Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent – because school choice is not only about education, it’s also about values, opportunities, culture, socialisation – and a foundation of friends for the future writes Vicki Waters, Principal at Pymble Ladies’ College.
Single sex schooling lets teachers take advantage of the different ways that boys and girls have been shown to learn, based on extensive research, and lets teachers tailor lessons to better meet their students’ needs.
Conversely, it is in single sex schools that we see gender stereotypes far less likely to matter. Students of the same gender occupy every leadership position and have a place in every team, cast and ensemble in a single-sex school, whether or not those positions are traditionally thought to be male or female.
With role models from older years leading the way, younger students are far less likely to think that particular subjects, sports or activities are off-limits.
As Principal of Pymble, I see each day at school the very positive effect of single sex schooling on the girls in my care.
At Pymble, we see confident girls taking the lead in science, maths, music, sport, drama and languages. Articulate girls lead our debate team; creative girls shine in art and music; compassionate girls organise and support our service learning commitments; and girls who love maths, science, woodwork or the environment gravitate to the things they enjoy.
Australian research shows that when girls are in single-sex environments – free from gender stereotypes or expectations in their subjects, activities or careers – they are more empowered and more competitive in pursuing any area they choose, including the male-dominated realms of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
In fact, girls from girls’ schools are more likely to study STEM at school and pursue university studies and careers in these fields.
Likewise, girls educated in Australian girls’ schools consistently outperform their co-ed peers in NAPLAN and tertiary entrance scores. There is no competition for leadership, participation and risk-taking.
Specific research findings show that girls in girls-only schools:
- Score higher in formal testing
- Show more confidence and assertion in the classroom
- Participate in more and varied types of sport
- pPerform better in IT
- Risk new experiences
- Experience less bullying
Much of the research literature investigates the insidious effect of stereotyping on girls.
A review of more than two decades of research reveals that girls who are negatively stereotyped tend to underperform in settings where they are afraid they will confirm the stereotype.
To sum up one study: remind a girl in a co-ed classroom that she’s a girl just before a mathematics test, and her marks will drop. In a single sex environment like Pymble Ladies’ College, we replace this cultural programming with gender positivity and empowerment.
Relationships are also pivotal in girls’ schools like Pymble. Girls’ schools are, by their nature, nurturing environments that specifically cater to each girl’s needs, including their social, emotional and physical health. Supporting relationships with parents, teachers and their peers give girls the emotional confidence and strength to go harder after their own goals.
Girls’ schools allow girls to be free to be who they want to be, both inside the classroom and beyond.