The Benefits of Single-Sex Education for Girls

The debate around single-sex education versus co-educational schooling has been ongoing for years. A wealth of research from around the globe strongly suggests that girls-only education leads to higher academic achievement, increased confidence levels, more involvement in STEM fields, and better career aspirations. In this article, we discuss the various advantages of single-sex education for girls, as well as some key findings from recent studies.

Higher Confidence and Academic Achievement

A groundbreaking Australian study called ‘Hands Up For Gender Equality’ discovered that girls educated in single-sex schools have confidence levels equal to boys in single-sex schools. This finding challenges the commonly reported gender difference in confidence between men and women in the workplace [1].

An analysis of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data revealed that girls from girls’ schools in Australia and New Zealand outperformed their co-educational counterparts in science, mathematics, and literacy [2]. Furthermore, several Australian studies have shown that girls in single-sex schools exhibit greater confidence in math during junior secondary and are more likely to take advanced science and math subjects in senior secondary than girls in co-ed schools [3].

Enhanced Career Aspirations

Girls who enjoy STEM subjects and activities like coding and robotics are more likely to pursue careers in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine). Graduates of girls’ schools in Australia and New Zealand are significantly more inclined to enter male-dominated fields like engineering and construction compared to their co-ed counterparts [4]. A study of almost 6,000 female university students found that all-girls school graduates tend to show higher levels of science self-confidence, critical thinking, academic habits of mind, and stronger study habits [5].

Improved Wellbeing and Body Image

Raising a confident, self-assured daughter with a healthy body image can be challenging in today’s society. Research shows that girls in co-ed schools have lower self-esteem and feel more pressure to be thin than girls in single-sex schools [6]. In contrast, single-sex schools encourage improved self-esteem and psychological and social wellbeing in adolescent girls [7].

Reduced Bullying and Greater Respect

Girls in single-sex schools experience notably less bullying than those in co-educational schools across all six of PISA’s measures of bullying [9]. Girls’ schools tend to have less aggressive behaviours than boys’ and co-educational schools [10]. Many girls also report preferring girls-only science, computing, and IT classes where they don’t face stereotyped beliefs and bullying by boys [11].

Challenging Gender Inequality

Sexism and harassment are common issues across society. An Australian study of five co-educational schools confirmed previous findings that sexual bullying is prevalent within mixed-sex schools [12]. In contrast, girls’ schools actively work to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to overcome gender biases and break societal stereotypes [13]. A 2021 scoping review supports the idea that single-sex education has the potential to challenge gender norms and create conditions for equity [14].

The research presented in this article demonstrates the numerous benefits of single-sex education for girls, including increased confidence, academic success, career aspirations, and wellbeing. While the debate between single-sex and co-educational schooling will likely continue, it is essential to consider the strong evidence supporting the advantages of girls-only education when making decisions about your child’s schooling.

[1]: Fitzsimmons, Yates & Callan, 2018.
[2]: Macquarie Marketing Group (MMG) and the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, 2020.
[3]: Forgasz & Leder, 2017; Justman & Méndez, 2018; Lee & Anderson, 2015; Ryan, 2016.
[4]: Carnemolla, 2019; Docherty et al., 2018; Tran, 2018; Tully & Jacobs, 2010.
[5]: Riggers-Piehl, Lim & King, 2018.
[6]: Cribb & Haase, 2016.
[7]: Cribb & Haase, 2016.
[9]: MMG and the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, 2020.
[10]: Gee & Cho, 2014.
[11]: Fisher, Lang & Forgasz, 2015.
[12]: Shute, Owens & Slee, 2016.
[13]: Archard, 2018.
[14]: Robinson et al., 2021.

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