CELEBRATING OPEN-ENTRY EDUCATION

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11 June, 2021

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Scotch Oakburn College provides an exceptional education for students of all genders, together, and part of the success of what happens here is exactly that: we provide an open-entry environment. We have always used the term ‘open-entry’ in terms of ability but it also applies to gender.

The debate about single-sex versus open-entry schools has been raging for years and there has always been evidence showing that both have their advantages.

There are often suggestions that academic achievement for girls in a single-sex school is higher because there are no limitations and no stereotypes and therefore girls excel. Similarly, many boy’s schools claim that single-sex education gives boys the chance to participate in performing arts activities without censure from their peers. There are many pieces of evidence like this, and they all have some validity. Is it possible, however, that these examples used to be more valid than they are now, and what young people really need their education to provide in 2021 is better delivered in an open-entry environment?

Scotch Oakburn’s SOC2035 strategic plan is completely committed to educating the whole child and values academic achievement, the development of character attributes and skill development equally. This 21st-century focus on what is important for secondary school graduates is exactly why an exceptional open-entry learning environment is more relevant and appropriate for young people in 2021.

Developing confidence, encouraging freedom from stereotypes and developing meaningful relationships across the gender divide are now considered equally important elements of education. Schools must prepare young people for the changing, diverse and uncertain world they are moving into and therefore their educational experience should reflect the diversity and reality of such a world.

There is increasing evidence to show that all students should learn about each other, with each other. Schools can be proactive in a safe environment and educate all genders together. This prevents students of different genders from seeing each other as mythical creatures. We all value communication skills (a key learner attribute at SOC), therefore we need all students to communicate effectively with each other in all settings.

When students engage collaboratively and debate issues, the fact that all genders are there ensures a richness and diversity of thinking and learning, similar to all other facets of society. Open-entry schools are successful at challenging sexist attitudes, students have different perspectives and all approaches have much to offer the other. Students learn to respect alternate views, this should be nurtured and valued. Open-entry education is a more natural reflection of society.

In open-entry schools, all students work together in leadership positions, valuing each other’s intellect, they play sport together, attend Education Outdoors together and collaborate in the performing arts. They work together on service projects, Duke of Ed programs and in debating and public speaking teams. This collaboration provides all students with a more authentic experience, preparing them for their adult lives.

When students interact as contemporaries, they experience personal growth, connectedness and the development of appropriate value systems. In the adolescent years, open-entry education leads to the moderation and balance of gender-specific behaviours.

The biggest argument against open-entry education has always related to arguments about better academic performance in gender-specific classes. Research repeatedly shows that the quality of the teacher is the central factor to achievement and not segregated classrooms.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge University stressed that “Separating children for a number of years means they will not be mixing and learning about each other”. Open-entry education promotes a more authentic understanding of self and a person’s potential to make valuable contributions to society as respectful, resilient, collaborative adults.

Stuart Walls
Head of Senior School

References:

Which is better: single-sex or co-ed schools? – Jordan Baker, May 9 2021, Sydney Morning Herald
Why Choose Co-education? – Heads of Independent Co-educational Schools of NSW. (HICES)

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