Parents often face conflicting advice when deciding whether to send their child to a single-sex or coeducational school.
Despite the lack of evidence, there remains a strong and widely held belief that single-sex schooling is better for girls and coeducation is better for boys.
There are more single-sex schools for girls than for boys in each of the three Australian educational sectors: government, Catholic and independent.
As a consequence, more boys than girls are enrolled in some coeducational schools.
So as a parent, how do you decide which school is best for your child? And, importantly, what do you actually want out of a school? For example, is the focus on achieving good grades, or about making sure your child fits in and feels accepted?
There is no straightforward answer, but research has revealed there are some key things to consider when choosing a school which might help determine where to send your child.
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Single-sex or co-ed school?
The single-sex versus coeducation debate in Australia has a long history. Public perceptions can be skewed by the media which, in presenting a view, have a tendency to cherry-pick research findings, or simplify issues by ignoring the complexities.
To date, here’s what we know:
Government schools are predominantly coeducational. Around 65% of Australian students attend these schools, which also tend to have higher percentages of disadvantaged students than in non-government schools.
While data show that non-government schools tend to have higher academic success than government schools, a determining factor for this relates to the socio-economic (SES) status of students. NAPLAN data reveal that higher SES correlates directly with higher NAPLAN scores.
Most of Australia’s single-sex schools are found in the fee-paying non-government sector. This means that financially secure parents have a wider choice of schools open to them.
Of the small number of single-sex schools in the government sector, many are academically selective.
Research suggests that girls who attend single-sex schools are more confident about themselves as learners in subjects such as mathematics and physics than in coeducational schools. In the absence of boys, the girls also feel less constrained in engaging in classroom discussions.