Stand Strong Girls

Archive for the tag “co-education”

2014: A Summary

2014 has been an exciting year on Stand Strong Girls, with new campaigns and victories. In this post I will do my best to summarise some of the topics that have appeared here this year.

                                    Education

One of the issues I mentioned this year was the debate of single-sex education versus co-education. Drawing on my own experience in both types of schools, I tried to reason out the pros and cons from both points of view. While I still remain firmly in support of co-educational schools, I tried to appreciate the advantages of single-sex education as well.

I also wrote about women’s universities. Their numbers are growing in developing countries, where they are often women’s only option for higher education. However, in western countries their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years. I am of the opinion that women-only universities are just a short-term solution to the problem of women still being barred from many universities.

                                      Books

This year was Read Women 2014, a campaign started by writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh that encouraged people to read more books written by women. At the moment, I’m doing quite well, reading Code Name Pauline. It is about the experiences of Pearl Witherington Cornioley, an SOE agent during WWII. The book was edited by Kathryn J. Atwood. Earlier in the year I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, a novel based on SOE agents’ experiences.

Let Books Be Books campaign also kicked off this year. The campaign aims to put an end to the gender specific branding of books. Already several publishers and booksellers have got on board, promising to stop producing or selling gender specific books.

                               Adventurous Women

The Adventurous Women series began this year, a series of post about women who achieved, created or just did something different.  I have already written about the pilot Amelia Earhart, the nurse Mary Seacole and Sophie Germain, who was a mathematician. I also wrote about Katharine Wright, who helped to develop the first aircraft and Nadezhda Durova who served in the Russian cavalry. If you know of a woman you think deserves a mention, please let me know.

                                         Toys 

I’ve talked quite a bit this year about how children’s toys have changed from neutral and non-gendered to the pink and blue gender-specific toys that we know today. One example is Lego, which seems to think that girls can only build with pink blocks. However, this year Lego produced the Research Institute, featuring three female scientists.We saw it being put to good use by Donna Yates, who tweeted pictures of Lego scenes using the new set on @LegoAcademics.

                                  Malala Yousafzia

As an education activist, Yousafzia has made the news quite a few times in 2014. I read her book earlier this year, I am Malala, co-authored by Christina Lamb. Yousafzia also won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, along with Kailash Satyarthi, to recognise their struggle for children’s right to education.

                                     Campaigns 

I have written about campaigns such as HeForShe, Man Up and White Ribbon this year. One thing these campaigns have in common is that they are looking at the role men have to play in order to build an equal world. I think this approach is hugely important because it shows that inequality is not just women’s problem and that it is up to everyone to resolve it.

These are not all of the topics that I blogged about in 2014 but I think I have covered all of the bigger ones. I’ll be back in 2015. Happy New Year!

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Single sex education vs co-education

There have been numerous reports and debates about the question of single sex education versus co-education and I think it is a very interesting issue especially because I have had experience of both: I went to an Educate Together primary school and I now attend an all girls secondary school. I will discuss some of the arguments for and against mixed and single sex schools for boys and girls (actually, this might turn into an essay, oops!).

There is an argument for either choice based on academic performance. It has apparently been shown that girls perform better academically in an all girls environment but boys do better in co-educational environments. I know there are a lot of studies that claim to have proved this but I am still not convinced. I really think that it just depends on the individual girl or boy.  My academic performance has not altered after moving to a single sex school and I do not expect it to do so in the future so I am not inclined to believe that reason for supporting single sex schools for girls and mixed schools for boys.

There is a theory that girls attending mixed schools will learn to form friendships with boys that are not just fueled by a desire to have a boyfriend. I think there could be some truth in that for girls and also vice-versa for boys but that it is not so likely to occur at primary level. In my experience, when the girls began to want boyfriends and the boys to want girlfriends (I suppose) and started to socialise more together, it frequently ended in them hanging out together with no romantic thoughts. On the other hand, when some people did start dating, it led to a kind of competition as to who was dating and who wasn’t.

You would suppose that  when girls and boys began school together at age four or five and stayed together for eight years, there would be many strong friendships between girls and boys. In my case, it really depended on the individual. Sadly, the girls and boys did not mix a great deal and, although the boundaries eventually fizzled away, there was still a feeling of difference between us. I think that anyone’s response to co-education is very much down to the character of the individual rather than their sex.

The issue of boy/girlfriends is also a factor in co-education at second level. Although I attend an all girls school, I have friends in co-educational school as well. We were once talking about what kind of school we each went to and one of the others (who also goes to an all girls school) said that she thought mixed schools were best and how lucky some people were to go to them. We were all agreeing when one of my friends commented, ‘but if you go to a mixed school, you have to spend ages doing your hair in the morning’. One of the others (she goes to an all girls school) agreed, ‘ yeah, it takes me ten minutes to get ready in the morning but it would take me like half an hour more if I had to do my hair and make-up’. I was interested by how they took it for granted that  you had to wear make-up and do your hair to spend the day with boys at school. It seemed such an alien concept to me that you would bother to take so much time in the morning preparing yourself to impress a class of boys.

As you can see, it’s a tricky issue. There is the point about academic performance, but obviously the results of that (if they are true) would lead to a clash of interests. Girls would be sent to all girls schools and boys would go to co-educational school, except they couldn’t exist because there wouldn’t be any girls attending. Then there is friendship to consider. Does it help girls/boys to form friendships with each other later on if they go to school together? Or does it just lead to much fuss about girl/boyfriends and very little else?  I just want to say now that I have mainly focused on girls here because I am a girl but if you have any comments relating to boys I’d love to hear them too. So, any thoughts?

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