Girls’ School Graduates Have a Clear Edge Over Coeducated Peers

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New research reveals graduates of all-girls schools have a definitive edge over their coeducated peers. The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles released the results of a study that found statistically significant advantages for girls’ school graduates as they enter university. Commissioned by NCGS, Fostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to University is an update of a 2009 report also published by HERI.

These two major peer-reviewed studies spanning Generations Y and Z compare the self-confidence, academic achievement, political engagement, and aspirations of girls’ school graduates to female graduates of coed schools. According to the researchers, the data reveals “a consistent portrait of girls’ school graduates who are more engaged academically and socially than their coeducated peers.”

The study identified several key areas in which all-girls schools are better preparing students for success in university and beyond. Based on the reported data, the researchers concluded that when compared to their female peers from coed schools, girls’ school graduates:

  • Gain stronger academic skills
  • Indicate being more academically engaged
  • Demonstrate higher science self-confidence
  • Display greater levels of cultural competency
  • Express stronger community involvement
  • Exhibit increased political engagement

Specifically, the report identifies over 80 statistically significant differences that favor graduates of all-girls schools when compared to female graduates of coed schools, such as:

  • Graduates of girls’ schools are critical thinkers who acquire behaviors needed for academic success. More than 2/3 of girls’ school graduates report frequently supporting their arguments with logic. They are also more likely than coeducated peers to frequently seek alternative solutions to a problem and explore topics on their own, even when not required.
  • Girls’ schools are leading the way in closing the gender gap in STEM. Graduates of girls’ schools report greater confidence than coeducated peers in their ability to use technical science skills, understand scientific concepts, generate a research question, explain study results, and determine appropriate data collection.
  • Girls’ school alumnae want to help bridge cultural and racial divides. When asked about their ability to work and live in a diverse society, 75% of girls’ school alumnae value improving their understanding of other countries and cultures and are nearly 10% more likely than coeducated peers to have the goal to help promote racial understanding.
  • By providing environments that encourage collaboration and understanding, girls’ schools are graduating girls who count their tolerance of others with different beliefs and their ability to work cooperatively with diverse people as strengths.
  • Demonstrating that they value giving back to their community, graduates of girls’ schools are more likely than coeducated peers to have a goal of participating in community action programs and believing it’s essential to become involved in environmentally minded programs.
  • Women who attended all-girls schools are committed to social improvement. They are more likely than coeducated peers to plan to vote in elections, to publicly communicate their opinion about a cause, and they also think it is “very important” to have the goal of keeping up-to-date with political affairs.

Reflecting on the totality of the findings, the researchers noted, “these statistically significant results demonstrate differences in areas of critical importance in the twenty-first century for women as they enter university and beyond, thus emphasizing the contribution of all-girls schooling for women’s success.”


Related Resource:
For deeper insight into the findings, listen to the NCGS PEP Talks: Podcast on Educational Possibilities interview with the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Tiffani Riggers-Piehl.


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools


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Share your thoughts

  1. Rosalind Daniels

    Very interesting article. So proud of my daughter, principal of St. Marys.

  2. MBM

    I do not doubt that private single-sex schools can offer a fantastic education, but I feel compelled to point out that my daughter has done extremely well at public school. She easily ticks all of the above bullet points and then some, as do most of her quite accomplished peers, who include both girls and boys. I clearly remember the pangs of guilt I felt when I did not send her to a private, all-girls school. I also clearly remember those guilt pangs quickly disappeared as I realized that she and her friends were doing extraordinarily well, were challenged and motivated, and were happy. I have no doubt in my mind that these kids will be not only just fine, but very well prepared and ultimately successful at whatever they choose to become.

  3. Clare Mulholland Wallace

    Added benefits: young women form a deep respect for women women’s talents, feelings, intelligence and tiredness along with deep friendship and respect for one’s women friends which last a lifetime!