Monday, June 27, 2005

A Rant on Single Sex Schools

Not-PC rightly mocks Bill English's idea to establish more single-sex schools because they surposedly produce much better results out of their students. These sort of ideas are not vote winners nor are they likely to improve the performance of schools. Good conservatives - those who understand the necessity of reducing government size - would reject these ideas out of hand. It really is a stupid idea.
Firstly, plently of studies do not confirm that single sex schools are better than mixed schools.
In 1998 the AAUW Educational Foundation released Separated by Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls which found "no evidence that single-sex education is better than coeducation". This site declares "single sex schooling no longer offers middle-class girls any academic advantages according to new research conducted in America". I could waste time finding more, but I think you get the point. The issue is just not as simple as Bill English makes it out to be.
Secondly, no one addresses any non-academic problems associated with single-sex schools. For example, this study finds teachers tend to unintentionally reinforce traditional gender stereotypes in single-sex classrooms, often sending mixed messages about gender.

Personally I attended Hamilton Boys High School (HBHS). In retrospect I would have gone to Hillcrest High, as they were the top state school in Hamilton and also happen to be co-educational. This illustrates the point that what matters is what kinds of students goto the schools. HBHS attracts boys from middle class families, where as many of the co-educational schools have kids from lower class families. Hillcrest by contrast is where most of Hamiltons wealthy families live, hence they attract good students.

Anyone who cares to find out how to make schools perform better ought to do some real critical thinking. Minor tampering with the system isn't going to achieve squat. Throwing more money at it isn't going to either.
I think the problem starts with the basic principles that we've accepted. It's time to end state involvement (btw, when are we gonna see National get the guts and stand up for Vouchers?. we ought to be free to choose) in education.


At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

James, I fear you are overestimating the emphasis Bill put on the single sex schools issue. No one is saying that all new schools should be single sex, or even most of them. Just that since the early 60s none have been built, yet there is a clear demand for them right around the country. It is PC lunacy to refuse to build single sex schools because they are single sex.
You can compare HBHS and Hillcrest, but there is lots of eveidence from NZ (and citing a US feminist organisation is never going to reflect positively on a traditional education - especially in another country :p) that students do better in single sex schools. In fact let us compare HBHS and Hillcrest. This is a fair comparison - they have similar socio economic backgrounds: Hillcrest is decile 9, HBHS decile 8. In the last year of Bursary (NB: NCEA comparisons are meaningless) Hillcrest had a mean of 59.2% and HBHS 58.2%. Hillcrest also has girls, and girls do much better than boys. A better comparison would be to compare HBHS to a popluation of Hillcrest boys, not the whole school, and I suspect on that analysis HBHS would do as well, if not better. Bill English's stats did just that - they compared BOYS in co-ed schools to boys schools.
As for vouchers, I like them, but I would rather have a little freedom - no zoning and bulk funding for example - than advocate for vouchers and lose the election.
That is ACT-like policy. You libertarians can advocate that sort of thing, we Nats comprimise. Call it unprincipled, we care not :-)

At 11:38 AM, Blogger James said...

I know you've never been concerned with principle Michael, and you've always tired to make expendiency look moral. The point is to engage in a consistent fight for freedom.

Citing US Studies was an attempt to prove that many other factors are involved when assessing the quality of single sex education.

After making this statement:
"girls do much better than boys"
I think you should compare HBHS to HGHS? HGHS scored lower didn't it?

Anyway, good points made.

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