To Be Honest: A parent writes
Separating boys and girls is ridiculous:My family and I are moving to Dublin. I am looking for a primary school for my son and am finding the experience very frustrating.
My son has been in a coeducational school for two years, and I want him to continue to be schooled in a mixed environment.
He has a younger sister, and I want them to go to the same school when she starts.
Unfortunately, most of the schools in the area are single-sex, and the ones that are coeducational cannot offer me a place next year.
I know that a debate is going on in Ireland at the moment about school choice.
It has tended to focus on issues such as religion and the Irish language, but I think this is an issue that is just as important but receives very little attention.
In my view it is ridiculous that most schools in an urban centre in a European capital city are single-sex and that I cannot access a local coeducational school for my children. Coeducational schools should be the norm rather than the exception. We do not live under the Taliban.
This practice of separating boys and girls for education belongs to another age. It dates back to the days when the Catholic Church called all the shots in education and weird old ideas about sex governed the way we organised our lives.
We are talking about children under the age of 12. There is no justification for splitting them up, and it’s a long time since I’ve heard anyone offer a decent explanation for the practice.
Perhaps there are parents out there who really want their under-12s in a single-sex setting, but I would imagine they are in the minority, and the profile of Irish schools should reflect that.
The situation after primary level is just as unbalanced. There is only one coed postprimary school in the area that I live in, and it is a very costly private school. That’s not parental choice.
I don’t think boys and girls should be separated for education at any stage of their schooling. I respect the views of those who would rather separate them in their teens, even though research findings on the academic advantages of such a system are inconclusive.
I accept that there is a case to be made for some single-sex schooling to made available at secondary level, but again I find it bizarre that I cannot access even one nonfee-paying postprimary coed in a large Dublin conurbation.
As the choice-in-schooling debate hots up, can we please give this issue at least as much airtime as religion and Irish? Not only is the system outdated; the debate is pretty dusty too.
This column is designed to give a voice to people within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Email contributions to email@example.com