Face off: Should single-sex schools be compulsory in Hong Kong?

Heidi YeungDorothy Yim

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic.This week ...

Heidi YeungDorothy Yim |

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Yasmin Subba, 19, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Some people say that the lack of co-ed interaction at a single-sex school is bad for students. I think single-sex schools can be good for their academic and professional development.

Besides, attending single-sex schools does not rule out other activities where young men and women may interact. For example, extracurricular activities such as sports competitions (like the Young Post 6th Dragon Boat Championship earlier this month) are perfect opportunities to develop teamwork, socialising and problem-solving skills involving both genders.

Single-sex schools reduce the pressure of gender expectations placed upon young students by the opposite sex. In a co-ed school, students may choose subjects that suit their gender. For example, boys in co-ed schools often shy away from subjects that are considered feminine, like art, for fear of being called "girly". In single-sex schools, boys and girls are free to pick whichever subject they want, without worrying about gender-based stereotypes.

In a world where men dominate leadership positions, the impact of single-sex schools is noteworthy. Girls in single-sex schools have the freedom to be more outspoken. Secondary school often shapes a student's personality. This means a girl who is encouraged to develop so-called "unfeminine" traits of a leader, such as assertiveness, is more likely to show those qualities even after graduation.

In fact, women in leadership roles are more likely to have had a single-sex education. According to the US's National Coalition of Girls' Schools, one third of the female board members at Fortune 500 companies, and one fifth of female Congress members, went to all-girls schools.

Single-sex education levels the playing field in professional industries. And it encourages students to develop as individuals without the limits of gender stereotypes.

Dorothy Yim, 19, University of Sussex

The concept of single-sex schools stems from the belief that the learning process of girls and boys differ. As such, their education should be handled differently to maximise learning benefits. But should academic excellence be the main focus in any education system?

To me, education in single-sex schools creates gender stereotypes because options are limited. For example, some boys' schools do not offer English literature because it is believed that boys are usually better at science than humanities. Education shouldn't stop people from choosing the subjects they want.

Also, although academic excellence is said to be more common in single-sex schools, few academics are formally trained to teach in gender-specific schools.

In co-educational schools, students can equip themselves better with social skills and a sense of diversity. Those who experience co-education tend to be more respectful towards the opposite gender.

Seeing both boys and girls in leadership roles, for example, breaks down stereotypes and promotes gender equality. In a workplace, there are different types of personalities and management styles, so the earlier we learn to succeed in such an environment, the better it is for us in the long run.

Also, not everyone wants to go to university. Some people want, or need, to go straight into the working world. For these people, co-educational schools, which mimic real life more than single-sex schools, are better.

In addition, going from secondary school to university is a big jump. According to research, those from single-sex schools are more at risk of unpredictable behaviour. For example, those that didn't have much experience interacting with the opposite sex were more likely to have unhealthy romantic relationships.

Each person's pathway differs. This means that the only option is to offer both single-sex and co-educational schools to cater for the needs of all.

If you're interested in debating for Face Off, email Heidi with "Face Off application" in the subject at [email protected]