Single-sex education, also known as single-gender education and gender-isolated education, is the practice of conducting education with male and female students attending separate classes, perhaps in separate buildings or schools. The practice of single-sex schooling was common before the 20th century, particularly in secondary and higher education. Single-sex education in many cultures is advocated on the basis of tradition as well as religion, and is practiced in many parts of the world. Recently, there has been a surge of interest and establishment of single-sex schools due to educational research. Single-sex education is practiced in many Muslim majority countries; while in other parts of the world it is most popular in Chile, Israel, South Korea, and English-speaking countries such as Singapore, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. In the Western world, single sex education is primarily associated with the private sector, with the public (state) sector being overwhelmingly mixed sex; while in the Muslim world public schools and private schools are sex-segregated. Motivations for single sex education range from religious ideas of sex segregation to beliefs that the sexes learn and behave differently, and, as such, they thrive in a single sex environment. In the 19th century, in Western countries, single sex girls' finishing schools, and women's colleges offered women a chance of education at a time when they were denied access to mainstream educational institutions. The former were especially common in Switzerland, the latter in the US and the UK, which were pioneers in women's education.
In Western Europe prior to the 19th century, the most common way for girls to access education was at home, through private tutoring, and not at school, due to the strong resistance to women's involvement in schools. This attitude begun to change in the 17th- and 18th-century, where girls schools were established in both Catholic Europe, where they were managed by nuns, as well as in Protestant Europe, where they were managed by governesses, philanthropists and private entrepreneurs. The development was similar in the US, where early feminists were also successful in establishing women's educational institutions. These were different from and considered inferior to men's institutions, but they created some of the first opportunities to formalized higher education for women in the Western world. The Seven Sisters colleges offered unprecedented emancipation for women. The pioneer Salem College of Winston-Salem, North Carolina was founded in 1772, originally as a primary school, later becoming an academy (high school) and finally a college. The New England Female Medical College (1848) and the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (1850) were the first medical institutions in the world established to train women in medicine and offer them the M.D. degree.
During the 19th century, ideas about education started to change: modern ideas that defined education as a right, rather than as a privilege available only to a small elite, started to gain support in North America and Europe. As such, mass elementary education was introduced, and more and more coeducational schools were set up. Together with mass education, the coeducation became standard in many places. Increased secularization in the 20th century also contributed to the acceptance of mixed sex education. In 1917 coeducation was mandated in the Soviet Union. According to Cornelius Riordan, "By the end of the nineteenth century, coeducation was all but universal in American elementary and secondary public schools (see Kolesnick, 1969; Bureau of Education, 1883; Butler, 1910; Riordan, 1990). And by the end of the 20th century, this was largely true across the world. In the UK, Australia, and Ireland the tradition of single sex education remained quite strong until the 1960s. The 1960s and 1970s were a period of intense social changes, and during that era many anti-discrimination laws were passed, such as the 1972 Title IX. Wiseman (2008) shows that by 2003, only a few countries across the globe have greater than one or two percent single sex schools. But there are exceptions where the percent of single sex schools exceeds 10 percent: Belgium, Chile, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, and most Muslim nations. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in single sex schools in modern societies across the globe, both in the public and private sector (Riordan, 2002)."
The topic of single-sex education is controversial. Advocates argue that it aids student outcomes such as test scores, graduation rates, and solutions to behavioral difficulties. Opponents, however, argue that evidence for such effects is inflated or non-existent, and instead argue that such segregation can increase sexism and impairs the development of interpersonal skills.
Advocates of single-sex education believe that there are persistent gender differences in how boys and girls learn and behave in educational settings, and that such differences merit educating them separately. One version of this argument holds that male-female brain differences favor the implementation of gender-specific teaching methods, but such claims have not held up to rigorous scrutiny. In addition, supporters of single-sex education argue that by segregating the genders, students do not become distracted by the other gender's actions in the classrooms.
A systematic review published in 2005 covering 2221 studies was commissioned by the US Department of Education entitled Single-sex versus coeducational schooling: A systematic review. The review, which had statistical controls for socio-economic status of the students and resources of the schools, etc., found that in the study on the effects of single-sex schooling
It also said that in general, most studies reported positive effects for single-sex schools on all-subject achievement tests and the preponderance of studies in areas such as academic accomplishment (both concurrent and long term) and adaptation or socioemotional development (both concurrent and long term) yields results lending support to single-sex schooling.
