Will you choose coed or single sex education? Both coed and single sex schools have pros and cons. How do the two types of schools compare? In this article find different factors to consider when choosing between single-sex and coed private schools.  

Maybe you or your child have already decided on whether co-ed or single-sex education is the right choice; maybe you're still considering. Here are some of the important claims made for single-sex and coed education to help you know what the possible advantages and issues are. As you read, keep in mind that there are true believers arguing on both sides of the issue, and that the best school is the one that is a good match for a particular child at a particular time in his or her life.


Boys and girls learn differently.

It is claimed that girls and boys have different:

  • patterns of brain development 
  • brain processing is different, and - in specific - has a different relationship to the center of emotion. 
  • have differentiated hearing sensitivity 
  • respond to stress in different ways

and that these differences can best be responded to by differentiating their instruction and learning environment.

Coed settings encourage gender stereotypes

Simply put, the idea here is that if girls don't see boys doing math and science they won't those subjects are for boys only and if boys don't see girls doing art and music, they won't think it's for girls only. Some studies have shown that both male and female students who have been educated in single-sex environments have a stronger preference for subjects that are stereotypically aligned with the opposite sex.

Teachers may treat girls differently from boys in math, science, and computer related classes, giving them less attention and fewer learning opportunities.

This kind of favoritism is impossible in a single-sex classroom.

Single-sex settings are said to improve classroom behavior.

Since girls mature earlier than boys, in a class by themselves they are relieved of the consequences of the acting out that boys of the same age may engage in.

Social pressures accompany a coed environment.

Advocates claim that to a greater or lesser extent, behaviors around dating - such as preening, showing off, and carrying on social behavior during academic courses - may be reduced in a single-sex environment.


Coeducation gives students the opportunity to witness and adjust to different learning styles.

Male and female students can learn from each other's approaches and learn to collaborate, each bringing their style to bear in working for common goals. This is claimed as an important learning opportunity by advocates of coeducation.

Coeducational schools are microcosms of society.

Since men and women are likely to interact in the workplace and in the home, say proponents of coeducational schools, school can be an environment in which gender differences come to be understood, preparing students for life. Students can also learn to deal with the social issues that arise in mixed company rather than avoiding them.

Stereotypes can be broken by experience of the range of gender behavior.

It is claimed that girls seeing boys in the art or music class and boys seeing girls in the math, science, and technology classes gain evidence that these pursuits are not gender-linked.

Some studies have shown that there is no particular benefit to single-sex education.

The study of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 1998, for example, found no evidence to support single-sex education as better than coed education. Another study has shown that only students from disadvantaged families significantly benefit from single-sex education.

In some cases, due to legal requirements, coed schools have more experience.

It wasn't until May, 2002 that the U.S. Department of Education made plans to revise regulations on single-sex education after a corresponding provision was added to the No Child Left Behind Act. This will encourage the development of more single-sex schools, but as this trend begins, co-ed schools may have an advantage from having “been in business” longer.

Single-sex schools that have been found successful may have other causative factors contributing to their pupils' achievement.

Some have suggested that results in the positive studies may be influenced by factors such as small class size, a stringent admissions policy, or more emphasis on academics.

Some feel that segregation is a “loaded” technique.

Some people consider segregation to be the wrong answer to any issue.

Some studies show that a single-sex environment leads to too competitive an atmosphere.

In this cases, the co-ed school atmosphere was thought to be healthier.

Co-Ed or Single Sex Education Sources:

  • whygendermatters.com
  • singlesexschools
  • 2.edc.org
  • ericdigests.org
  • nasbe.org
  • womensenews.org
  • literacytrust.org.uk
  • aauw.org
  • winchesterthurston.org
  • ed.gov

Written by Mary Elizabeth.