Are Single-Sex Classrooms Better for Boys?

Boys studying in classroom, side view
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Studies have shown that single-sex education may benefit both boys and girls academically. By contrast, research has also found that segregating boys and girls into different classrooms had little impact on their performance.

Regardless of conflicting evidence, proponents of single-sex education have observed that elementary school boys tend to be more active and more frequently redirected by the teacher in coed classrooms settings. Supporters of single-sex classrooms believe that boys and girls may learn better when they are taught in a more gender-specific manner.

That's not to say that all children of one gender learn in the same way.

The National Association for Choice in Education (NACE) says that same-sex education is a choice for families, which means it always the best choice for every student. As NACE states on its website, "Some kids do better in coed; some do better in single-gender."

There are differences in the learning styles of boys and girls. Acknowledging that in the classroom could potentially be advantageous to both genders.

Advantages

If you're trying to decide whether or not an all-boys school is best for your son, understanding some of the advantages may help. The following are a few of the primary points that proponents of single-sex education make in favor of single-sex education for boys.

Tailored to a Boy's Learning Style

In an all-boys classroom, teachers have the ability to teach in a style more conducive to boys' learning. Although many experts and parents downplay it, boys and girls do learn differently.

In the book, The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in Life and School, co-authors Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens outlined a number of differences between the brains of girls and boys which have a direct effect on how boys learn.

Among the co-authors' findings are that boys tend to compartmentalize brain activity, meaning they are more successful in learning when they are focused on one activity for a long time as opposed to moving from one activity to the next.

Some research has indicated that boys develop language processing skills slower than girls as well. This may makes them more likely to achieve in a classroom full of diagrams and visual aids.  

More importantly, the male brain tends to enter a sort of resting-state between tasks. If teachers in single-sex classrooms take this into account, boys look less like they're not paying attention, and more like they're preparing to get on to the next learning task.​

Beating Stereotypes

The ability to gain a more well-rounded education is another potential advantage for boys-only classrooms.

In his book, Why Gender Matters, Leonard Sax, PhD, MD, makes a point that single-sex education can reduce some of that competition and help remove the stereotyped gender roles. This makes it more acceptable for boys to read, write, and explore the fine arts. 

Boys Are Sensitive, Too

We know that girls are sensitive, but boys are, too. Single-sex education offers boys the chance to have their sensitive sides nurtured as well.

In the typical coed classroom, teachers are keen on sensitivities of both boys and girls. But boys tend to shy away from expressing their feelings and emotions, and may feel more comfortable in a same-sex classroom setting where doing so is normalized for their gender.

In a single-sex classroom, teachers with appropriate training can help boys access and express these emotions.

Gurian and Stevens suggest that while talking is important, the way in which you do so is also important. Instead of sit-down conversations, boys tend to do better with conversations on the move or when talking while walking.

A Word From Verywell

Each student, whether a boy or girl, learns in their own way. However, it is interesting to note the differences in the way boys learn. Knowing this, you may be able to make a better decision on whether or not an all-boys school is the right choice for your son.

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