The quantitative data itself "finds positive results are three to four times more likely to be found for single sex schools than for coeducational schools in the same study for both academic achievement and socio-emotional development," said Cornelius Riordan, one of the directors of the research.
In 2008, the US government sponsored another study, Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools: Perceptions and Characteristics, which listed the benefits of single-sex schools: (1) Decreases distractions in learning, (2) Reduces student behavior problems, (3) Provides more leadership opportunities, (4) Promotes a sense of community among students and staff, (5) Improves student self-esteem, (6) Addresses unique learning styles and interests of boys or girls, (7) Decreases sex bias in teacher-student interactions, (8) Improves student achievement, (9) Decreases the academic problems of low achieving students, (10) Reduces sexual harassment among students, (11) Provides more positive student role models, (12) Allows for more opportunities to provide social and moral guidance, (13) Provides choice in public education.
Australian researchers reported in 2009 that high school students' interpersonal relationships were positively associated with both academic and nonacademic achievement, although the interaction between boys and girls in a majority of cases resulted in less homework done, less enjoyment of school, and lower reading and math scores.
A UCLA report commissioned by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools used data from a large national survey of U.S. college freshmen and found stronger academic orientations among women who had attended all-girls, compared to coeducational high schools, but the effects were small and the authors concluded "that the marginal benefits do not justify the potential threats to gender equity brought on by academic sex segregation".
In September 2011, the journal Science published a study deeply critical of gender-segregated schooling, arguing that the movement towards single-sex education "is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence". The study goes on to conclude that "there is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students' academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism."
Opponents of single-sex education, including the authors of the Science article, argue that it is not single-sex education that is producing positive results but rather, the ability of students who enter such programs and resources of the schools that are responsible. They also argue that single-sex schooling does not adequately prepare students for adult workplaces and society, where males and females need to respect and communicate effectively with each other. Coeducational schools offer greater opportunity to break down sexist attitudes through purposeful interaction with the other sex. Coeducational schools are also said to create greater feelings of safety and mutual respect among students across the gender spectrum.
Leonard Sax, the President of National Association for Single-sex Public Education or NASSPE countered the Science article by saying that "ALL the studies cited in the SCIENCE article regarding 'negative impacts' were in fact studies involving a small number of PRE-SCHOOL students attending a COED pre-kindergarten" (capitalized letters in the original). He further said that "these authors provide no evidence for their substantive claim that 'gender divisions are made even more salient in SS settings.' In fact, this conjecture has been tested, and proven false, in multiple studies." Sax cited a study which said that "girls in the all-girls classroom were less aware of 'being a girl' and less aware of gender stereotypes regarding science, compared to girls who were randomly assigned to the coed classroom."
In January 2012, an unpublished study of the University of Pennsylvania, involving a randomized experiment, considered the experiment with the highest level of scientific evidence. The data comes from schools in South Korea, where a law was passed randomly assigning students to schools in their district. The study by Park, Berhman and Choi titled Causal Effects of Single-Sex Schools on College Entrance Exams and College Attendance: Random Assignment in Seoul High Schools concluded that "Attending all-boys schools or all-girls schools rather than attending coeducational schools is significantly associated with higher average scores."
In 2014, E. Pahlke, J. S. Hyde, and C. M. Allison published a meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin comparing achievement and attitudes in single-sex versus coeducational schools that included 1.6 million students in grades K-12. The study concluded that "there is little evidence of an advantage of SS schooling for girls or boys for any of the outcomes." In a 2015 review of this study, however Cornelius Riordan observed that the authors "employ a 0.2 effect-size threshold in drawing these conclusions about there being no advantage to single-sex schooling. Despite the above conclusion, the research found that, in a separate analysis of just the best studies (well controlled) conducted in America, the effect size in mathematics was 0.14 for both boys and girls. The verbal performance was 0.22 for girls and 0.13 for boys.... Educational research has shown that a standard effect size of 0.10 on gains from sophomore to senior year of high school is equivalent to one full year of learning by the average public school student in the United States." Thus, he says, that "Applying this standard, a difference of 0.10 (or greater) between students in single-sex and in coeducational schools would be substantially important." The analysis of the 21 other countries yielded much smaller effects, such as a 0.10 effect on mathematics for girls and a 0.06 effect for boys, and for science (0.06 for girls and 0.04 for boys). Most of the international effects, then, would fall within Riordan's stricter criterion for statistical significance.
