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Should You Send Your Child to a Single-Gender Private School?

May 21, 2008
A controversial subject in today's education debates is the theory that boys and girls should be educated separately because they learn differently. When selecting a private school parents wonder if there is there any merit to this debate.

Do Boys and Girls Learn Differently?

The basis of the theory of single-gender private school is that there is a body of neuroscientific research that shows male and female brains are different. The single-gender advocates interpret this to mean they learn differently. They aren't saying boys are smarter or that girls are smarter, just that they learn differently.

Not surprisingly, these positions have ignited a firestorm. Opponents say these results are a result of gender stereotypes rather than real science or are a result upbringing rather than innate characteristics of the brain. A few magnify it into a conspiracy designed to keep girls from learning math.

Interestingly, the neuroscientists who produced the data are not the ones advocating single-sex education and have cautioned people from drawing practical conclusions from these preliminary and limited findings. Even if the gender-related learning differences are true, gender is still a very weak indicator. Many factors correlate to learning ability more strongly than gender.

It's About More than Learning Ability

Parents choose to send their child to single-gender private schools for a number of reasons. Some evidence shows that girls are more likely to explore traditionally "boy" subjects like computer programming and auto mechanics if they are in all-girl schools. They end up performing better in math and science than their peers in mixed gender schools.

This crossover works for boys as well. Students in all-boy schools are more likely to take courses such as art. Boys and girls exhibit different social behavior without the inter-gender interplay. Boys are less competitive with no girls to show off for and girls are less shy and more relaxed.

Your Child Is Not General; Your Child Is Specific

Frankly, much of the single-gender education debate is completely irrelevant to parents. It doesn't matter how girls learn; it matters how your daughter learns. It doesn't matter if boys are competitive around girls; it matters if your son is competitive.

Studies that show learning differences based on gender, age, or other factors often show more variation within a group than between groups. For example, there is more variation in abilities when comparing girls to each other than when comparing girls to boys.

When evaluating private schools, evaluate single-gender schools just like you would any other - by how well their programs would fit your child. A boys' school may be the right choice for one boy and the wrong one for another - even if those boys are brothers.

By judging schools by your child's particular and unique needs, you can find the optimal educational institution that will provide the best education possible.
About the Author
Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on Private
Schools
, visit http://www.Petersons.com
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