As a product of an all girls education I believe wholeheartedly in single sex education for girls, especially in high school. For me, my all girls school was a place where I could focus on my goals and discover who I was. I graduated prepared for college and beyond, and most importantly, with a strong sense of self. I credit this to the community of support and the women leading who were my role models.
Every day in a girls school, girls are the students sitting in the front rows of the classrooms. Girls are the ones raising their hands and participating in classes. These things may seem obvious to say, but the benefits should not go unnoticed. At a girls school, girls do not have to fight for attention because they are the center of the learning environment. They get to practice using their voices every day and they learn from each other. I have felt and seen the benefits of being a part of a supportive community of women, learning to lead from other female role models, and gaining confidence along the way.
Girls learn best when they feel supported. They also excel when they have mentors who look like them, know them, and feel encouraged. In my experience both attending and working in girls schools, the schools have been community based and have a warm, nurturing feeling. Students are supported by teachers, administrators, classmates, and their parents. This is a wide net of support to help the student develop. Within the community, the students have a shared life experience and a shared identity of belonging. This sense of connection during the formative teenage years can help provide comfort for some students. While students are focused on their own achievement and personal growth, they are also encouraging of each other. Students support each other through the lifelong bond of sisterhood that is unique to the all girls environment.
Girls’ schools are incubators for the next generation of leaders. One of the main benefits of an all girls school are the leadership opportunities within the community. Every leadership position is held by a girl. Between clubs, student council, sports, and the classroom, there are many opportunities to lead throughout their high school careers. According to the National Coalition of Girls Schools student interest in leadership increases in girls schools as opposed to in co-ed schools where it decreases (ncgs.org). Girls are more likely to take the risk of leading if they have felt supported in leadership in the past.
Girls’ schools educate their student’s minds, bodies, and spirits in a way that co-ed environments do not. An all girls school does not relieve all the pressures of high school, but it can help. Social media and the College Application Industrial Complex are still present, but in general it does take out the extra social pressure that is created in a co-ed classroom. While at school, girls can focus on their studies and become who they want to be. They can discover and develop their own gifts in the female-focused extra-curriculars. An all girls environment gives girls the choice to engage in the social pressures of a male dominated world after school instead of being forced to deal with it all day.
Girls learn differently than boys. When girls feel seen, they feel encouraged to use their voices, experiment, and take risks. Pairing this with the support of a community, and feeling a sense of belonging, leads to a flourishing student. After years of feeling the support of the community at school and having the opportunities to speak, learn, and lead in a girls centered environment, they leave the girls school confident. In a girls’ school environment, girls are practicing the skills every day that they need to be successful in life. When they graduate, meeting with professors, speaking up in board meetings, and running for office is normal. These situations aren’t seen as just options. Their future selves will say “of course I will do those things, I have already done them.”
Educators of girls are paving the way for the future. After over ten years of working in all girls schools I take pride in preserving the all girls environment and being a supportive role model myself. Girls and women have been playing “catch up” for too long. All girls schools are the opportunity to provide girls with a chance at gender equity in the workforce. The learning environment centers on their developmental needs and curates the belief that they are valuable. Real change will start when we tap into the gifts of femininity instead of trying to prove we can be just like men.
For more information and research about the all girls school environment visit the National Coalition of Girls Schools.