and NPCC for instance, have traditionally been associated with a more male macho demographic. And performing arts CCAs like theatre are sometimes seen as more feminine in nature. In mixed schools therefore, students are often socially incentivized to pursue CCAs that are not too far from gender norms. This is rarely the case in single-sex schools. Most girls in all-girl schools are taught to be independent and have the “we can do anything just like the boys” attitude because there are no boys around. Boys too, are free to pursue whatever they like because there isn’t a need to juggle expectations from the girls.
2. Social skills and maturation
Studies also show that male students in single-sex schools mature at a slower rate than if they were in mixed schools. Girls typically mature faster than boys during such early years. Boys however, often mature as a response to female interactions and the need to appear more grown up. In mixed schools therefore, this dynamic plays out more naturally. Where boys and girls learn to interact and respond to each other iteratively.
In single-sex schools however, the emphasis is somewhat different. Principals and teachers often drill the “be a lady” mentality into them. They are taught decorums like how to sit appropriately and behave in a manner befitting their social settings. Boys too are taught similar manners on how to hold doors for girls and behave respectfully to the opposite gender. While they may not have as much actual interactions compared to students from mixed schools, the emphasis is discipline and habits training when it comes to such interactions. Heuristical evidence have also shown that, when single-sex school students finally go into mixed tertiary institutions, their interactions with the opposite gender are often more tasteful, mature, and respectful.
3. Gender interactions
A common concern which pops up on most discussion forums is the issue of teenage relationships. The worry is that mixed schools provide the perfect setting for both genders to interact and develop relationships that may be distracting and harmful for their studies. While that may be the case, it should be duly noted that such relationships are often present in single-sex schools as well. In fact, they may even take forms other than the traditional boy-girl relationship (BGR).
The pertinent issue however, is not so much what distractions comes from formalized BGR relationships, but from the fact that there is always another gender to be concerned about. The need to impress; to assert oneself in cross gender settings; secondary considerations about what other girls/boys might think; the seeking of attention. As a whole, these factors add up and the distraction accrued can become significant.
4. Academic performances
Academic grades differ significantly between students from single-sex schools and mixed schools too. Students in single-sex schools tend to excel in academics more so than their counterparts. In Singapore, the proportion of secondary schools with the highest cutoff points are mostly single-sex schools. University admission rates are also generally higher in single-gender schools than co-ed schools. Perhaps it’s the lack of cross gender distractions, or a greater emphasis to challenge gender stereotypes, or a broadening of education aspirations for both boys and girls. But if the end game is merely academic performance, then the data points in one direction.
There is no right or wrong type of school for your child. A lot of it boils down to personality and gender. If your child is more self-effacing and prefers not to contend with distractions from the other gender, then single-sex schools may be an option. If she prefers to explore the dynamics of more commonplace social interactions, then mixed schools could be the way forward. Whatever the choice, keep your child in the discussion, hear their concerns, offer appropriate advise. That way, they will take ownership of their choice and their years in secondary school will be a more fulfilling one.