Mixing genders at school

As the Education minister announced, the first co-educational school is to be introduced (http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130420/local/co-ed.466239#.UnGEc_msiFw) and many where those who gave their opinion about this new concept for the Maltese State schools. Some followed a public outcry not to mix the lads for they risk letting off some mysterious attraction scent, whilst others were more inclined in favour of a healthy mix so as to possess a true microcosm of society within the institutions.

Whilst being a new concept on the islands, perhaps we should look outside the box and realise that in fact this has been a working reality across the very much aspired Western education. So we once again get to the million-dollar-question(s) – “Will it work here?”; “Is it really so beneficial?”

Debating in favour or against a co-educational system is sometimes taken onto superlative or imperative terms as if such a system will save or destroy the whole of society. Such a debate will only create a gap in the in-betweens of the discussion group rather than encourage mutual opponents to have a change of heart for the argument. I will here focus briefly on a relatively quiet debate – “Does co-education necessarily promote co-equality in our society?”

The good news for our tiny island is that research shows that the vast majority of motivated students are positive in relation to the schools they attend despite the type of school they attend, whether single-sex or co-ed. A study carried out by the ‘Toronto French School’ highlights the fact that students in co-educational institutions boost their confidence in expressing themselves when members of the opposite sex are around whilst generally enjoying mutual respect.

In a society where gender equality is not a fully-fledged reality, it would be a fatal mistake to promote the idea of ‘equality’ as meaning ‘the same’. This will only result in a cliché world of equal partners which are too different to be the same whereas equality promotes a level playing field for equal levelled agents with a clearly different role.

Yet again, it would be a wonderful dream that co-educational systems will solve this issue and other gender inequalities. During my first few weeks in a co-ed independent educational institution I took the opportunity to get a glimpse of how it all works and how it is perceived by the students themselves in their secondary years. At face value, some students do integrate socially during breaks but rarely did I experience mixed students sitting next to each other in class. The reason behind this attitude is partly obvious due to adolescent issues, however there might be some individuals who shut down the opposite sex and mentally lessen the value of their ‘opponents’ as a lesser gender.

The co-educational set up should therefore provide a unique structure where males and females can co-exist with their own adolescent issues, however never to forget that they are both given the standards to abide to so as to adhere to a realistic preparation for further education and normal life whilst acknowledging different leadership styles. Such exposure to diverse values, lifestyles and views would encourage a wide-range of opinions, thus enriching future generations (and leaders) through a positive academic and social environment or confidence.

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