The new academic year has begun and schools in Jamaica are expected to play a huge role in shaping the development of children and enabling them to achieve their full potential. However, one issue that some parents tend to reflect on is the question of single-sex versus co-educational institutions. To help us to assess the merits of both types of schools, Family and Faith Magazine caught up with veteran respected educator, Esther Tyson.
Family and Faith Magazine: What are some of the unique benefits and challenges of sending your child to a single sex institution?
Esther Tyson: Research has shown that girls do better at the sciences and math when they are in a single sex school. It appears that when girls are in co-ed schools they expect that the boys will do better at these subjects. Girls attending single sex schools generally are more competitive in that environment. I have seen where the girls attending a single sex school seem to be less prepared to engage with the opposite sex in a platonic way. Relationships with the opposite sex, unless they interact with them in other circumstances, tend to be rife with sexual interpretations and innuendos. Romantic attachments are imagined where there might be none.
In the same way, boys who do not have girls around tend to be rougher on the edges and may not understand how to treat the opposite sex. Boys in single sex schools seem to develop a more macho way of relating to each other in the absence of the girls. So there are academic as well as social advantages and disadvantages for single sex education.
Family and Faith Magazine: Although the answer to our next question was intimated in your first response, please still articulate for our readers the unique benefits and challenges of sending your child to a co-ed institution?
Esther Tyson: In a co-ed institution boys and girls learn to relate to each other as friends from early. In the 7th grade there is a healthy rivalry that takes place between all students. This changes when at about 9th grade the hormones really kick in and the awareness of the opposite sex in a sexual and romantic way change the dynamics of the relationships. Some girls become more shy and demure because they are trying not to compete with the boys but instead want to give them space to shine. On the other hand, boys may start to antagonize the girl that they like as a backhanded way of showing it. The dynamics of the interaction certainly change in upper school. Underlying all of this though is a history that these students have with each other and an understanding of each other unlike those who are educated in a single sex school. In a co-ed school a girl can learn that she can do as well at the sciences, math and tech/voc subjects as any boy. This knowledge can boost her self-confidence. Girls and boys in co-ed school develop an understanding that they can have a platonic relationship with the opposite sex without any sexual or romantic attachments.
Family and Faith Magazine: Do you have a preference for either one, as it pertains to preparing a well-rounded actualized individual? Why or why not?
I think that both systems have their benefits. Both my daughters went to a single sex school, whilst my son went to a co-ed school. My girls had other environments apart from school where they interacted with the opposite sex, so the social impact was not felt. Academically, they were able to compete with other girls in all areas and develop their own skills without competing with boys. My son has good friendships with girls that he went to school with which are platonic, this is a healthy outcome of co-ed education.
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