There is no evidence that single-sex schooling benefits students more than co-ed, despite a persistent belief among many parents that this is the case, according to a study published this evening in the international journal Science.
But the study finds evidence that single-sex schooling promotes sexual stereotyping and can make it harder for the sexes to get along.
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Social scientists in the United States reviewed the evidence internationally. They concluded that there was no scientific evidence to support a common perception that single-sex schooling was better.
Examining large scale studies from the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, they found little or no difference between grades in single-sex and mixed sex schools. This is when factors such as social class and academic ability upon entering the school were accounted for.
The authors also found that brain research did not support a belief that males and females learn differently.
This research supports the findings of an ESRI study published here in the 1990s. It too found no significant advantage to single sex schooling.
Ireland has one of the highest proportions of single-sex schools when compared with other western countries. More than one third of second level schools here are single sex. 17% of primary school children attend single-sex schools.
The US study found that differences between the sexes grew in sex-segregated environments, making positive interaction between boys and girls more difficult.
It also cited a UK study which found that men in their early 40s, who had attended single-sex schools, were more likely to be divorced.
In their article, titled "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling", the authors concluded that there was no good evidence that it was ever appropriate to separate and segregate children on the basis of their sex.