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