In Australia, most single sex schools are fee paying independent or Catholic schools. There are a small number of single sex government schools, while within the independent sector the proportion of pupils attending single sex schools has dropped from 31% in 1985 to 24% in 1995. Nevertheless, as of 2016[update] single sex education in Australia is much more popular than in the US. In 2001, the Australian Council for Educational Research after six years of study of more 270,000 students, in 53 academic subjects, showed that boys and girls from single-sex classrooms "scored on average 15 to 22 percentile ranks higher than did boys and girls in coeducational settings. The report also documented that boys and girls in single-sex schools were more likely to be better behaved and to find learning more enjoyable and the curriculum more relevant."
In Bangladesh, a large number of city schools and colleges are single-sex institutions except for universities. Notable all Cantonment schools (non-residential schools run directly by Military), Zilla Schools (run directly by Government [First starting in early colonial ages]), Cadet colleges (residential schools run directly by Military) are single-sex schools.
Many single-sex schools exist in Canada, particularly Roman Catholic separate schools. Examples in the City of Toronto include: Notre Dame High School, Neil McNeil High School, Chaminade College School, St. Joseph's Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School, Madonna Catholic Secondary School, Brebeuf College School, St. Joseph's College School, Michael Power High School, St. Joseph's High School, Islington, St. Michael's College School and De La Salle College School, Oaklands, Royal St. George's College.
As was normal in Catholic countries in Europe, girls were normally educated in convent schools for girls operated by nuns, such as Abbaye de Penthemont in Paris. A rare exception was Maison royale de Saint-Louis, founded by Madame de Maintenon in 1684. After the French revolution, it became more common with girls' schools, often operated by governesses, a famous pioneer school being that of Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan.
France formally included girls in the state elementary education school system in 1836, but girls and boys were only integrated in the lower levels, while the secondary education of girls were entrusted to girls' schools managed by either nuns or governesses, both of whom lacked necessary qualifications. When women were formally allowed to attend university in France in 1861, it was hard for them to qualify because of the bad quality of the secondary education. When the problem of unqualified female teachers in the girls secondary education was addressed by a state teacher's seminary for women as well as state secondary education for girls, both of these were still gender segregated. The French school system was not desegregated on the middle secondary education level until the 20th century.
Germany was a pioneer in the education of girls. Beginning in the 17th-century, schools for girls were opened in both Catholic Southern Germany as well as Protestant Northern Germany. In Catholic Germany, the Catholic Ursuline and Elisabeth sisters established first elementary education schools for poor children and orphans and eventually (before 1750), also a type of secondary education girls' schools for wealthy girls called "daughters institutes", which were essentially Finnishing schools. In Protestant Germany, the great Pietist school innovator August Hermann Francke of Halle founded Gynaeceum, the first girls school or 'Mädchenschule' in 1698. The Gynaeceum was followed by many Pietist girls schools in Germany, notably the Magdalenenstift in Altenburg and Johann Julius Hecker's Royal Elisabeth School in Berlin in 1747.
In the 18th-century, it became common with so called Töchterschule ('daughter school') in German cities, supported by the merchant class who wished for their daughters to be given elementary schooling, as well as girls schools known as Mädchenpensionat, essentially finnishing schools for upper class daughters. In the early 19th-century, secondary education girls schools known as höhere Töchterschule ('Higher Daughter school') became common: these schools were given government support and became public in many German cities in the second half of the 19th-century and their education adjusted to become equivalents of the secondary education boys' schools. In 1908 women were allowed to attend the university, and in the 20th-century, the public secondary education system was integrated.
The number of single-sex state schools has dropped substantially over the past 40 years, from 2,500 to 400. Figures indicate that, as of 2002, 53% of girls in the Indian population actually attend schools. Some conservative parents may decide to withdraw their daughters at the age of puberty onset because of fear of distraction. It is also believed that by having single-sex classrooms the students will be able to focus more on their education, as they will not have the distraction of the other sex. The study argues that co-education schools provide opportunities for students to interact with their peers which de-stresses students and creates a friendlier, more relaxed environment.
A country with conservative traditions, Ireland has significantly more pupils studying in single-sex schools than other western countries: more than one third of second-level schools are single sex. Even at primary level, single sex education is quite common: 17% of primary school children attend single-sex schools.
In the Middle East, public schools in several countries are all gender-segregated. In some countries there are single-sex private schools as well. In Iran, single-sex public and private schools have been in place since the Islamic Revolution. Universities are mostly co-educational in Iran.
In the United Arab Emirates, private schools are mostly co-educational, while public schools are segregated.
In Syria, private schools are co-educational, while public schools are mostly, but not exclusively, segregated. Universities are all co-educational.
