Presentation College is, by choice, a co-educational school. We believe that co-education is the most natural form of education and that it has distinct advantages for girls and boys alike.
There has been much discussion throughout the 1980s on the benefits of co-education for girls and boys. Almost all of the research was carried out in other countries under a variety of educational structures; not surprisingly the findings varied from country to country. We have always been firmly convinced that genuine co-education is the most natural and the best form of education.
There is no evidence that single-sex schooling benefits students more than co-ed, despite a persistent belief among many parents that this is the case, according to a study published in September 2011, "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling", in the international journal, Science. But the study finds evidence that single-sex schooling promotes sexual stereotyping and can make it harder for the sexes to get along.
Social scientists in the United States reviewed the evidence internationally. They concluded that there was no scientific evidence to support a common perception that single-sex schooling was better. Examining large scale studies from the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, they found little or no difference between grades in single-sex and mixed sex schools. This is when factors such as social class and academic ability upon entering the school were accounted for.
This research supports the findings of an Economic and Social Research Institute(ESRI) study published in Ireland by Dr Emer Smyth in the 1990s. It too, found no significant advantage to single sex schooling.
The US study found that differences between the sexes grew in sex-segregated environments, making positive interaction between boys and girls more difficult. In their article, titled "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling", the authors concluded that there was no good evidence that it was ever appropriate to separate and segregate children on the basis of their sex.
In relation to the benefits of co-education, Dr Symth states that the research supports the view that "There appears to be a general consensus that male and female students in co-educational settings are more positive about their schools and about the developmental aspect of their schooling". Pupils felt that co-education also leads to improved social and personal development. Both girls and boys in co-ed school said they were more self-confident, well-balanced and better equipped to make new friends than their counterparts in single-sex schools.
It s our experience that friendships develop in a very natural way in co-ed schools. This happens because there are so many activities, societies and clubs in the school in which girls and boys take part in a pleasant, well-supevised environment. The friendship develops natually and genuinely because the mixing is a by-product of the event. This friendly atmosphere continues into the classroom allowing young people to express their views openly and assertively.
Our own experience down through the years confirms these findings. We have always said that girls and boys benefit from the very wide range of subjects to be found in mixed schools and they gain from the increased level of personal freedom in choosing subjects. For both girls and boys co-education provides a more realistic way of training young persons to take their places naturally in the wider community of men and women. It helps to break down the misconceptions of each sex about the other and provides an excellent foundation for the development of realistic, meaningful and lasting relationships in later life.
Mixed schools will generally have a much broader range of subjects on offer to their pupils. At Presentation College all subjects taught are offered to girls and boys on an equal footing so that everyone benefits from the wide range of subject choice. Girls may choose subjects like Technology, Technical Graphics and Materials Technology (Wood) which are seldom available in all-girls schools. As well as enhancing their competence and confidence in these areas the availability of these subjects broadens the range of career opportunities open to them. Likewise boys may take subjects which are seldom available in all-boys schools such as Home Economics, Music and Art. Such choices allow for greater development of their aesthetic and creative skills as well as broadening the range of career opportunities available to them.
We are convinced that co-education is the most realistic way of training young girls and boys to take their places naturally in the wider community of men and women because a mixed school is a natural imitation of the outside world. There are so many situations outside of the classroom, so many clubs, societies and activities in the school in which boys and girls take part, that natural and normal relationships are formed very easily. These friendly, open relationships continue in the classroom and allow young people to express their views openly and honestly. This leads to increased confidence and assertiveness all round.
Co-educational schools have an enormous advantage when it comes to the social development of girls and boys. A successful school must aim for excellent academic standards but it must also aim to develop the full potential of each individual. Extra-curricular activities at Presentation College allow for teachers, parents and pupils to work side by side throughout the year. They allow boys and girls to mix socially in a very natural way. Such activities lead to the development of natural relationships between boys and girls because mixing is a by-product of the event. And teachers are present on such occasions so that parents can rest assured their children are being well supervised also. It is worth noting that such extra-curricular activities also lead to helpful interaction between junior and senior pupils.
A co-educational school can also be very successful in challenging sexist attitudes. Many subjects in secondary school allow for considerable classroom discussion and debate. In a co-educational school both the female and male perspectives will be explored in such discussions and this is a very important learning experience for all. In Presentation College girls and boys are expected to help in all activities so it is not uncommon to see boys helping in the canteen at lunchtime or sweeping the floor while girls may be found working backstage on the musical. Studies have shown that girls and boys in co-educational schools have less traditional sex-role attitudes and expectations than their counterparts in single-sex schools.
Presentation College provides many opportunities for girls and boys to accept responsibilities on an equal footing. Our Leaving Certificate pupils, girls and boys, are invited to become Prefects and Meitheal Leaders. They then undergo a common training programme and make an important contribution to the ethos of the school. They meet regularly to discuss their progress.
In so doing they learn that 'equality' does not mean 'sameness' - that men and women often have different perspectives on the same issues and that each approach has a great deal to offer the other.
Another advantage of co-education is often overlooked, yet it can be very enriching. Whole families can attend the same school and many past-pupils have commented that because of co-education they were enabled to get to know their own brothers and sisters at a much deeper level than would otherwise have been possible.
Co-education then has great advantages for girls and boys alike. In short, mixed schools offer the same benefits as other schools with the added benefit of co-education.