After 40 years of mixed education, Swedish school ruffles feathers with single-sex classes

The school principal made the decision to trial separate classes to improve female students' confidence

After 40 years of mixed education, Swedish school ruffles feathers with single-sex classes


Despite being global leaders in terms of gender equality, a school is Sweden has come under fire for challenging more than four decades of mixed education by trialling single-gender classes.

Students in the 9th year (16-year-olds) at Adolfsberg School in Örebro in central Sweden returned after the Christmas break to find that their groups had been mixed by the school administration, with those in groups C and D now in classed with students of the same sex.

According to local media, their parents received letters instructing them that for a period of six weeks their classes would be separated for all subjects except for science. Principal Anneli Widestrand described the move as a one-off intervention to “strengthen knowledge development” and boost the confidence of the female students in her charge.

Designed to break negative patterns

According to Widestrand, her years of experience as a teacher has shown her that some girl pupils never speak up in class or break from other negative behaviour patterns when surrounded by male peers.

“I think it’s a good way to break the pattern, to reach students,” she told local the local newspaper.

But the school’s students have not responded positively to the development, calling the move antiquated.

“If I had wanted to go to a girls’ school, I would have done it. But that’s impossible anyway, they closed in 1974,” said student Beata Ejdeholt.

“People are very unhappy and upset. We have questioned it and students have written about it on Instagram. We have raised it several times, but they just say that some girls think it is difficult to give presentations in front of some guys.”

The Swedish school system was rocked last year by a controversial ruling made by the Schools Inspectorate that allowed an Islamic school in Stockholm to separate its male and female students for physical education lessons. The ensuing debate over the single-gendered classes saw education minister Gustav Fridolin say he would bring forward legislation preventing gender-based segregation from entering the Swedish school system.

The argument for single-sex classes

Despite the acceptance of mixed education in Sweden, some studies into single-sex systems suggest that both boys and girls perform better in exams when taught in single-sex classrooms.

A recent study in the UK claimed that pupils in single-sex state school earned higher grades than those in mixed schools, with 75% of pupils getting five good GCSE results compared to 55% in mixed classes.

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