Study finds advantage in single-sex schools

BY BECK ELEVEN
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2009

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The gender gap in educational achievement could be reduced by single-sex schooling, research shows.

Traditionally, female pupils have surpassed their male counterparts at secondary school. Education experts have recommended same-sex classrooms and a Christchurch longitudinal study has reinforced their case.

A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said there were no plans to introduce same-sex classrooms as part of the curriculum, although some schools were conducting their own trials.

The Christchurch Heath and Development Study has followed 1265 Christchurch-born children from birth. The subjects are interviewed every five years, with the latest interviews conducted in 2007 when they were 30.

The research at Otago University's Christchurch campus showed boys gained a "slight advantage" over girls by studying in single-sex secondary schools and a "clear tendency" for girls to outperform boys in co-educational schools.

Principal researcher Sheree Gibb said she had looked at the data in response to debate over the issue, "and it showed clear differences between the two school types in both the size and direction of the gender gap".

She said the study provided no information on why the gap closed in a single-sex school, but it could be because of management style, distraction in co-ed schooling or decile level.

Christchurch Boys' High School principal Trevor McIntyre, who has taught at both types of schools, said gender learning differences supported single-sex schooling.

"If you've got boys who might be challenged by mathematics, then to bring a motorbike into that might well engage a lot of them, but that might not engage the girls. It's about context," he said.

Shirley Boys' High School principal John Laurenson said schools had different cultures, and single-sex schools were no better or worse than co-eds. "Some kids will flounder in a single-sex school."

He recommended parents visit a school and talk to the principal before deciding if it suited their children.

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