Single Sex vs Co-ed: Which is the best for girls to study STEM subjects?


- Credit: Archant

‘Single-sex education creates amazing opportunities’ Says Mrs Rebecca Tear, Headmistress


- Credit: Archant

Recent data from key studies, such as PISA, have highlighted a significant performance difference between girls and boys in the UK. This has been widely reported upon and led Education Minister Elizabeth Truss to comment, in her speech at the Institute of Physics (9.12.2013), that “...the issue for girls is not competence, it’s confidence” and to suggest that “We need to be more conscious of the messages we’re giving to girls”. This is exactly where the benefits of a single sex environment become immediately apparent. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule that “girls learn this way and boys learn that way”, single-sex education creates amazing opportunities because there are no stereotypes; students will find much greater freedom to express themselves and pursue their interests. Arguably the single greatest benefit of a single sex education is the breadth of educational opportunity which students enjoy; they do not just have access to equal opportunities, but rather to every opportunity.

At Badminton School we specialize in educating girls. In an environment where pupils are not judged on superficialities, especially gender, Badminton girls naturally assume that all options for the future are open to them. This creates enormous freedom for them to discover what they enjoy and what they excel at, not just academically, but also beyond the classroom. The opportunity to develop in an environment where they do not feel self-conscious allows them to take academic risks and grow into confident individuals. As a small community in the West Country, we, like so many other GSA schools, enjoy a good placing in the academic league tables and celebrate our student’s successes at university and beyond. In addition, Badminton bucks national trends by routinely experiencing a significant number of girls studying, and succeeding in, STEM subjects at A level, supporting the theory that girls embrace a wider range of challenges in a single sex environment.

Above all though, what any child needs to connect with and ultimately to thrive in the study of STEM subjects has to be an opportunity to get ‘hands on’ involvement and genuinely make use of their knowledge to design, apply and solve practical scenarios. Bringing these subjects to life through practical application allows students to gain an enormous sense of achievement in “making it happen”, enables understanding, yields satisfaction and, above all, gives confidence to students. There are a wealth of opportunities available through great schemes and organisations, such as the Engineering Development Trust and the British Science Association. I would say, regardless of the environment in which STEM subjects are taught, the key to successful study is to apply the knowledge and experience the awe and wonder of engaging practically with scientific phenomena.

This article appeared in the Spring issue of the A+ Education Guide South West. Click here to see the whole magazine.

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