As the debate over the pros and cons of single-education continues, more public schools may start offering this option. And, of course, many private schools will continue their tradition of teaching boys and girls in separate classrooms and schools.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether single-sex education (public or private) is the best approach for your child. Following are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • If you’re considering single-sex education, be sure you understand all aspects of your child’s learning profile — including his temperament, strengths, interests and challenges. Also take into account your family’s priorities, traditions and cultural values which may shape the goals you have for your child’s education.
  • Remember that single-sex education need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. You may want your child to attend a single-sex school (or classroom) only at certain stages of her development or because of temporary conditions in your school or community.
  • Before enrolling your child in a single-sex classroom or school, find out what type of “escape clause” (such as transferring to a co-ed class in the same school) is available should you decide the approach isn’t right for your child.
  • If your child attends a single-sex class or school, you might balance her social life with opportunities for her to interact with peers of the opposite sex. Co-ed sports, community groups and extra-curricular activities are all good avenues for mixing it up. A mother whose daughter attends an all-girls’ school agrees: “I do feel it is important if the girl is pre-middle school that she cultivate friendships and time with boys outside of school. My daughter loves sports so she took karate and played basketball on a co-ed league where she was one of three girls on the team. I felt this time with boys was also helpful for her social development.”
  • Even if your child isn’t enrolled in single-sex education, understanding gender differences may help you fine-tune your approach to homework, “house rules” and family activities.
  • If you’re raising both sons and daughters, having some insight into gender differences may prevent you from making unfair comparisons between kids or having unreasonable expectations of them.

Single-sex education: one teacher’s perspective

A fifth grade teacher posted the following comment on, illustrating how flexible single-sex education can be:

    “I teach 13 fifth grade boys… just boys. We chose to separate the kids this year into four classes, two of each gender, and I see huge differences in the way the kids learn. My teammate …has 14 girls, and they’re generally pretty quiet, prefer to read everything first, work quietly together and talk out their thoughts My boys, however, [don’t care] about directions, prefer to work together to ‘build’ a project that illustrates what they’re learning, and they prefer to figure it all out as they go. While the girls are … happy to sit and work, the boys don’t want to. They sit in strange ways in their chairs (when they sit in them at all). They use their bodies to help others see what they’re saying, and the girls use their words to illustrate it. Should we separate boys and girls? I think it depends on the group of kids. This group needed to be separated — the girls are way ahead of the boys socially and that creates tension in the learning environment on both sides. My students last year (both genders) worked well together. They were both at roughly the same place on a social level, and were pretty happy to work together. Who knows what next year’s batch will bring!”