In Israel, secular public schools are co-educational. Many, but not all, public Orthodox schools are single-sex; the private ultra-Orthodox schools are almost always gender-segregated, usually starting in elementary school.
In Lebanon, most schools are co-educational schools.
In New Zealand, almost all primary schools are coeducational (1,935 co-ed, 7 boys-only, 4 girls-only), while there are many more examples of single-sex secondary schools. There are 45 boys-only secondary schools, 53 girls-only secondary schools and 274 mixed secondary schools as of July 2018[update].
During the mid-20th century, several state coeducational secondary schools split into two single-sex schools, with one school moving to a new site, to alleviate overcrowding. These included Hamilton (1955), Gisborne (1956), Hastings (1956), Tauranga (1958), Rotorua (1959), Westlake (1962), Kelston (1963), and Marlborough (1963).
In Nigeria, public opinion regarding sexes in schools is influenced most by religious and cultural beliefs rather than the idea that students learn better separated into sexes. Because of this, the attitude towards the separation/integration of sexes varies depending on the ethnic makeup of the region. People in northern Nigeria are mostly Muslim and as a result, are more inclined to choose single-sex education over co-education in-line with their religious beliefs. However country-wide, co-education schools are more common than single-sex schools.
In contrast to the predominance of co-education schools, many prestigious educational institutions only accept one sex, major examples are, King's College and Queen's College situated in Lagos. At university level, although the sexes are not separated in the classroom, it is common practice to employ a single sex housing policy on university campuses e.g. Covenant University.
The education system in Pakistan is generally divided into six levels: preschool (for the age from 3 to 5 years), primary (grades one through five), middle (grades six through eight), high (grades nine and ten, leading to the Secondary School Certificate or SSC), intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to a Higher Secondary School Certificate or HSSC), and university programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees. Most of the private schools in major cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Islamabad and Rawalpindi have co-education systems but all public schools adhere single-sex education. In some cities, single-sex education is preferred, like Peshawar and Quetta, where many schools are single-sex educational but there are also schools in the urban areas which are co-educational. Most colleges are also single-sex education institutions till graduation but many private as well as public sector universities have co-education systems. There are some women's universities in Peshawar and Rawalpindi as well. However, most of the higher education in Pakistan is co-education.
Around 1800, girls' middle-secondary schools begun to appear, and become more common during the 19th century. By the mid 1970s, most of them had been scrapped and replaced with coeducation.
By a law from the 1570s (1571 års kyrkoordning), girls as well as boys were expected to be given elementary schooling. The establishment for girls' schools was left to each city's own authorities, and no school for girls were founded until the Rudbeckii flickskola in 1632, and that school was to be an isolated example. However, schools for boys did accept female students at the lowest lewels and occasionally even at high levels: Ursula Agricola and Maria Jonae Palmgren were accepted at Visingsö Gymnasium in 1644 and 1645 respectively, and Aurora Liljenroth graduated from the same school in 1788.
During the 18th century, many girls' schools were established, referred to as Mamsellskola (Mamsell School) or Franskpension (French Pension). These schools could normally be classified as finishing schools, with only a shallow education of polite conversation in French, embroidery, piano playing and other accomplishments, and the purpose was only to give the students a suitable minimum education to be a lady, a wife and a mother.
In the first half of the 19th century, a growing discontent over the shallow education of women eventually resulted in the finishing schools being gradually replaced by girls' schools with a higher level of academic secondary education, called "Higher Girl Schools", in the mid-19th century. At the time of the introduction of the compulsory elementary school for both sexes in Sweden in 1842, only five schools in Sweden provided academic secondary education to females: the Societetsskolan (1786), Fruntimmersföreningens flickskola (1815) and Kjellbergska flickskolan (1833) in Gothenburg, Askersunds flickskola (1812) in Askersund, and Wallinska skolan (1831) in Stockholm.
During the second half of the 19th century, there were secondary education girl schools in most Swedish cities. All of these were private, with the exception of the Women's college Högre lärarinneseminariet in Stockholm from 1861, and its adjacent girls' school Statens normalskola för flickor. The Girls' School Committee of 1866 organized the regulation of girls' schools and female education in Sweden: from 1870, some girls' schools were given the right to offer the Gymnasium (school) level to their students, and from 1874, those girls' schools which met the demands were given governmental support and some were given the right to administer the school leaving exam. This was necessary to make it possible for women to enroll at the universities, which had been opened to women in 1870, as female students were not accepted in the same middle schools as male students.
