All-girls boarding schools have a certain stigma around them, in which they are either correctional facilities for badly behaved teens or are places where snobby rich girls are sent away for the duration of their childhood. This stigma created by film, television and literature has blinded the general American populous from the truth about these schools. Often, people believe that all-girls schools are outdated and that single-sex education is pointless in the 21st century. But most people do not realize that all-girls schools in the United States are actually thriving and are a place where these teens can grow academically, athletically and intellectually.
In an era where women’s problems and voices are being heard more often, it is easy to see why single-sex education is empowering. As someone who attends a girls’ school, I can attest to the fact that almost everyone who enters an all-girls school leaves feeling confident and fully prepared to enter college. The reason for that is because single-sex schools can focus on teaching their students issues and things about the world that truly pertain to the students. All-girls schools are raw and honest about women’s issues; they do not just float over the reality of suffering all over the world like co-ed schools do, it must be addressed because almost every one of the students has and will have to deal with it in the future. But all-girls schools don’t just leave it at just talking about it either. They teach everyone in the school what to do about these issues and encourage action.
Girls are taught the reality about the world they live in and how to confront it. But what is it that genuinely makes these schools stimulate confidence growth and make environments to thrive academically? Well, most of it can be heard in the mission statements. For instance, part of my school’s mission statement directly says that students will “graduate with confidence to think independently and act ethically, secure in the knowledge that her voice will be heard”. The purpose of girls’ schools is to create environments where their voices can be heard. Something that so often does not happen in co-ed schools. Encouraging this ideal during the high school years will allow for girls to take it into wherever they go afterward. Here is one misconception about single-sex schools: that it doesn’t prepare them for a world where there is more than one gender. This can be proven untrue simply with the fact that, though one’s academic life will only involve one gender, every other part of that person’s life won’t. Creating an academic environment where girls’ voices are meant to be heard, will build confidence in the classroom, and will carry over into the real world.
In a place where “a girl occupies every role: every part in the play, every seat on the student government, every position on every team,” it is clear that female success inherently flourishes within all of these schools. If that’s not enough, it is proven that girls’ schools are atmospheres that encourage success. Because of the difference in dynamics, girls have “a greater ability to focus on their work”, and it shows. In stereotypically non-female subjects, such as math, 11% more of girls consider themselves great at math in single-sex schools compared to co-ed schools and three times as many graduates of girls’ schools plan to become engineers than those at co-ed. The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools puts it simply: “girls’ schools teach girls that there is enormous potential and power in being a girl”.
There are many girls’ day schools, but boarding life is a huge factor as to why these schools work. Obviously, moving away from home puts these students out of their comfort zones. Going to a new school by yourself, away from your family and in an all-new place is very tough for most of these kids. However, once they get over the initial fears and allow themselves to be an active member of the boarding life, they are developing a sense of confidence in themselves in terms of moving away, that most people will not get until college, or even later. It also expands their international views of the world, as they are not just meeting people from all over their state or country, but all over the world. Plus, it is financially helpful to the schools themselves. Because of the tuition factor, endowments are often large enough to be able to cater to more student activities and of course, allows people to receive financial aid (rather than the less expensive day school route).
Though many people believe that these schools hardly exist anymore in the United States and are just a place for rich girls to break rules (or to learn how not to break rules), girls find themselves at these schools. The all-girls environment is healthy and inherently feminist, encouraging female success. Almost all parts of life at all-girls boarding schools and unique to this type of schooling, but people must realize at the end of the day that this is a place where girls go to learn. Everyone at these schools have normalized their lives and now it is time for the media to do so as well. It is the only way the stigma around all-girls schools will end.
Photo: Joy C. Lundberg