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Co-Educational vs. Single-Sex Institutions


Co-educational institutions are grounds for going against status quo’s and improving self-esteem, developing social skills, and preparing students to be world leaders in the working world.

Since the very first institution built in the 1600s, education has become a universal concept relevant to everyone (National Geographic Society). But only in the 1800s did the first concept of co-education make an appearance (The New York Times). Since then and now, it is deemed to be the most common education system that is continually debated of its benefits compared to single-sex institutions. But the underlying question is which one is more beneficial for students?

According to an article written by Michael Gurian, an American philosopher and author, entitled With Boys and Girls in Mind, Michael “saw the PET scans of boys' and girls' brains, I [he] saw how differently those brains are set up to learn.” This can lead some to believe single-sex institutions provide better education that is geared to the individual development of students. But what co-educational institutions excel greater in is being able to see eye-to-eye with both genders and allow them to thrive.

This can be supported back to the 1700s when Horace Mann, an education reformer believed that well educated teachers were an asset to a student’s success. He decided to create the "normal school" that was specifically designed for educators where they would be properly educated and trained for coexistent classroom environments. In today’s society however, common schools are no longer common, and instead educators are now certified to teach students through an Associates, Bachelors, or Doctorate degree of education.

But the role of an educator is still the same, which is to teach students equally so that within co-educational institutions, curriculum and teaching styles are not geared towards one gender, but rather neutral to accommodate to both. This brings mutual respect, and no superiority or comparison between the two genders since they are both being taught the same curriculum.

In addition to the idea that boys and girls learn differently, this is exactly an issue within single-sex institutions. While there is full capacity for students to learn from each other in a single-sex environment, it also means that half the population is not being heard and a whole different cognitive schema is not acknowledged. However, in co-educational institutions, students are able to engage with the opposite sex which can promote social skills as they interact with each other’s masculine and feminine behavior in close proximity for six hours a day. Furthermore, it has been argued that within single-sex institutions students are given the opportunity to express their own views without judgment and involve themselves in things that might not be considered gender appropriate. But although gender stereotypes and misconceptions of the capabilities of both genders may be partially tamed by single-sex institutions, they hinder a student’s full ability to perform.

In co-educational institutions, students are able to challenge the idea of sexism and are given opportunities to compete with one another to remove those barriers. Instead of being afraid of the opposite sexes judgment, co-educational institutions encourage students to participate in all activities even if they may not be considered gender appropriate. This removes comfort zones that easily entrap students to go with the status quo and instead, build character, decrease of sexism, improved self-esteem, and allow students to learn from each other.

Likewise, single-sex institutions have argued that co-educational institutions bring distractions to both genders. But this issue is deeper than the institution or the individuals themselves since every student goes through adolescence. With adolescence comes emotions, physical changes, and unbalanced hormones; but this issue is rooted back to our natural human instincts-the need to survive and reproduce. Attraction and sex-drive is healthy in the development of both females and males since for the majority of students want to get married. However, this also does not mean that sex-drive should be acted upon condescendingly towards the opposite sex, but rather acknowledged as a natural state of life.

Another corresponding issue tied with distraction between the sexes is what about those who are bisexual or homosexual, etc? How can attraction in the classroom be controlled then? Especially in today’s culture where there are various types of sexuality within institutions that go unknown, single-sex institutions can make student’s various sexual orientations feel isolated and ashamed to express themselves. Whereas in a co-educational setting, acceptance towards both genders and everything in between allows for a safer environment. Also, although attraction can be a distraction within the classrooms, during adolescent years, students are in one of their most crucial times of development which should not be hindered. So, learning to control temptations early on can influence better behavior towards the opposite sex as early adulthood approaches and adolescent urges die down.

Apart from the development and behavior of both genders in co-educational institutions, another benefit is the atmosphere of learning through diversity. Especially because transitioning to an institution can be challenging when students are unsure of what to expect. But a pro for individuals who attend co-educational institutions is the amount of diversity present compared to what you would see at some single-sex institutions, as most are private and a financial burden. This allows for students to be exposed to different cultures, languages, personalities, and develop an appreciation for them.

Lastly, Horace Mann believed that as long as there were well educated teachers to prepare students, they would be able to do great things for society. But beyond the walls of institutions, males and females can be found working together in every working environment. This gives all the more power to characteristics benefited through co-educational institutions to prepare students for their life outside of the classroom. Opposed to single-sex educational institutions that put up barriers between the genders when students are put into the workforce, a lack of social and communication skills can hinder those from reaching their full potentials.

More importantly, within the workforce, there is bound to be competition between the sexes. And according to an article written by Global Editor, Nikki Waller, "How Men & Women See the Workplace Differently," featured in The Wall Street Journal, “men win more promotions, more challenging assignments and more access to top leaders than women do…” Once again, this is where skills obtained from co-educational institutions are helpful to not only women, but men in some fields. This is so that when students are faced with degrading statistics, they can see it as a challenge to change them and furthermore showcase the fruit from attending co-educational institutions.

For this continuing refute to not necessarily be solved, but improved, proposing the idea of combining single and co-educational institutions into one gives students a choice early on to choose which is more beneficial to them. Because no matter how hard we try to confine students to a specific education system,“there will [always] be some boys who will prosper within a single-sex setting. Some girls will prosper. There will be others who will do better in a co-ed setting…” said by Canadian Historian and Professor at the University of Ottawa, Sharon Anne Cook in an article entitled Co-Ed or Single Sex Education? Featured in The Globe and Mail Inc.

All in all, both institutions have their own benefits as well as their defects. However, it is evident that co-educational institutions provide a greater environment for students to learn. School is not just about academics, but be educated outside of our own cultures and opinions, and ultimately, allow for both genders to express their masculine and feminine traits to feel more accepted into the community and prepare students for adulthood to make their mark in society.

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