The Illogical Gender Segregation in Education

Image Source: The Quint

More than 65% of private schools in India are single-gender institutions. Women’s colleges have shown an increase from 780 in 1987 to more than 1,600 in 2005. India also has 14 universities only for women.

Single-gender schools are those that have students of only one gender. The main argument for proponents of such a system of schooling is that there is a lack of distraction in such schools. Students of a particular gender learn better without any interaction with the other gender.

This argument reduces the other gender to nothing more than a “distraction,” building on the belief that boys and girls together cannot be anything but “girlfriends” and “boyfriends.” It conveniently removes the human element of different genders and paints a picture wherein interaction between genders can never be platonic.

Another point frequently brought up to support single-gender schools is that teachers can teach in a way that is best suited for a particular gender. If girls and boys have to study the same curriculum, then what are these gender-specific learning styles? Do they teach girls and boys differently? If so, why? This shows that instead of eradicating gender differences, young children are in fact subconsciously made aware of these differences right from childhood.

Supporters of single-gender schools believe that any gender, particularly girls, are more at ease and self-assured in the company of people of the same sex, but they ignore the fact that genders have never been segregated in nature and humans have always existed together in society. Girls, even if they study in single-gender schools, will have to live in a world where both genders coexist, and if they have spent their entire childhood knowing nothing of what interacting with the other gender means, then it will create barriers in their social interaction. Girls and boys who have grown up in single-gender schools will no longer see each other as humans. Instead, this sense of secrecy for the other gender will drive them to think of each other as some source of forbidden pleasure.

Girls can be just as confident in the company of boys if schools work towards normalising relationships between opposite genders and adopting structural changes in teaching-learning dynamics to promote gender equality rather than creating divisions between opposite sexes. The solution isn’t to create more gender segregation and division in a society already rife with gender inequality; the solution should be to reduce the divisions. In Mathew C. Ninnan’s succinct words:

“Schools must rise above being mere passive purveyors of knowledge and become active life-skills training grounds where healthy citizens are formed.” Throughout history, places of education have reflected the communities they served. It’s time to shatter these constraints. “The time has come for schools to hold a mirror to society.”

Education is not only about securing good grades and chasing after marks. True education should also shape an individual’s personality and make the learning experience wholesome. It should prepare students for the whole world beyond the walls of the school. If girls and boys study together and are able to form healthy bonds, they will see firsthand that various beliefs and stereotypes about each other are actually wrong. Boys will recognise that girls are not just child-bearing homemakers, and girls will see that boys don’t have to be the breadwinner with supreme authority. Thus, we see that single-gender schools end up mystifying the opposite sex and reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes.






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