ADDRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT GENDER-BASED LEARNING
Not all students learn the same, and different programs and learning environments have been created that may better match a particular student’s needs. The same is true for gender-separated education. Erika Stark spoke to Dianne Gereluk, associate dean of
Q What should parents know about single-gender schools?
A There are diverse educational programs for diverse student needs. This is one of many options — it will work for some children but not for others. There’s lots of evidence to show whether there are benefits of working within the same gender.
More important is the leadership of the school and the curriculum they’re providing to their children. If you have a safe environment in which parents and staff and students are committed to the same educational mandate, students will thrive in that area — in some cases that will be a girls’ school or a boys’ school.
Q What opportunities can gender-separated programs present?
A It would be wrong to make generalizations. What we have to think about is, does it meet a particular need of a child? It might be beneficial for certain children. For instance, there are opportunities for girls to have more voice in girls’ schools.
If the previous experience has been the case where girls haven’t had the opportunity to speak or take leadership roles, then a girls’ school would naturally be (a choice). That’s not to say that all schools that are mixed-gender don’t provide that opportunity.
I also say, what opportunities are possible in a boys’ school? Could you challenge some of the masculine stereotypes that are out there, where boys feel enabled or empowered to try more of the arts, try to flourish where there might be stereotypes in the broader public?
Q There has been a lot of discussion in Alberta around issues of inclusion in education when it comes to gender and sexuality. Would attending a single-gender school complicate those discussions?
A I think it’s an issue of how you address it in your curriculum — are you teaching it, are you providing an open space in which to discuss it and develop the dispositions for understanding aspects of gender identity and sexual identity?
I think it’s more of a broader issue about making it open as opposed to taboo — that’s not relegated to a mixed-gender school.
Q Does attending a single-gender school impact a child’s ability to interact with the opposite gender?
A I think people are overly concerned about the socialization aspect in terms of the transition. It’s the same aspect that we hear with other alternative models of education, such as home-schooling or religious schooling. My response to those challenges is that students are not isolated from having interactions with the opposite gender in society. There are multiple ways in which children socialize in terms of the extracurricular activities that they do, in terms of getting to know people in their community.
Students are not in a bubble in schools.