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Asquith Girls High in Sydney's north shore is one of the 45 single-sex school in NSW. Picture: John Grainger/News Corp Australia.

Expert plead for single-sex classes in mixed schools

An education expert has welcomed NSW Labor's pledge to expand access to co-ed schools, but has called for STEM and literacy classes to be separated by gender. 

Earlier this week, state Labor announced plans to expand catchment areas for co-ed schools to diversify options for parents and students.

Currently there there are 45 single-sex schools in NSW, with most located in Sydney

Australian Catholic University associate professor Laura Scholes said while co-ed schools have a lot of advantages they should still tailor to students’ specific learning needs and interests.

“Bringing both genders together and then having options to cater for boys and girls would be optimal,”  Professor Scholes told Education Review.

According to Scholes, girls are often not given the same opportunity as boys to participate equally in STEM learning in the classroom.

Having girls-only classes in STEM subjects could help to foster their interest and allow them more space to participate in conversations, she said. 

Currently in Australia, women make up 27 per cent of the STEM workforce, according to government data. 

Around 36 per cent of women study STEM at university, with just 16 per cent enrolled in vocational STEM courses.

While Sholes recommends separating genders in specific classes, she said better access to co-education could help to further develop students' social relationships. 

“Co-ed schools are taking away those strict boundaries about gender and teaching young people to manage relationships and be respectful,” Associate Professor Scholes said. 

“If we are to teach students about gender it needs to start early and it needs to start by interacting with people who look and sound different.”

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