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Single-Sex Education's Benefits Challenged in Study

FRIDAY, Feb. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Students in co-educational schools get the same quality of education as those in girls- or boys-only schools, a new review shows.

The findings challenge claims by supporters of single-sex schools that separating boys and girls boosts their academic interest and performance, the researchers said.

The investigators analyzed the findings of 184 studies conducted between 1968 and 2013. More than 1.6 million kindergarten to 12th-grade students in 21 countries were involved. The studies assessed students' abilities in math, science and verbal skills, as well as things such as attitudes about school, aggression and body image.

Little difference emerged between students at co-ed schools and those at single-sex schools, according to the review published online Feb. 3 in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

One theory put forward by proponents of single-sex education is that girls are more likely to do better in traditionally male-dominated subjects such as math and science if no boys are in the classroom.

"The theoretical approach termed 'girl power' argues that girls lag behind boys in some subjects in co-ed classrooms," said study co-author Erin Pahlke, of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. "This is not supported by our analysis and, moreover, girls' educational aspirations were not higher in single-sex schools."

The study authors said there is a shortage of studies on single-sex education among poor and ethnic minority students, particularly in the United States, and called for more research into these groups.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about students' health and academic success.

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