Every child deserves the best education possible. All should have equal opportunities to do well. However, it seems to me, that there is potential for an inequality of results between boys and girls in our current system. One aspect of such inequality is already well know, the composition of classes, whether they are co-educational or of single sex. There may be other, unknown ones, that we need to know about so that they can be discussed and accounted for.
Research has shown that girls do better, educationally, in co-educational classes, but boys do better in single sex classes. Thus co-educational classes discriminate against boys and single sex classes discriminate against girls. In this respect, at least girls and boys are not treated equally. Whatever we do about class composition we are going to discriminate against one or the other. We can’t avoid it because, logically, we can’t do both. We have to choose one or the other and accept the discrimination.
This poses the questions: In what other ways are girls or boys discriminated against because they are treated equally? Are there other factors in our education system that favour one sex and thus discriminate against the other? Education is a complex arrangement of many factors, and some of them have the potential to be problematic, particularly where discrimination and equality of opportunity are concerned.
First a few questions. Does any one particular style of teaching suit boys better than girls, or vice versa? Does the way in which information is presented show any discrimination in favour of girls or boys? Do girls or boys learn more or less effectively in a class with the same sex teacher or one of the opposite sex? I don’t believe that these are the only questions that can be posed about discrimination and equality of education, but they will suffice for this discussion. But you should be aware that there are most probably others that need to be sought and answered.
As far as I know, these questions have never been the subject of research, which means that we don’t know the answers and the importance of these factors for the educational development and accomplishment of boys and/or girls, and whether there is any difference in the result. It may be that other factors than class composition are discriminating for or against the best interests and learning ability of half the students in our schools.
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I would like to know. If we knew the answers, perhaps we could make our schooling much better for those currently discriminated against, but without turning that discrimination back against those who are better suited to the current or other forms of class composition, teaching style and presentation.
I can see that it might be difficult to answer the questions. The research would be long, complicated, expensive and probably unethical. Whole cohorts of children would have to be separated and educated from kindergarten to university in different class environments to try to find which ones suit particular students the best. Unfortunately, if it were ever tried, that would produce a wide range of standards of the resulting education. Some students might do very well and show that the style applied to them is better than any other.
Unfortunately, others might show that some arrangements are badly flawed and produce badly educated people. This would be even more discriminating against those who did badly, thus it would be unethical to do such research, even if funding could be found for it. So the possibility of answering the questions is zero, on ethical if not other grounds. This is probably very fortunate or someone would have tried it by now. I fear that the social and educational results and implications would have been horrendous. Although they would have been interesting and useful.
Although the fact that results would allow us the design an education system that is non-discriminatory they would not justify the damage that might be done by the research. It would be unethical and immoral to deliberately subject children to conditions that might cause them problems, no matter how useful the results.
The point of this discussion is that there are many factors in our educational system that might discriminate for or against girls or boys. We don’t know, and we shall probably never know. We just have a system that works reasonably well, despite what might be wrong with it.
Although we can’t know the answers, I think that teachers should be aware of the questions. Perhaps everyone needs to be on the look out for any discrimination in the ways that teaching is delivered and to try to make sure that boys and girls have equal chances of getting the best education available, despite any inequalities that might be hidden in that complicated system we call education.