I've heard it said many times that boys perform better when they are in the same classroom as girls and girls perform better when they are by themselves.

Is there any evidence to support this claim?

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    Just found the same question on the parenting site: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/749/…
    – going
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 22:33
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    If heard the claim that girls will, when by themselves, perform particularly better in math and science classes. Would be interested in answers :)
    – Lagerbaer
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 22:44
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    At what ages? Primary? Secondary? University? There are still some female-only colleges at my university, they consistently perform poorly.
    – fredley
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 13:13
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    Anecdote Alert: from personal experience, I am and always have been perfectly capable of educating myself, however, I probably wouldn't have gone to school if it weren't for the girls:) Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 21:57
  • So that means girls are a source for competition!
    – cregox
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


It is partially true. Girls perform better in all girls schools according to Daily Telegraph.

Analysis of Key Stage 2 and GCSE scores of more than 700,000 girls has revealed that those in all-female comprehensives make better progress than those who attend mixed secondaries.

But boys don't perform better in co-ed classes with girls. They perform better in all boys classes.

The researchers found that at age 16, girls in girls’ schools were more likely to gain maths and science A-levels, and boys in boys’ schools more liable to gain A-levels in English and modern languages than their peers in co-educational schools. Girls and boys in single-sex schools also had more confidence in their ability to do well in these subjects

Centre for Longitudinal studies

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    This is saying a lot about the education system, and nothing about the children’s respective ability to learn. At least, this is my strong conviction (and the more parsimonious explanation). Commented May 18, 2011 at 8:53
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    It is also saying a lot about prejudices of many people. I bet if the answer was "No" vote count would be ten times higher and the answer would be already accepted :) No worries, I also wish the answer was no. Lets hope someone will find a correct research for this case.
    – user288
    Commented May 21, 2011 at 19:40
  • Absolutely, I wouldn’t dream of denying that. I’m very prejudiced in this case. ;-) Confirmation bias … Commented May 22, 2011 at 9:05
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    it is true or boys perform better in all boy schools? These seem mutually exclusive. OP says boys perform better when mixed with girls, but doesn't your answer suggest the opposite?
    – Adam Johns
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 16:49
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    Correlation does not imply causation. Perhaps the choice for a particular kind of school is correlated with other factors that influence choices. Studies with stronger tests do not show any link; see also the research cited in my answer.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 19:14

It probably makes no difference.

Gender-segregated schools still exist in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Korea, and some other countries. Therefore, it is possible to study whether either works better in reality. A comprehensive meta-analysis published in 2014 analysed 184 studies, and concluded that it is unlikely that single-sex education offers any advantages or disadvantages for either gender. The study covered primary and secondary education.

“The Effects of Single-Sex Compared With Coeducational Schooling on Students’ Performance and Attitudes: A Meta-Analysis,” Erin Pahlke, PhD, Whitman College; Janet Shibley Hyde, PhD, and Carlie M. Allison, MS, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Psychological Bulletin, online Feb. 3, 2014. In: Psychological Bulletin, doi:10.1037/a0035740. Available online. See also press release by the American Psychological Association, from which I quote (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON — Single-sex education does not educate girls and boys any better than coed schools, according to research published by the American Psychological Association analyzing 184 studies of more than 1.6 million students from around the world. The findings are published online Feb. 3 in the APA journal Psychological Bulletin®.


The analysis, funded by the National Science Foundation, included studies of K-12 schools published from 1968 to 2013. Among the studies, 57 used stronger research methods, such as studies in Trinidad and Tobago and Korea that randomly assigned thousands of students to single-sex or coed schools and tracked their outcomes. Other examples of more rigorous studies controlled for pre-existing differences between students, such as testing students before and after they enrolled in either a single-sex or coed institution. The total sample included 1,663,662 participants in 21 countries. The studies examined students’ performance and attitudes in math and science; verbal skills; and attitudes about school, gender stereotyping, aggression, victimization and body image. They did not find sufficient evidence to show any difference in these attitudes between boys and girls in single-sex or coed classrooms.

NB: That does not mean there certainly is no difference, but with a study of this scale, I think it is fair to conclude there probably is no (major) difference.

  • "They did not find sufficient evidence to show any difference in these attitudes between boys and girls in single-sex or coed classrooms." is very different from "They found sufficient evidence to show that there was no difference ...", which is what "It probably makes no difference" means.
    – sgf
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:41
  • @sgf If there was a large effect, it should probably show up in such a large (meta-)study. I don't agree that It probably makes no difference means They found sufficient evidence to show that there was no difference. The word probably is important here. It's hard to prove a negative, but if you look and look and look and find no evidence for something, I think it's fair to say it probably isn't there.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:44
  • Why the downvote?
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 21:15
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    Scientific studies operate under the principle that: "If someone were to assert that there is an elephant on the quad, then the failure to observe an elephant there would be good reason to think that there is no elephant there. But if someone were to assert that there is a flea on the quad, then one's failure to observe it there would not constitute good evidence that there is no flea on the quad." The bigger the sample size the less of a flea and more of an elephant we are dealing with.
    – Daron
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 11:08

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