Girls’ Schools Teach Girls They ARE Smart

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A recent report published in the journal Science suggests girls as young as 6 can be led to believe men are inherently smarter and more talented than women, discouraging girls from pursuing “many prestigious careers.”

A co-author of the study states, “As a society, we associate a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females, and our research suggests that this association is picked up by children as young [as] 6 and 7.”

We would not disagree, but we know places where this societal norm is challenged and questioned daily: girls’ schools.

Whether they want to be astronauts, ambassadors, authors, or attorneys, girls need to know—not just think, but truly know, deep down—nothing stands in their way. Girls’ schools send that message to girls every day. Girls’ schools provide an inspirational environment where girls take center stage, build self-confidence, develop leadership skills, and set higher aspirations.

In an all-girls school, a girl and her unique capabilities are embraced for what they are and not limited to what society expects them to be. In the study Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools, Dr. Linda Sax of the University of California, Los Angeles found a majority of girls’ school graduates report both higher academic and intellectual self-confidence over their coed school counterparts.

An all-girls educational environment provides opportunities for girls during a critical time in their growth and development. At a girls’ school, a girl occupies every role: every part in the play, every seat on the student government, every position on every sports team. Not only does she have many avenues for self-exploration and development, she has a wealth of peer role models. Girls need to “see it, to be it” and learning about women who have shaped our schools and world makes girls more aware of the possibilities in their own lives and helps them set their own brilliant paths.

The most powerful message a girl can receive is there are no limits to what subjects she can study or career she can pursue – whether that be in business, communications, the law, politics, civil engineering, or computer science. At girls’ schools, there are no glass ceilings and no assumptions about what girls like or prefer because no one is saying “that subject is for boys” or “that subject is too hard.”

When you combine strong female mentors and positive role models, reduced gender stereotyping in curriculum and classroom, and abundant learning opportunities, the results are clear. Girls at girls’ schools don’t doubt they are smart, because their schools send them the message every day that they ARE smart.

Martha Perry ’85, Principal, St. Clement’s School and Board of Trustees President, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

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