Ireland should be phasing out “totally unnatural” single-sex schools, according to Newstalk Breakfast presenter Shane Coleman.
He was speaking after Newstalk reporter Sarah Madden spoke to principals all over the country to find out why single-sex schools remain such a large part of the Irish education system.
Earlier this year, St Joseph’s School in Dublin announced plans to admit girls for the first time in its 134-year history.
Shane said it’s now time for schools all over the country to follow its lead.
“It’s something I feel pretty strongly about,” he said.
“I think all schools, ideally, should be co-ed. If you look across Europe, in the vast, vast majority of countries, schools - certainly State-funded schools - are all co-ed.
“I just think it makes much more sense. It is much more natural and I think it helps both boys and girls.”
He said there are "certain traits" that people pick up in single-sex schools that could be avoided with a mixed approach.
“I think it sort of softens the worst features,” he said.
“If you have an all-boys or an all-girls school, I think there are certain traits you see in those schools – particularly in boys’ schools, that kind of machismo and so on. I think it takes the edge off that
“The reality is we want an equal society. We want men and women to live together in harmony; we want to get rid of toxic masculinity. How can you do that if you are separating them for schools?
“I just think it is totally unnatural and it doesn’t make sense to me in the 21st Century.”
Fellow presenter Ciara Kelly said she agrees with mixed education in principle – but warned that banning single sex education is not the way to go.
“I do wonder about removing choice because I think parents should have choice in what they do with their kids, but I think in principle you’re correct,” she said.
“I went to a mixed school and still have very close male friends from secondary school which I don’t think I necessarily would have at all if I went to girls’ school – I mean where would I have gotten them?
“Because I sat in class with lads all day, we’re still pals 30 years later, so I do see that.
“But I don’t think the way to move away from it wouldn’t be to disallow people from making those choices.”
"Healthier and more natural"
Shane said he believes co-education is “healthier and more natural”.
“By the way there is a myth out there as well that girls perform better in single sex schools and people say the stats back it up,” he said.
“The stats back it up because most single-sex girls’ schools tend to be in affluent areas and you will find in affluent areas, kids do better in school than in non-affluent areas.”