Sunday 30 April 2017

More parents choosing co-ed as a truer reflection of our society

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Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

While the statistics published today may demonstrate single-sex schools have a better track record when sending pupils on to college, school is about far more than academic achievement.

A leading expert in education research has advised parents to note that there are other factors that determine how successful a school is at sending students on to third level.

Dr Fiachra Long, head of University College Cork's School of Education, says the social and economic advantages, as well as the geographical location of a school, can play a major role in determining how successful students will be.

"Parental attitudes seem to be changing in favour of co-ed. This is generally based on social reasons," he said.

"Parents think this is the way society is and everyone must mix when they move out of school so why don't schools do the same, particularly in terms of learning how to relate to the opposite sex.

"The traditions of a school and the socio-economic profile of students are much more important as determinants for success in exams and entry to college."

He added that there are numerous benefits for students who attend a mixed school.

"Parents say girls tend to be a bit bitchier to each other when they are under pressure or they get terribly tense, uptight and competitive in exam mode. To have boys in that environment tends to curb them.

"Boys find they can relate to girls - not just as sex objects - because they are growing up with them. That is a huge advantage when it comes to relating to people.

"Bullying also has a different meaning in a single-sex environment," Dr Long said. "In a girls school it is easy to be ostracised and that can be very hurtful. With boys, it tends to be more physical. In a mixed school, if a girl comes across this issue she can drift and mix with the boys a little bit more and she is not as isolated."

There are academic advantages too, says Dr Long.

He says many parents are now choosing co-ed schools based on their own learning experiences.

"One statistic popping up across research in this area is that parents who went to single-sex schools tend to opt to send their children to co-ed schools.

"In a mixed environment many people get different perspectives. For example, if you are in an English class and studying King Lear, girls may have a different handle on it compared to the boys. In an environment like that, if there is discussion, they learn from each other."

Sunday Independent

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