Big Kids

Research finds ‘no academic advantage’ to single-sex schools

Recent research has found there are ‘no significant difference in performance’ for students who attend single-sex schools in subjects such as reading, maths and science. 

The research, carried out for a project by the University of Limerick’s Department of Economics’ Dr Flannery and Professor José Calvel from the University of Murcia, Spain, was published in the British Educational Research Journal.

The Irish data used in the study was collected from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and was based on reading, maths and science. This was collected on over 5,000 students from 157 different schools through tests and questionnaires of both students and teachers. 

In Ireland, 33% of secondary schools are single-sex schools, and of these, almost all are entirely Catholic dominated. 

After the research was conducted, ‘significant gaps’ were found in performance between single-sex schools and co-educational schools. However, when staff shortage problems, higher student-to-staff ratios and levels of parental engagement are considered, these ‘gaps’ become insignificant. 

This is due to co-educational schools often being located in urban areas that have a higher population of students, more staff issues, and where socioeconomic backgrounds are different to single-sex schools.

The survey stated, “We find significant raw gaps in reading, science and mathematics scores between females in single-sex and mixed-sex schools and in mathematics scores for males across the same school types”.

But, when factors such as individual students, school-level and involvement of parents were controlled, there was, “no significant difference in performance for girls or boys who attend single-sex schools compared to their mixed-school peers in science, mathematics or reading”.

The research concluded, “We find no association between attending single-sex schools and performance in mathematics, reading or science scores for either males or females”.

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