Why Single-Sex Education?

While curriculum differences play a key role in educating girls, the environment in which they learn may be even more vital to their success. Extensive research over the last two decades on girls’ and boys’ development supports the educational priorities GPS believes and knows to be true: a single-sex environment is the most comfortable educational environment for girls.
Dr. Michael Gurian, in Boys & Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, offers important insight into how schools can help girls develop a different perspective on their abilities and achievement. “Single-sex options are, therefore, good ones. The psychosocial stresses are removed, to a great extent, from the learning process. As girls work with girls at this very difficult and vulnerable time, self-confidence can increase along with academic performance; girls, together, without hindrance from boys, learn to manage their own and each other’s transformations.” 

The essential support structure girls need for healthy exploration—both in their educational pursuits and their socialization—comes in the type of environment that is simultaneously challenging and reassuring.  Psychologist JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., details a wealth of research on the impact of single-sex education in her book, How Girls Thrive: An Essential Guide for Educators and Parents. “There was a strikingly different quality to the atmosphere, character, and climate of the all-female class. The learning community that emerged was characterized by a profound sense of responsibility for learning, a special rapport between and among the teacher and the students, a spirit of co-learning, with both the teacher and the students feeling free to ask questions, admit mistakes, take risks, express confusion.”

Simply put, providing a space where girls feel safe to explore new topics, take risks, fail, and recover is key to developing the whole girl.

The biggest benefit that GPS provides is the development of relationships between peers and with teachers that fosters a healthy self-image and an unshakable self-confidence in our graduates. Among all research studies on girls’ development, the most notable and consistent facet of a girl’s growth is the role self-esteem plays in her life and in her learning.
In Untangled, Lisa Damour, Ph.D., who spoke at GPS in March 2018, describes a research study that was conducted to measure the effect of self-esteem in how girls learn. “Creating a space for girls to learn where they feel comfortable is most important in educating girls. Single-sex education removes a lot of misconceptions about girls’ intellectual abilities and mitigates internalized bias by understanding how girls learn and how that learning supports their perceptions correlates with performance.”

Our students are with us during an extraordinary formative stage in life. Who they will become and how they view themselves and the world begins with a strong foundation reinforced by the adults they trust and respect.