The results are in for co-ed vs single sex schools

New research from Flinders University has addressed critical factors in educational outcomes, including looking at the impact co-ed schools have on academic results.

The debate between single-sex and co-educational schooling has long been a topic of interest among educators, parents, and policymakers. However, recent insights from David Curtis, Adjunct Associate Professor at the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, Flinders University, suggest that the type of school may not be the critical factor in educational outcomes that many assume it to be.

Drawing from the national Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data, a significant revelation has emerged: the academic performance gap between genders in reading literacy. By Year 10, boys lag almost three terms behind girls, a disparity that remains unaffected by whether students attend coeducational or single-sex schools. This finding challenges the commonly held belief that single-sex education might be more beneficial for certain genders.

The 2018 PISA data, encompassing around 14,000 15-year-old students, most in Year 10, from all states and territories and the three school sectors, further reveals that at the highest levels of literacy achievement, males and females are nearly equally represented. However, males are disproportionately represented among the lowest achievers. This suggests that the issue of underperformance in literacy is more complex than the type of school attended.

In the realms of mathematics and science, the gender gap narrows, with boys slightly outperforming girls. Here, the type of school shows a more pronounced effect, with single-sex boys’ schools having an edge over coeducational ones. Yet, this advantage does not extend to girls-only versus coeducational schools, indicating that the benefits of single-sex education may not be universally applicable across genders and subjects.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the PISA findings is the impact of socio-economic status on educational achievement. Students from low-SES backgrounds in both single-sex and co-educational settings are significantly disadvantaged, trailing their peers from higher-SES backgrounds by about two years in learning. This highlights the need for a broader focus on socio-economic factors in education, beyond the scope of school type.

These insights call for a reevaluation of the emphasis placed on single-sex versus co-educational schooling in determining academic success. While the debate is likely to continue, it’s clear that other factors, such as socio-economic status and individual support needs, play a more pivotal role in shaping educational outcomes.

The PISA data and expert analysis by David Curtis open up new perspectives in the single-sex versus co-educational schooling debate. It underscores the importance of looking beyond the type of school to address the deeper, more systemic issues that influence student achievement. Understanding and addressing these underlying factors will be crucial in ensuring every student has the opportunity to excel, regardless of their school’s composition.

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