Between 1904 and 1909, girls were integrated in state boys' schools on the secondary lewels, which made it possible for girls to complete their elementary and middle lewel education in a state school instead of having to go to an expensive private girls' school. Finally in 1927, all state secondary schools for boys were integrated, and the private girls' schools started to be transformed in to co-educational schools, a process which was completed by 1970.
While England has a very strong tradition of single-sex education, Scottish education was largely mixed, and Wales introduced dual schools (a girls' side and a boys' side under one roof) in 1889. In England, most secondary education was single-sex until the 1970s.
Single-sex schooling was traditionally the norm for secondary schools in most parts of the United Kingdom, especially for private, grammar and secondary modern schools, but most UK schools are now coeducational. In the state sector of the U.K. education system very few single sex schools remain. The number of single-sex state schools has fallen from nearly 2,500 to just over 400 in 40 years. According to Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at Buckingham University, there was no evidence that single-sex schools were consistently superior. A major longitudinal study of over 17,000 individuals examined whether single-sex schooling made a difference for a wide range of outcomes, including academic attainment, earnings, marriage, childbearing and divorce. The authors found that girls fared better in examinations at age 16 at single-sex schools, while boys achieved similar results at single-sex or co-educational schools. Girls rated their abilities in maths and sciences higher if they went to a girls' school, and boys rated their abilities in English higher if they went to a boys' school, i.e. gender stereotyping was weaker in the single-sex sector. Later in life, women who had been to single-sex schools went on to earn higher wages than women who had been to co-educational schools.
Further information: Mixed-sex education
Until the 19th century, single-sex education was the norm in the US, although this varied by region. In New England there was more mixed-sex education than in the South, and girls in New England had more access to education in general. With the generalization of elementary education in the 19th century, mixed-sex education started to spread rapidly. According to Cornelius Riordan, "By the end of the nineteenth century, coeducation was all but universal in American elementary and secondary public schools (see Kolesnick, 1969; Bureau of Education, 1883; Butler, 1910; Riordan, 1990). However, higher education was usually single-sex, and men's colleges and women's colleges were common well into the 20th century. A form of education strongly associated with sex-segregation is that of Catholic schools, although many Catholic schools today are coeducational. The idea of educating students differently by sex, formally or informally, was common until the 1970s.
A controversy regarding single-sex education in the United States is its association with racist ideologies in the 1950s in the American South. After the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ruled racial segregation in education unconstitutional, therefore paving the way to educating together black and white children, many conservatives reacted very negatively to the idea of black boys and white girls socializing together, potentially leading to interracial romantic couples. As such, segregation by sex in schools became quite common during that era across the Southern US, with many single sex educational institutions being established.
A major event that affected single-sex schooling in the US was when the Title IX amendments of the Education Amendments of 1972 were passed. The Encyclopedia of Women and Gender explains Title IX as being, "Founded on the premises of equal opportunity, equal access, and full integration, it focused on providing complete access to participation in all functions of schooling, regardless of gender" (Sex Segregation In Education, 2001). Many feminists fought for the passage of this law. The goal was to ban all sex discrimination in any education program which received financial aid from the government. It was stated specifically on the Department of Education website as, "No person in the US, on the basis of sex, can be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance".
The main cause which led to the start of more public schools having single-sex classes or entire schools was when the reforms to the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 were passed in 2006. Originally Title IX had allowed separation of males and females in certain areas in school prior to the new changes. For example, they were allowed to have single gender classes for physical-education when there were contact sports involved and also for sex-education classes. Kasic (2008) indicates that the new regulations allow nonvocational public schools to still receive funding if they offer single-sex classes or entire single-sex schools, but in order to start these programs they have to have a governmental or educational objective. These programs are also required to be voluntary, so public schools cannot be required to offer these single-sex programs and if they do they cannot force students to participate in them. Diana Schemo explains in a New York Times article, "Until now, publics school districts that offered a school to one sex generally had to provide a comparable school for students of the other sex. The new rules, however say districts can simply offer such students the option to attend comparable coeducational schools" (Schemo, 2006, p. 2). Since these regulations were approved the number of public schools offering single-sex programs has been on a steady incline due to the fact that the rules are more flexible.
