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EDITIONS
Monday, 16 September, 2002, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Campaign against single-sex schools
girls in class
Some believe segregation improves results
Women's and civil rights groups are urging President Bush to drop plans for more single-sex schools in the United States.

The Bush administration favours relaxing the federal rules which currently limit single-sex schools, saying demand for places at the nation's 11 single-sex state schools is high.


We live in a real world, and that world has got men and women in it

Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation
But critics say these schools promote sexism and attract less financial backing than co-educational schools.

"We live in a real world, and that world has got men and women in it," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

"They must compete," she said.

'A gimmick'

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella group of 185 civil rights organizations, said there was no clear evidence as to the advantage of sex segregation.

"It's a gimmick, much like vouchers, where you don't know the impact on the other kids who are left behind," said deputy director Nancy Zirkin.

To improve performance, schools should focus more on academics, discipline, increased funds, smaller classes, more parental involvement and better teacher training, she added.

Teachers' unions in the States appear at odds over the proposal.

The National Education Association opposes single-sex schools and says any expansion of them is "bad educational policy".

The American Federation of Teachers though has no formal policy on single-sex schools.

President Sandra Feldman said single-sex education was not a "cure-all" but ought to be an option.

"There's no evidence that it creates higher achievement, but why not have it as an option? What harm is done?"

Single-sex schooling is more common in the UK, with many believing it holds the key to the underachievement of boys in the classroom.

But Professor Jannette Elwood, co-author of a research report on the achievement of girls in single-sex schools, said more research was needed to establish the benefits of segregation.

Professor Elwood, of Queen's University, Belfast, said the research found girls' schools got good exam results because they had high-achieving pupils - not because they were single sex.

See also:

23 Aug 00 | Education
20 Aug 00 | Education
17 Aug 00 | Education
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