Benefits of Single-Sex Schooling

Research conducted by Australian National University (ANU) and Essex University has suggested that teenage girls who attend single-sex schools are more competitive than girls who attend coeducational schools. The Choosing to Compete: How Different are Girls and Boys study compared the behaviour of 260 English boys and girls when asked to enter a competition that included a small financial reward as well as their attitudes to risky economic decision-making. It found that girls from single-sex school and boys from both single-sex schools and coeducational schools were equally likely to behave competitively in the experiment. Girls from coeducational schools were much less likely to participate in the competition, but the likelihood of the girls participating increased after they were placed in single-sex groups. The research also suggested that student family background was not a significant factor.

Professor Alison Booth from ANU and Dr Patrick Nolen from Essex University concluded that "our major finding is that single-sex schooling can affect economically important preferences...the benefit of single-sex education - in terms of increasing competitive behaviour more than the average male but we've shown that this varies depending on the environment that females find themselves in. You can't say that the difference in behaviour is only due to some innate genetic characteristic because we've shown that girls in single-sex environments make similar choices to boys.' Professor Booth indicated that she intended to repeat the study for Australian students. Go to http://ftp.iza.org/dp4027.pdf to access a copy of the paper.

The Age, Caroline Milburn, 08/06/09