In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of single-sex public education in the 1996 case of United States v. Virginia. This ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concluded that single-sex education in the public sector is constitutional only if comparable courses, services, and facilities are made available to both sexes. The No Child Left Behind Act contains provisions (sections 5131.a.23. and 5131c, 20 U.S.C. section 7215(a)(23), and section 7215(c)) designed by their authors—senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)—to facilitate single-sex education in public schools. These provisions led to the publication of new federal rules in October 2006 to allow districts to create single-sex schools and classes provided that 1) enrollment is voluntary, and 2) comparable courses, services, and facilities are available to both sexes. The number of public schools offering single-sex classrooms rose from 4 in 1998 to 540 in 2010, according to the web site of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.
Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University sponsored a nationwide survey conducted by Knowledge Networks in early 2008. According to the survey, "more than one-third of Americans feel parents should have the option of sending their child to a single-sex school".
In the United States, gender segregation in schools was initially a product of an era when traditional gender roles categorically determined scholastic, professional, and social opportunities based on sex. For instance, leading experts supported gender segregation in higher education because they considered it "to be dangerous and inappropriate for women. Experts claimed that scientific evidence established that women were physically and temperamentally not suited to the rigors of the academy . ... Separate education for men and women paralleled the separate spheres that each was expected to occupy." Furthermore, colleges and universities did not consider female applicants until the second half of the nineteenth century when the women's rights movement began advocating for gender equality. In response to social progression "at the turn of the twentieth century, educators, particularly those in the South, fiercely resisted coeducation in elite all-male colleges, and most of the Ivy League institutions would drag their feet well into the twentieth century before becoming coeducational."
Girls and boys segregation in schools is definitive of a sex-based classification, and, thus, it must be supported by an "exceedingly persuasive justification" to pass constitutional muster. In light of this requisite standard, the legality of single-sex educational institutions depends on the accuracy of underlying assumptions and support. Accordingly, it is important to be aware that a majority of research used to advocate the benefits of single-sex education is cloaked in uncertainty. Specifically, proponents "who want to build a case for single-sex education usually draw on ... uncontrolled studies, small samples, and anecdotal evidence; the positive findings are repeated but are not analyzed". Alternatively, opponents of single-sex education are able to gather tangible support from observable patterns of pervasive gender inequality in other social contexts.
The diversity of opinions that concurrently support gender segregation in education creates a complex and fragmented dynamic. The miscellany of proponents includes: conservatives emphasizing innate gender differences, traditionalists favoring rigid gender roles, democrats striving to remedy past discrimination, progressives promoting diversity in academic choices, and feminists championing exclusively female support systems. Because the coalition of proponents consists of parties with dissimilar interests, the body of "educational research regarding the efficacy of single-sex schools is mixed at best". Moreover, advocates tend to bolster their respective positions by emphasizing specific aspects of educational research without addressing the remaining "array of evidence regarding institutions, structures, and processes that construct views on gender and equality". Although educational research supporting gender segregation in schools is rife with ambiguity, "the social research is absolutely clear that separation on the basis of identity characteristics creates feelings of individual inadequacy and instills beliefs about group hierarchy".
Studies used to make policy or legal arguments in the current debate over single-sex education narrowly "look only at the slice of the social picture that schooling represents". An informed assessment regarding the appropriate role of gender segregation in contemporary and future education developments requires contemplation of potential implications beyond the direct, internal, and immediate influences that single-sex schools stand to exert on students. It is undeniable that gender inequality exists, consciously or not, in contemporary social, professional, and domestic hierarchies or relationships. Indeed, "[g]ender separatism is so pervasive that it is almost invisible. It is woven into the fabric of our daily social routines." Vestiges of past gender segregation and its connotations throughout American history validate questions concerning the likely effects of contemporary institutions of single-sex education on prevailing gender
Assessing the current single-sex education debate through a broad lens realizes contextual factors that effectively constitute the crux of the issue. Most discussions regarding the potential effects of single-sex education characterize future students of such institutions as the sole beneficiaries of resulting impacts. An appropriate assessment, however, considers contextual implications and realizes that female citizens as a class will be the true beneficiaries if single-sex education developments reach fruition.
If the multitude of diverging interests that influence the single-sex education dispute were distilled, the core concern of the discussion asks whether single-sex education will help remedy past gender discrimination or not. In sum,
[Gender] separatism originated in beliefs about innate differences between women and men in inclinations and abilities, sentiments that comported with 'widely held views about women's proper place.' The existence of segregated higher education was itself, for centuries, a critical factor in the limitation of women's professional opportunities.
The implications of reviving single-sex education in America could further erode outdated sex stereotypes and, thereby, facilitate gender equality in other social contexts. Incorporating the national history of gender segregation allows all sides to balance hypothetical benefits of future students against the potential regression of gender equality in America.