Toronto Star

Co-ed and be­yond

If you’re un­de­cided about co-ed, sin­gle-gen­der, day or board­ing school op­tions, here are some things to con­sider

- YLVA VAN BUUREN SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

Aca­demic pro­gram­ming, stu­dent sup­port on cam­pus and in the class­room, and a fam­ily’s val­ues to­wards ed­u­ca­tion are all crit­i­cal as­pects of choos­ing a pri­vate or in­de­pen­dent school.

But there are ba­sic fac­tors that must be con­sid­ered, too, such as whether the school is co-ed, sin­gle gen­der or a board­ing school. Here is a look at these dif­fer­ent types of pri­vate schools and what to con­sider when choos­ing be­tween them.

Co-ed school

“The ben­e­fit of go­ing to a co-ed school is ob­vi­ous,” says Jane Kristoffy, an ed­u­ca­tional strate­gist in Toronto. “This is reg­u­lar life … the real world.”

Co-ed schools put boys and girls to­gether in the class­room, gym­na­sium and cafe­te­ria, and pro­po­nents say this is the best way to pre­pare stu­dents for the fu­ture.

Many par­ents and stu­dents in the in­de­pen­dent school sec­tor want co-ed learn­ing for their chil­dren, says An­drea Fan­joy, head of se­nior school, Kingsway Col­lege School, an in­de­pen­dent co-ed ele­men­tary school (PK to Grade 8) in Eto­bi­coke, Ont. The school just an­nounced it will open a se­nior school in Septem­ber 2021.

“We be­lieve that co-ed schools pro­vide a fun­da­men­tal di­ver­sity that will sup­port healthy learn­ing both at school and long past their years in for­mal ed­u­ca­tion,” Fan­joy says.

“Di­ver­sity helps teach per­spec­tive, em­pa­thy, flex­i­bil­ity and so­cial skills. It brings more lived ex­pe­ri­ences and dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests and top­ics into each child’s school ex­pe­ri­ence — and that’s an im­por­tant part of de­vel­op­ing one’s own iden­tity.”

Sin­gle-gen­der school The ben­e­fits of sin­gle gen­der ver­sus co-ed ed­u­ca­tion are de­bated with good ar­gu­ments on both sides. It of­ten de­pends on per­sonal be­liefs and legacy. If a dad went to a pri­vate boys school, he may want his son to go to one, too.

Chil­dren are thought to ben­e­fit from the min­i­mal dis­trac­tions of­fered by a sin­gle-gen­der school — it al­lows them to fo­cus more on aca­demics.

There’s also the be­lief that these schools can bet­ter ad­dress the dif­fer­ences in gen­der learn­ing styles and choices.

Ac­cord­ing to Patti Mac­Don­ald, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor at Cana­dian Ac­cred­ited In­de­pen­dent Schools (CAIS): “All of the sin­gle-gen­der schools within our or­ga­ni­za­tion would say they’ve rec­og­nized that there’s a range of learn­ing styles within all schools — and that not all girls learn the same and not all boys learn the same. These schools re­ally think about the needs of all the learn­ers in their com­mu­nity and are at­ten­tive to that when cre­at­ing our pro­grams.” CAIS schools are ac­cred­ited and ac­count­able to the na­tional stan­dards set by the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Says Kristoffy: “Teach­ers can cre­ate pro­grams to cater to the strengths and needs of a par­tic­u­lar gen­der.”

There may be less so­cial pres­sure in a sin­gle-gen­der school, too, al­low­ing stu­dents to make choices with­out gen­der bias.

This pro­vides a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment for girls, for ex­am­ple, who are in­ter­ested in male­dom­i­nated STEM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math) ar­eas.

Board­ing school The board­ing school en­vi­ron­ment is thought to help stu­dents de­velop into well-rounded and in­de­pen­dent young adults, and most stu­dents de­velop strong bonds with peers and teach­ers.

“In fact, kids who go to board­ing school can be­come in­de­pen­dent younger,” Kristoffy says. “That’s a re­ally big deal to­day with par­ents of­ten tend­ing to make a lot of de­ci­sions and solve prob­lems for their chil­dren.”

While board­ing schools are a 24-7 sup­port­ive com­mu­nity, “kids aren’t in the care of their par­ents and have to fig­ure things out on their own.”

Five-day board­ing is a trend to­day. “This is at­trac­tive to busy ur­ban fam­i­lies with two work­ing par­ents,” Mac­Don­ald at CAIS says.

The child gets all of the cocur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties (swim­ming hockey, vi­o­lin) that can be chal­leng­ing for work­ing par­ents to man­age dur­ing the week. “Then the child goes home on the weekend when par­ents have time to give their full at­ten­tion.”

Most schools that of­fer board­ing have day stu­dents, too. For ex­am­ple, the Bishop Strachan School is a day and board­ing school for girls in Toronto. There are over 900 stu­dents, in­clud­ing 75 board­ing stu­dents, rang­ing from ju­nior kinder­garten to Grade 12. Stu­dents are from across Canada and around the world, in­clud­ing the Caribbean, China, Europe, Mex­ico and the United States.

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents cre­ate acul­tural rich­ness and di­ver­sity in the class­room, as well as op­por­tu­ni­ties for every­one to make in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions.

Mak­ing the fi­nal de­ci­sion Once you have nar­rowed down your choice of schools, it’s re­ally im­por­tant to visit the school and talk to stu­dents and other fam­i­lies there.

“What is the stu­dent’s vis­ceral re­ac­tion when they en­ter a cam­pus,” Kristoffy says. “How does it make them feel? Is this a place where they feel they be­long or could be­long?”

Kids know what they need, Kristoffy says. “There’s a best school out there for every­one. It comes down to fig­ur­ing out what is best for the in­di­vid­ual child and where they will thrive.” This con­tent was funded but not ap­proved by the ad­ver­tiser.

 ?? ISTOCK ?? Though many in­de­pen­dent schools are tra­di­tion­ally sin­gle gen­der, co-ed learn­ing is also avail­able.
ISTOCK Though many in­de­pen­dent schools are tra­di­tion­ally sin­gle gen­der, co-ed learn­ing is also avail­able.

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