The pros and cons of single sex classes are debated by advocates and naysayers alike. Some argue that single sex classes provide an environment where boys and girls are free to learn without the distraction of the opposite sex and without the pressure of unfair stereotypes. Others claim that implementing single sex classes incurs greater expense, prevents students from learning in a real-world atmosphere and interferes with the development of social skills.
Single sex classes may help to break down stereotypes that the coeducational classroom may inadvertently reinforce. For instance, the stereotypical thinking that girls don't perform as well as boys in math and science may cause girls to hold back in those classes or not take those classes for fear of underachieving. Likewise, single sex language arts classes may help to dislodge stereotypical thinking that indicates males don't perform as well as females in language arts.
Students in single sex classes are free to interact and learn without the distraction of the opposite sex. The value of this in middle and high school is that students may be less concerned about impressing the opposite sex and more focused on instruction. Additionally, students may feel that the social playing field is leveled with the absence of competition for attention from the opposite sex.
Some say that students will live and work in a coeducational world and therefore need the experience of interaction with the opposite sex. Some schools try to make up for this disadvantage by allowing students to take non-academic subjects in a coeducational setting. However, working cooperatively in an academic environment with the opposite sex is real world and therefore, essential to healthy development. Additionally, students need opportunities to develop social skills for interacting with the opposite sex.
The cost of offering single sex classes at a coeducational institution is greater than offering comparable coeducation. Schools that offer single sex classes and coeducational classes find themselves funding these parallel programs at a greater expense than just running the coeducational program. Aside from the additional operational expense and personnel expense, districts may allocate additional funds for professional development to train single sex teachers.
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