Single sex or Co-ed: Educate yourself on what type is best

28 November 2012 - 02:06 By Tony Reeler, Jan Mallen

Let boys be boys, writes Tony Reeler, who is principal of Pretoria Boys High

IF ONE accepts that girls and boys are different, then the differences in the two schooling systems comes into play.

If one sees boys and girls as having similar needs, it doesn't matter what school system you use, just the actual school. I happen to believe boys and girls are different and have different educational needs, particularly when they are teenagers.

A boys-only school is generally a robust place. Boys are competitive by nature and not just on the sports fields. Boys compete in just about everything they do. Boys easily become restless and need some kind of physical activity.

Boys take risks far more than girls. An example of this is if a project to build a bridge is given to groups, boys will experiment, build and fail, build and fail and go on until they get it right.

Girls tend to plan first, think the problem through and then build. They also get it right, but by a different route. Neither method is correct and our world needs both types of thinkers - but the differences are interesting to observe.

Boys say things to each other that, on the surface, seem horrible. They tease each other and find humour in just about everything.

Girls tend to be far more sensitive to each other's feelings and are generally more careful about what they say.

Mix boys and girls during their teenage years and interesting social patterns emerge.

Many parents worry about romantic attraction, but because girls mature emotionally far earlier than boys do, they tend to have no interest in the boys in their class.

Instead, classmates of the opposite sex tend to become friends, which is a healthy thing.

However, as a result of maturing earlier , girls take on positions of leadership within the class and the grade, often at the expense of the boys who take far longer to get there. In a boys-only school, boys get the opportunity to be silly. They do things that would be frowned upon by the girls in a mixed class but which are met with great acclaim in a boys-only class.

It has been said that our schooling system is designed to suit girls more so than boys.

We require our children to sit still for long periods of time, to read copious amounts, make conclusions and then write coherent and legible sentences.

Girls are simply far better than boys at doing this.

It takes a special teacher in any school to read the signs and cater for the needs of the boys, but it is all the more demanding in a co-ed school.

Give girls the power, writes Roedean Junior School principal Jan Mallen

A MONASTIC school environment enables girls to develop academic rigour from an early age and so gain confidence in their ability.

Girls are generally competitive by nature; a single-sex environment enables them to develop at their own intellectual pace and hone the skills necessary for success in the global workplace in the 21st century.

Particularly important in this environment is a focus on mathematics and the sciences.

Studies show that boys have a greater natural confidence in these disciplines, while girls are often more wary of these subjects.

Roedean's strategic imperatives in mathematics and the sciences, in both teaching and learning, provide exciting opportunities for girls to develop an intellectual depth in these areas. It also aims to inspire the girls to build the foundations for possible careers in these disciplines.

On a social and emotional level, a single-sex environment gives girls the inner strength to be able to deal with conflict and confrontation in relationships.

Girls in this environment are more able to deal with their feelings honestly as they come to understand the complex social nuances that evolve from girls' daily interacting with each other.

This encourages girls to extend themselves and have the courage to develop their own opinions and trust their own logic.

It also helps girls understand the power and pitfalls of perfectionism and how easily a fear of making mistakes can affect a person's sense of self.

Strong female role models within the community, particularly among the alumni, are important mentors who preach the value of taking risks, thinking out of the box, and realising that a great deal is possible when an educated person commits to a goal.