Face Off: Are co-ed schools better than single-sex schools?

Joanne MaIris Lee

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Joanne MaIris Lee |

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Diocesan Girls' School is one of several single-sex schools in Hong Kong.

Cyrus Fung, 16, HKUGA

Single-sex schools were more common in the last century, but now that social beliefs are more liberal, most schools are co-ed these days. I believe this change is for the better, and there are many reasons for this opinion.

If we’re looking at long-term academic performance, students from co-ed schools perform consistently better than same-sex school students, according to a 2010 report called “Should the sexes be separated for secondary education – comparisons of single-sex and co-educational schools” by Pamela Robinson and Alan Smithers.

The benefits go beyond academia, too. A 2006 survey of 17,798 Canadian students, conducted by Vresearch company The Strategic Counsel, showed that 72 per cent of students from co-ed schools find it easy to communicate and make friends with the opposite sex, and at least 84 per cent feel comfortable expressing opinions in front of the opposite sex, compared to the significantly lower percentages involving students from single-sex schools.

The ability to interact with the opposite sex is a crucial skill, because many such situations crop up in the real world. It’s highly likely that students will enter a co-ed university and workplace later in life, so why should they be put in a same-sex school?

In conclusion, co-ed schools are indeed better than single-sex schools, both in terms of academic performance and for preparing students for the real world.

Do students learn best when given the chance to interact with the opposite gender?

Iris Lee, 16, Hong Kong International School

To say “yes” to this question would be like giving everyone the same exact shirt, and expecting it to fit them all perfectly. Shirts come in many different sizes and designs to suit different people, which is the way it should be. Similarly, one type of school cannot suit every individual.

One could argue that single-sex schools are, in fact, better than co-ed institutions in that they offer an environment in which gender bias does not hinder learning. Time magazine reported in 2015 that “teachers spend up to two thirds of their time talking to male students; they also are more likely to interrupt girls but allow boys to talk over them.” This is not a problem in a same-sex school. There is even research to show that some girls perform better in certain subjects when boys do not monopolise the teacher’s attention.

However, people supporting co-ed schools could argue that same-sex schools promote gender bias, and don’t prepare students for the real world where both genders mix. I do not think co-ed schools are better than same-sex schools, but I don’t believe same-sex schools are superior, either. I think we need both types of schools to suit different people’s needs.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda