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Thu Jul 24 19:44:31 SAST 2014

In favour of co-education

COLIN NORTHMORE | 28 November, 2012 00:06
Focusing on passing exams rather than learning does not prepare students and pupils for a life rich with knowledge and expertise as it only helps the results, not the subjects Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Boys and girls challenge one another in ways that members of their own sex are unable to.

Supporters of monastic education will argue these challenges are distractions that interfere with children's ability to concentrate on their studies .

Those who support co-ed schools will tell you that without this experience children will not learn the skills they need to succeed in a co-ed world.

Education is a complex and messy business. Anyone with experience knows that a child's potential is achieved through a multifaceted interplay of social factors and that the home environment is just as important as the one at school.

Many experts say much of the success of single-sex schools stems from a demanding curriculum and a focus on extracurricular activities and that these gains would have been seen regardless of whether the opposite sex was present.

I agree. At Sacred Heart we see that children achieve their potential when we set high expectations, provide high-quality teachers and create many different educational experiences for children both inside the class and extramurally. We believe an exemption rate above 95% for the last 10 years for boys and girls is compelling evidence that the reason children succeed is not determined by separation by gender.

Russian educational philosopher Lev Vygotsky argued that the development of a child was dependent on the variety, number and quality of the interactions that child had with other people. Each interaction provides a unique possibility of growth, and in single-sex schools the lack of these interactions deprives children of critical development opportunities.

All children are different. Educational success cannot be reduced to a measure of the number of marks a child achieves on a test. Success is measured by how well prepared that child is for the challenges he or she will face after leaving school. Some children will not succeed in a single-sex environment as well as they would in a co-ed one, and the opposite is also true.

Northmore is head of college at Sacred Heart College in Observatory, Johannesburg

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