classes increase girls’ participation in physics, computer science, etc.
studies provide support for this assertion. The largest such study was
published in July 2002 by the National Foundation for Educational
Research. This study examined the course choices of 369,341 pupils from
2,954 schools in the United
Kingdom, whereas single-sex high schools are
widely available in the public sector. These researchers found that girls
in girls-only schools were about 40% more likely to take advanced science
courses than were girls of comparable ability at coed schools. In
this respect, "being in a girls school counteracted the effect of being a
girl, since girls in mixed schools [i.e. coeducational schools] were less
likely to take [advanced] sciences than boys" (p. 42). More
generally, they found that girls' schools break down the distinctions between
traditional "girls subjects" such as English and foreign languages
and "boys subjects" such as physics and computer science (p.
43). You can read more about this study online, and link to the NFER Web
site, at www.singlesexschools.org/evidence.html.
Jamaica is another
country where single-sex public schools are widely available. In a large
study of Jamaican schools, girls at single-sex high
schools did significantly better in math and science than girls at coed high schools (Hamilton, 1985).
In fact, the girls at single-sex high schools often outperformed the boys in
math and science. The study concluded
that "the effects of sex stereotyping are more sharply apparent in the
coeducational setting, for here there appears to be a stronger need to
differentiate between the sexes. Thus, even if subjects such as mathematics and
the sciences are technically available to girls in this type of school, they
are more likely than their single-sex institutional counterparts to get the
message that such subjects are unfeminine, and beyond
their grasp intellectually."
Other relevant studies:
- Lawrie and Brown surveyed 284 students ages 14 and
15. They found that girls at
all-girls schools reported enjoying math more,
and found math less difficult, than girls who attended coed schools. Girls at the all-girls schools were
more than twice as likely to say that they planned to take advanced math,
compared with girls at coed schools.
Jackson and Ian David Smith evaluated girls’ experience in single-sex
math classes for five consecutive semesters, from 5th grade
through 7th grade.
Eighty percent of girls said they were more confident in the
single-sex class. Only 15% of
girls said they preferred the coed format.
- Harvey and Stables
surveyed 2,300 students regarding their attitudes toward science. They found that girls at single-sex
schools had significantly more positive attitudes toward science in
general, and physics and chemistry in particular, compared with girls at
Colley, Matthew Gale, and Teri Harris asked 11- and 12-year-olds about
their preferences for different subjects. Girls attending all-girls schools
were more likely to prefer math and science than were girls at coed schools.
and Clark asked teenage girls how they felt about computers and computer
science. Girls at all-girls schools were far more positive in their feelings
toward computers than were girls at coed schools – despite the fact
that girls at both schools had the same amount of access to computers.
Ann Colley, Matthew Gale, and Teri Harris. “Effects of
gender role identity and experience on computer attitude components.” Journal
of Educational Computing Research, 10:129-137, 1994.
L. Culley. “Gender equity and computing in secondary schools: issues and
strategies for teachers”. In J. Beynon
& H. Mackay, Computers into
classrooms: more questions than answers, London: Falmer Press, 2000, pp. 147-159.
Harriet Hamilton, "Performance levels in science and
other subjects for Jamaican adolescents attending single-sex and coeducational
high schools," International Journal of Science
Education, 69(4):535-547, 1985.
T. J. Harvey and A. Stables. “Gender differences in attitudes
to science for third-year pupils:
an argument for single-sex teaching groups in mixed schools.” Research
in Science and Technological Education, 4:163-170, 1986.
C. Jackson and I. D.
exploration of single-sex and mixed-sex educational environments in Australia and England.” Educational Studies, 26:409-422,
T. Jones and V. Clarke.
“Diversity as a determinant of attitudes: a possible explanation of the apparent
advantage of single-sex settings.”
Journal of Educational Computing
Research, 12:51-64, 1995.
L. Lawrie and R. Brown. “Sex stereotypes,
school subject preferences and career aspirations as a function of
single/mixed-sex schooling and presence/absence of an opposite sex
sibling.” British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62:132-138,
P. Newton and E. Beck. Computing: an
ideal occupation for women? In J. Beynon & H. Mackay, Computers into classrooms: more
questions than answers, London: Falmer Press,
1993, pp. 130-146.