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EDUCATION REPORT – Single-sex Schools - 2004-04-07

Broadcast: April 8, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Many private schools in the United States teach only boys or only girls. But fewer than one-hundred public schools teach boys and girls separately. There are twenty-five single-sex public schools. Seventy-two other public schools offer some classes for only boys or only girls.

The United States government recently announced new rules concerning single-sex education in public schools. These rules were required by legislation Congress approved two years ago. That legislation represented a major change in American education policy. For thirty years, the government generally disapproved of single-sex public schools. A nineteen-seventy-two law banned unequal treatment based on sex, and single-sex schools faced possible legal action.

The new rules permit public schools that teach both boys and girls to offer single-sex classes under three conditions. The first is a good reason for offering the class. For example, if the school wants more girls to study computer science and few girls are doing so, the school could offer a computer science class for only girls. The second condition is that the school must offer a class in the same subject for both girls and boys. The third condition is that the school must examine the need for the single-sex class from time to time.

The new rules also permit single-sex schools — those that teach all boys or all girls. The only condition for operating an all-girls school, for example, is that equal classes and services are offered at other schools nearby. But those other schools do not have to be single-sex. They can have both boys and girls.

Some educators say children can learn better in single-sex schools. Others disagree. Researchers have shown that boys and girls learn information in different ways. However, research about the effects of same-sex schools has shown mixed results.

The United States Department of Education has begun a study of single-sex education. But it will not release any results until two-thousand-six. The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education says that some American educators are not waiting for these results. Officials say that ten new single-sex public schools will open in September.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.