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Throughout the history of gender and education, schools have been viewed as important sites for social change and places to foster the development of more equal societies with less oppressive social conditions for women. There are different ways to approach the question about the benefits of single sex schools. Some feminist academics argue that women need to have academic success before they can take up roles in public domains and so influence laws, policies and the conditions of all women within society. According to the first position single sex schools may give girls the edge in academic success because lessons can be designed to tap into girls’ interests and so motivate them specifically in subjects that have masculine connotations such as the sciences. Others argue that schools should be places that model equality and so provide young people with early experiences and knowledge of gender equality, otherwise they will reproduce the unequal gender patterns that they encounter outside school in their later lives. According to the second position, co-educational schooling may be seen as a route towards greater gender equality. However, given that in most societies, gender inequalities are structural, teachers need to have enough gender awareness to prevent gendered inequalities being imperceptibly reproduced through their pedagogic practice. Hence the continuing need for all teachers to develop gender awareness.

Why Schools Don't Educate - The Natural Child Project

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According to Leonard Sax, executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, in 1995 there were just 3 single-gender public schools in the United States; by 2007 there were 86, with an additional 277 public schools offering all-girls or all-boys education programs within their coeducational buildings.

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Problems of comparing like with like are exacerbated by the fact that single-sex schools are often located in particular sectors of the education system. For example, in England most single-sex schools are in the private sector, and this positioning largely accounts for their high rankings in the performance tables. Similarly, in the USA there are few public single-sex schools, as single-sex schooling was seen to violate, in spirit, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (although changes to the legislation in 2006 offer communities more flexibility in terms of single-sex state provision). So, overall, comparing like with like is very difficult, if not impossible, to do.

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