Single-Sex Education Caveats

My previous post raised the question why there are no single-sex juku, even though single-sex conventional schools continue to thrive in Japan.

Just a quick first caveat: There are some single-sex juku that specifically cater to students preparing for entrance examinations to single-sex conventional schools. If a juku thus specializes in preparation for entry into school X where school X is a girls’ school, clearly all the jukusei will be girls. There are examples of such juku, of course.

Here comes the second, more substantive caveat on the question of the predominance of coeducation in juku as it continues to puzzle me. Part of my puzzle is rooted in a North American/European belief in the (conditional) desirability of single-sex education for pedagogical reasons. There clearly is a large (and growing, it appears) literature that investigates whether educational outcomes for girls (and increasingly boys) may be better when the learning occurs primarily in single-sex classrooms. From arguments about inherently different learning styles, to investigations of teacher-student relations and their impact on learning, this literature is interpreted (probably second and third-hand at best) by some parents as supporting a decision to eschew co-education for pedagogical reasons. An example of this kind of reasoning can be found in a recent blog post focused somewhat on Japan as well.

My sense is that the choice of single-sex conventional schools by Japanese parents and students is not primarily rooted in such pedagogical aims.

Some of the juku owner-operators to whom I have posed my question about the absence of single-sex juku have pointed to the social motivations behind the choice of single-sex conventional schools. Of parents themselves may have attended these (primarily private) schools and are thus keen to send their child(ren) to the same school out of alumni loyalty.

Others view single-sex schools as providing a particular social setting that they desire for their child(ren), i.e. more discipline-oriented boys’ schools, or girls’ schools that continue to cater to notions associated with ‘finishing schools’.

Yet other simply accept the single-sex nature of particular private schools as an element in that school’s profile that they are willing to accept and possibly even embrace because of the school’s academic standing or ranking.

None of these reasons speak to a particular belief in the pedagogical desirability of single-sex education and none of these reasons replicate easily in the juku setting.

Family tradition? Since virtually all contemporary juku were founded since the first 塾ブーム (juku boom) of the early 1970s and would have focused in their exam preparation on (predominantly coeducational) public schools initially, there are no ‘old school’ juku that are single-sex.

The fact that some parents send their children to neighbourhood juku that they attended themselves has been one of the real surprises in my research. One juku in particular enrolls some current students who are the children of one or two parents who attended the juku themselves. The owner-operated at this particular school has mentioned to me that he will finally retire when the first 3rd generation student, i.e. the grandchild of a juku graduate, enrolls.

Yet, the absence of juku that had been founded as single-sex juku (I’ll have to follow up on one of my next research trips to ask whether there had been single-sex juku in the 1970s), means that even a preference for sending children to the juku that parents attended wouldn’t lead to the appearance of such juku today.

While juku clearly involve a very particular social setting for learning and are (increasingly, in my mind) taking on functions of socialization in loco parentis, they are not commonly looked to “officially” to offering such socialization in that more military-style (whatever that means in a postwar Japanese context) boys’ schools are.

Despite thus admitting that part of my puzzle about this issue is misdirected by my assumption that the choice for single-sex education is rooted in pedagogical preferences, the puzzle remains.

2 responses to “Single-Sex Education Caveats

  1. Pingback: Some Explanations for the Absence of Single-Sex Juku at Jukupedia • Shadowing Education • 塾ペディア

  2. Pingback: No Niches in Education Markets? Really? at Jukupedia • Shadowing Education • 塾ペディア

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