The prevalence of single-sex schools in Ireland needs to be analysed to address issues of gender inequality such as toxic masculinity.
According to Labour’s Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the challenges in tackling the problem are exacerbated by children being separated on the basis of gender in schools.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, the TD Dublin Bay North said there is a disproportionate amount of schools in Ireland separated on the basis of gender.
He added that "nobody can convince me that that isn't part of the problem" of gender inequality.
He said the issues of domestic violence and image-based sexual assault cannot be effectively discussed when boys and girls are being taught in separate buildings.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: "There can be a toxic masculinity that builds up in a single-gender male school."
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, he explained that it is difficult to tackle issues of gender inequality in a segregated school system.
He said: "Whenever we discuss issues of gender inequality, I think it is reasonable for us to analyse where this comes from and how we can tackle it better.
"Within the discussion of domestic violence, I made the point that this is a very gendered issue, that the majority of people who are affected by domestic violence are women.
"The problem here is men, the problem in most cases is men, and toxic masculinity is part of the mix.
"When you're trying to tackle gender inequality, it's more difficult to tackle gender inequality when you have a school system as segregated on gender lines as Ireland."
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17% of Irish primary school children attend single-gender schools while one-third of second-level schools are separated on the basis of gender.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said he is often contacted by parents in his constituency enquiring as to why it still makes sense to separate children by gender.
He added: "The point I'm trying to make is when you're trying to tackle issues of gender inequality within which is the issue of domestic violence and toxic masculinity, it is more difficult and more challenging to do so when you ware separated on the basis of gender.
"When you have a situation when you're trying to have a level of equality within the school system, when you're trying to encourage people to have a less insecure view of each other, a less insecure view of gender equality, it is more challenging to do so."
Benefits of mixed-gender education
However, Deputy Ó Ríordáin made it clear that he is not suggesting that single-gender schools be abolished.
He said: "It is important to analyse why Ireland has a greater proportion of single-gender second-level schools than any other European country and is this benefitting or making it more difficult to tackle gender inequality.
"What I'm actually trying to achieve here is to do something on the basis of gender inequality and to go beyond the general discussions and to look at elements of Irish society which leads to gender inequality.
"In my belief, one of those elements has to be why we are so determined to separate children on the basis of gender.
Such a study has not been carried out by the Department of Education since 1998 and Deputy Ó Ríordáin believes "it is worthy for us to analyse the benefits of mixed-gender education".
He said: "When we are dealing with such a high level of gender inequality issues in Irish society, form the pay gap, to maternity leave, to childcare, to all these issues that come up again and again, we never broaden this discussion to say, you know what, a lot of our children are first segregated from boys or girls at age four or five."