Only single sex schools enable boys to perform better, even that marginally. In co-education, girls come out on top, a New Zealand study reveals.
The study published in the Australian Journal of Education is based on comparisons of the educational achievements of over 900 boys and girls who attended single-sex and coeducational secondary schools in New Zealand.
The long-running Christchurch Health and Development Study at the University of Otago, examines whether the size and direction of the gender gap in educational achievement is different at single-sex and coeducational secondary schools.
It showed that there were clear differences between the two school types in both the size and direction of the gender gap.
For students attending single-sex secondary schools, there was a slight tendency for males to outperform females. In contrast, for students attending co-educational schools, there was a clear tendency for females to outperform males. This pattern continued when students were followed up to the age of 25.
These results held even after accounting for factors associated with attendance at single-sex and coeducational schools.
''These findings are consistent with the argument that attending single-sex schools reduces or mitigates the current gap between boys and girls in educational achievement,'' says principal researcher Sheree Gibb.
The effects of single-sex schooling on the gender gap were evident not only in the attainment of secondary school qualifications, but also attendance at university, and in the attainment of Bachelors degrees.
She says this study also provides evidence that the effects of single sex and co-ed schools on the gender gap in educational achievement continues long after students have left school, and even up to the age of 25.
The study suggests that the ways in which schools are organised and structured may have considerable impact on gender gaps in educational achievement.
These gaps may be able to be reduced by identifying the particular features of single-sex schooling that are responsible for reducing male disadvantage in achievement.
This study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.