Questioning Single-Gender Education
Are we heading into troubled waters by oversimplifying the relationship between
gender and learning?

Hello Barry,

In recent years our Ontario educators have been grappling with questions related to closing the significant achievement gap between boys and girls on provincial assessments.

The Ontario Principals’ Council has recently published an interview with the founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education in the United States that has stimulated much discussion about how to raise boys’ achievement. While some educators are seriously considering gender-segregated classrooms, others question whether we may be heading into troubled waters by oversimplifying the relationship between gender and learning.

During your keynote address at the EQAO conference in Ontario, you challenged educators to consider the diverse learning needs of boys and girls across a broad continuum rather than to simply frame the debate as a binary opposition of boys vs. girls. You maintained that while gender tendencies in learning styles certainly exist, there are more similarities than differences between boys and girls. You argued that the learning needs of children would best served by improving our understanding of diverse learning needs in our communities rather than dividing learners into two groups—boys and girls.

I am curious what you think about whether the movement toward single-sex education is worthy of pursuit. What are some alternatives that you might suggest we explore?

Joe Lamoureux
President, Ontario Teachers’ Federation

Copyright 2005, Barry MacDonald

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