Newest Review: ... you into 'the wrong crowd' etc I've always been in mixed sex schools and to be honest it was only when I reached 14-15 that I became distr... more
Lampada Vitae Tradimus
Single Sex vs Co-Ed Schools
Member Name: spacelamb
Single Sex vs Co-Ed Schools
Date: 13/06/01, updated on 13/06/01 (1372 review reads)
Advantages: see op
Disadvantages: see op
There are a lot of preconceptions about all-girls schools. The lives of the pupils revolve around coming top in exams, being captain of the netball team, and playing good-natured flour-related pranks on the unsuspecting cookery teacher (which she will laugh about later). Let me tell you something: it is all true.
I passed my 11-Plus exam (by divine intervention or similar) and shortly afterwards received information from the prestigious girls’ high school I was to attend. “Skirts are to be four or six gore and fall at least an inch below the knee” – I didn’t even know what gore meant (apart from in slasher movies) and to this day I’m not certain, although I believe it refers to a panel of fabric.
The headmistress still wore a black gown to assembly each morning; most of the girls in my form had a crush (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) on the PE teacher, who was golden-blonde and fresh out of college; we all dutifully walked on the left in corridors and stood up if a teacher entered the room. It was archaic and comical. It was great.
For the first four years at least I barely noticed the absence of boys. Maybe I was a late developer, or maybe because I took part in all the revues at the boys’ grammar school I didn’t really mind that they weren’t around during the day. (When puberty set in for real I was positively glad that there wasn’t a boy sitting behind me, pinging my bra strap and asking if I’d started my periods yet). Having said all this, nearly all of my close friends are now blokes. There is something about an all-girls’ s
chool that will put you off female company for life, although it is fine when you’re actually there – we’re all bitches.
We bitched at the brightest girl, the dumbest girl, the prettiest girl, the fattest girl, the girl with the richest parents, the girl with the wrong socks, wrong bag or wrong hair. You didn’t even have to *do* anything. There was no getting away from it.
Educationally, I really don’t know if it helped or not, being separated from the opposite sex. I never spent double history staring at the object of my affection and willing him to pass me a note saying “R U going to youth club tonite?” – thus having more time to concentrate on remembering the dates of the Punic Wars (which have come in useful many times). At primary school, it was the boys who disrupted the lessons – chucking rubbers and flicking ink (the real trouble-makers flicked fountain pens and ruined shirts; the wannabes flicked biros and laughed like Beavis and Butthead). This never happened at secondary school. It might have been the very strict discipline that was instilled in us from day one, or maybe girls just have a better aptitude for learning. I honestly don’t know, and probably never will.
So could I have benefited from a mixed education? Possibly. I think I became quite blinkered; the school gave its pupils a confidence that was only slightly short of arrogance, and when I entered the real world I was stunned to find that some men would assume I was somehow lacking in intellect or ability because of my gender. Sorry if this sounds a bit feminist-soapbox-ey, but it’s true and it shocked me deeply. Because I had only been surrounded by girls, I had somehow come to believe that sexism was a thing of the past. Uh-aww (that was the Family Fortunes noise, which is very hard to write down).
I think one disadvantage of single sex education is that in class discussion you only ever
hear a female point of view (unless you are blessed with a male teacher, and he would have to be a brave soul indeed to contradict thirty screeching pubescent girls). For five years of my life I heard very little diversity of opinion, and I don’t think that was healthy. To be fair this was probably made worse by the fact that most of the pupils were typically white and middle class. Hmmm.
And what about social development? Single sex schools have the potential to breed the kind of man who gets nervous if a woman shows more than an inch of ankle, and to produce the kind of woman who feels it necessary to laugh maniacally at a man’s jokes (with pitch of laugh being inversely proportional to the funniness of the joke, if you see what I mean). We don’t all turn out that way – especially those of us with opposite gender siblings – but at sixteen, when I could suddenly mix freely with boys, it was a bit of a culture shock. Some girls went mad and tried their hardest to make up for lost time; others retreated into a corner like frightened hamsters. While I was sitting my GCSE exams, three of my classmates were pregnant and one was engaged; others had never even kissed a boy or been out on a Friday night.
At risk of sounding a generation ahead of myself, going to an all-girls school “never did me any harm”. But then I totally dug the whole scene – the school hymn, the quadrangle (school yard to you and me), the fifth form prom – to which we all arrived feeling terribly glamourous, but left with hair askew and Baileys stains on our hundred quid frocks. If you’re about to start at a single-sex school, be reassured that it’s not all bad. There’s always the weekend. And if you’re the parent of someone about to start at a single-sex school, just remember that *nobody* actually wears a four or six gore skirt any more.