The Mission of All-Girls Schools: Do They Help?

Learn. Lead. Live a Legacy. This mantra is woven throughout our curriculum and culture at Agnes Irwin. Here, education comes not only from the classroom, but from the community, one made unique by the fact that it’s made up almost entirely of girls. We are part of a legion of countless other schools for girls that work to educate, empower, and inspire the young women who walk their halls.

It’s a hot topic of debate: does single sex education truly pose an educational benefit to girls? In my experience, the answer has proved to be a resounding “yes.” Going to school without boys around has given me the chance to evolve as a person without paying any attention to the way I look. It’s a blissful freedom that’s invaluably confidence-building. And studies show the advantage of an all-girls education. Without the presence of boys, girls are more likely to take risks and engage in healthy competition (Kessels and Hannover, 2008). Simply being in a same-sex environment is empowering to girls, for they can pay less attention to their identity as females and begin to explore their identity as individuals.

Ironically, the history of girls’ schools quite contradicts their mission today. Generally speaking, as little as forty years ago, most girls’ secondary schools were akin to manners schools. They taught the skills and decorum necessary to be a “lady” (Rogers). Assigning girls to roles of docility and subservience is dated. Now, we are part of the movement away from these standards. Lessons in table manners and sewing have been replaced by physics class and athletics teams. Most importantly, girls are now taught to use their voices and be assertive rather than to be delicate and agreeable.

Education is important. It lies at the core of girls’ empowerment and the center of our mission in the Council for the Advancement of Girls. It’s a fundamental right, as well as key to not only personal, but also widespread economic and social development. It’s important to do it right.

Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi

Kessels, Ursula. and Hannover, Bettina. (2008), When being a girl matters less: Accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single-sex and coeducational classes and its impact on students’ physics-related self-concept of ability. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78: 273–289. doi: 10.1348/000709907X215938

Rogers, Rebecca. “Girls’ Schools.” FAQS.org. The Gale Group, 2008. Web. Jan. 2015.

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