Education has been one of the most sensitive issues all over the world, this is as a result of realization that the success and positive progress of any nation and the world in general lies wholly on education of its population. Many jurisdictions have instituted laws and institutions that protect and enhance the education of their citizens.
In USA for instance the “No Child Left Behind Act” signed into law by President Bush in 2002 places important emphasis on school performances, with the best performing schools being given rewards while those performing poorly are urged to aim higher through corrective actions, is just but a living example of how education is now given priority over other issues. Although no specific assessment instruments are recommended by this act, states are mandated to come up with sound assessment tools that test the core areas i. e.
reading/language, mathematics, and art. Most nations have departments of education that oversee the smooth running of curriculum instructions and assessment of students; this is facilitated by the use of a common curriculum and a centralized national testing body. Due to its sensitivity, education process have drawn numerous debates that result from stakeholders discontentment, who at times feels that the kind of education being provided by their countries is of sub-standard quality when compared to those of other nations.
One such debate has been on the authenticity of students’ performance in the common national examinations. The Washington assessment of student learning (WASL) is the state of Washington testing device whose main goal is to test the poor performing schools as per the NCLBA. It is comprised of mixed open-ended, short answer, and multiple choice exams that cover the four basic areas of learning; reading, writing, listening, and mathematics.
WASL is administered in grades 4, 7, and 10 and also they play a core role in the award of high school diplomas. WASL is designed to test the overall application of skills in the outside world as they test wide range of areas of cognition in the general knowledge, skills and attitudes that learners have gained throughout the year in the tested grade levels of the curriculum. Learners are normally subjected to a rigorous testing that range from theory to practical papers in the core subjects of the curriculum.
These exams are standardized by the national examination body that is discharged with the main duties of setting, administering, marking, and the overall grading and analysis of the exam results. All schools whether private or public, mixed gender or same gender, day or boarding are subjected to these exams with maximum supervision accorded in order to minimize cases of cheating or impersonation all this aimed at getting authentic results that can be used for placement in the next curriculum grades or for evaluation of the impact of the existing curriculum strengths and weaknesses.
The results of these exams have shown that there is a distinct variance between the performance of mixed gender and same gender schools with same gender schools performing better as compared to the mixed gender schools, despite both schools registering almost equal number of candidates and also enjoying similar curriculum instructions. This phenomenon has caught the curriculum developers and school administrators at crossroads with blames being freely traded on whose door the buck rests.
Various views have been expressed by quite a good number of busybodies but none has been worthy its salt and as a result this debate has been condemned to a deeper miasma of confusion. Apart from pursuing a statistics related course this is the main driving force that has occasioned me to initiate an independent research inquiry into this controversy in a bid to shed some light and therefore pave way for adjustments or even for permanent solutions. [Current issues in Education, volume 8, 2005]
Apparently I attended mixed gender schools from kindergarten through to high school and even in the university, therefore I stand a better chance to give out a detailed account on the state of affairs in these mixed gender schools. Although the education department provides for the adoption of a common structure, programs and activities in all the schools sometimes differences occur due to the bending of these regulations by school administrators who feel the strict adherence of the regulations is impossible in their school settings.
The veering away from the education departments rules is absolutely the genesis of the variance in performance. My main target in this study was one, the students of different genders who attend various high schools (both mixed and same gender) in our local school district and two, teachers and school administrators of mixed and pure gender schools in the local school district.
However, I restricted my study on students and teachers of boarding schools for purposes of providing a level ground for all the students tested in the study. My reasoning was that day school students may get special instructions from their parents or private teachers during the evenings and therefore gain an advantage over those in boarding schools. The choice of the students’ and the teachers’ was done blindly from the records in the local head of education in the local school district office. Study hypotheses
Being a product of mixed gender schools it was easy for me to pinpoint some of practices that are found in these schools and that according to me are the main causes of mixed gender schools poor performance in national examinations when compared to their same gender counterparts. As briefly hinted above, various unsupported views were put forth by a good number of busybodies within and out of the education sector, therefore my research had among other goals to disapprove some of these unsupported notions.
For instance, there is a wide spread notion that same gender schools are always better equipped than mixed gender schools, and that same gender schools select brighter students than mixed gender schools. However, my research enquiry was comprised of students and teachers from the same category of schools so the issue of some schools having bright students than others was adequately catered for since students join high schools depending on their levels of qualifications therefore high schools of the same level have got students whose academic ability is almost the same.
Again, the notion of better equipping of same gender schools than the mixed gender ones was adequately catered for by selecting students and teachers from schools that are in the same national ranking level. Boys and girls have got different academic needs that need to be catered for in order to achieve high comprehension levels, apparently most mixed schools do not offer these individual attention as it is considered a time consuming unlike in same gender schools whereby it is very easy to cater for individual differences.
Further, in mixed gender classes boys are known to behave like superiors over the girls a phenomenon that may bring feelings of inadequacy and hence affecting the general environment of learning. Again, some girls may not feel free to interact with boys during class activities hence affecting the instructions giving process by the teachers; mixed gender schools are faced with cases of boy-girl relations which tend to affect the overall time dedicated by students to studies during their private time.
Therefore I hypothesize that; poor overall performance of mixed gender schools as compared to same gender schools is as result of time wastage occasioned by boy-girl relationships; that poor performance is as a result of teachers insensitivity to the varied individual differences brought about by gender difference; that mixed gender schools performance is affected by lack of free sharing of academic ideas among the boys and girls in classes (grouping difficulties); and that the superiority complex exhibited by the boys leads to fear and feelings of inadequacy on the side of girls and hence affecting the overall performance of mixed gender schools in common examinations. A brief description of the study’s demographic.
My study involved 2000 high school students among which 1000 were girls and the rest being boys from 200 hundred schools among which 100 were mixed gender and the rest were same gender. The age range of the students was between 14 years and 16 years and whose ethnicity was varied with 50 % of them being whites, 19 %being blacks, 13 % being Hispanics, 11 % being Asians and the rest were comprised of other ethnicities. 200 high school teachers were interviewed among which 130 were ladies and the rest being men, out of this number 54 % were from same gender schools while rest percentage came from mixed gender schools. The greatest percentage of the teachers in the sample was of medium age of 35 years and whose areas of specialization comprised of Mathematics, English and Art.
It is important to note that all the students and teachers interviewed were all from boarding schools, as was stated earlier my study avoided day school students because they could not be compared with their boarding counterparts since they sometimes get specialized instructions during the evenings from their parents or private teachers. To gain credibility the selection of the students and teachers was conducted at the local offices of the head of education in the local school district using the individual school records. All these students came from schools in the local school district of Washington and who sit for the state common examinations of WASL.
The respondents were reached through a combination of methods that included interviews-both physical and over the phone, written questionnaires, direct observation of lesson proceedings, and scrutiny of individual school records. The most reliable source of data was the questionnaires since a large number of respondents can be reached and again students who were not free to talk or to divulge their school secrets orally were able to do so in writing without fear of victimization. The lesson observation method although minimally used was very instrumental in the investigation of the behavior of boys and girls in mixed gender classes when a lesson is going on or when they are carrying out class activities in groups when the teacher is not around.