CO-EDUCATION, the term applied to the instruction and training of boys and girls, or of young people of both sexes, in the same school or institution, in the same classes and through the same courses of study. Examples of the thoroughgoing application of this principle can be found in every grade of education from the elementary school to the university. But the term "Co-education" is sometimes used in a wider sense, in order to include cases in which boys and girls, or young men and young women of university age, are admitted to membership of the same school or college but receive instruction wholly or in part in separate classes and in different subjects. Other variable factors in co-educational systems are the extent to which men and women are mixed on the teaching staff, and the freedom of intercourse permitted between pupils of the two sexes in class, in games and in other activities of school life. In another form of combined education (preferred by Comte, Système de politique positive, iv. 266), pupils of the two sexes are taught successively by the same teacher. By the English Board of Education, a distinction is drawn between mixed schools and dual schools. "Mixed schools" are those in which, for most subjects of the curriculum, boys and girls are taught together by the same teachers: in "dual schools" there are separate boys' and girls' departments under a single principal, but with separate entrances, classrooms and playgrounds for the two sexes.
History. - Co-education in early times was occasional and sporadic. For example, women were admitted by Plato to the inner circle of the Academy on terms of equality with men. The educational endowments of Teos provided that the professors of literature should teach both boys and girls. It is uncertain whether the Roman schools in classical times were attended by both sexes. A tombstone found at Capua represents a schoolmaster with a boy on one side and a girl on the other. Probably co-education was practised in country districts for economical reasons; and also in the home schools organized by wealthier families (Wilkins, Roman Education, pp. 42-43). At Charles the Great's Palace School at Aachen (A.D. 782 onwards), Alcuin taught together the young princes and their sisters, as well as grown men and women. The Humanists of the Renaissance made the full development of personality a chief aim of education, and held up literary accomplishment as a desirable mark of personal distinction both for men and women. This led to the scholarly education of girls along with boys in the home schools of some great families. Thus, at Mantua (1423 onwards), Vittorino da Feltre taught Cecilia Gonzaga with her brothers and the other boy pupils at his boarding-school; but there is no evidence that the latter was otherwise co-educational. Luther and other Reformers urged that girls as well as boys should be taught to read the Bible. Hence came the tendency to co-education of boys and girls in some elementary schools in Protestant lands. This tendency can be traced both in Scotland and in the northern parts of England. It is believed that, in the early days of New England, district schools in smaller American towns were open to boys and girls alike, but that few girls advanced beyond reading and writing (Martin, Massachusetts Public School System, p. 130). At Dorchester, Mass., it was left to the discretion of the elders and schoolmen whether maids should be taught with the boys or not; but in practice the girls seem to have been educated apart. In 1602 the council of Ayr, Scotland, ordained that the girls who were learning to read and write at the Grammar School should be sent to the master of the Song School, "because it is not seemly that sic lasses should be among the lads" (Grant, History of the Burgh and Parish Schools of Scotland, p. 526 ff.). Meriden, Connecticut, seems to have made common provision for the elementary education of boys and girls in 1678. Northampton, Mass., did the same in 1680. Deerfield, Mass., in 1698 voted that "all families having children either male or female between the ages of six and ten years shall pay by the poll for their schooling" - presumably in the common school.
Thus the beginnings of co-education in its modern organized form may be traced back partly to Scotland and partly to the United States. The co-education of boys and girls, carried through in varying degrees of completeness, was not uncommon in the old Endowed Schools of Scotland, and became more frequent as increasing attention was given to the education of girls. At the Dollar Institution, founded by John McNabb for the benefit of the poor of the parish of Dollar and shire of Clackmannan (date of will, 1800), boys and girls have been educated together in certain classes since the beginning of the school in 1818. In the eastern parts of the United States, where the Puritan tradition also prevailed, co-education struck firm root, and spread chiefly for reasons of convenience and economy (Dexter, History of Education in United States, p. 430). But throughout the west, co-education was strongly preferred in elementary and secondary schools and in universities on the further ground that it was believed to be more in accordance with the democratic principle of equal educational opportunity for the two sexes.
It should be added, however, that the leaven of Pestalozzi's thought has worked powerfully both in Europe and America in favour of the idea of co-education. His view was that all educational institutions should, as far as possible, be modelled upon the analogy of the family and of the home. At Stanz (1798-1799) he educated together in one household boys and girls ranging in age from five to fifteen. At Burgdorf (1799-1804) his work was in part co-educational. At Yverdun (1804-1825) Pestalozzi established a school for girls close to his school for boys. The girls received instruction from some of the masters of the boys' school, and girls and boys met at evening worship, in short excursions and at other times.
In England, the Society of Friends have been the pioneers of co-education in boarding schools, both for younger children and for pupils up to fifteen or sixteen years of age. The practice of the society, though not exclusively co-educational, has long been favourable to co-education, either in its complete or restricted form, as being more in harmony with the conditions of family life. Ackworth school was established by the London Yearly Meeting in 1779 for the education of boys and girls; but the school has never been fully co-educational, the boys and girls being taught separately except in a few classes. At Sidcot school, which was founded in 1808 by the Associated Quarterly Meetings in the west of England for the education of children of Friends, boys and girls are taught together, except in certain handicraft subjects. Several other co-educational schools were founded by the Society of Friends during the first half of the 19th century.
Since that time the movement towards co-education in secondary schools and universities has steadily gained strength in England. It has been furthered by the diffusion of Pestalozzian ideas and also by the influence of American example. In England, private schools have made some of the most valuable co-educational experiments. A private boarding and day secondary school on co-educational lines was instituted by Mr W. A. Case in Hampstead in 1865. A co-educational boarding-school was founded in 1869 by Miss Lushington at Kingsley near Alton, Hants. In 1873 Mr W. H. Herford began the Ladybarn school for boys and girls at Withington in the suburbs of Manchester. The passing of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889 led to the establishment of a considerable number of new mixed or dual secondary day-schools in Wales. Many English teachers gained experience in these schools and subsequently influenced English education. The work and writings of Mr J. H. Badley at Bedales, Petersfield, a co-educational boarding-school of the first grade, gave greatly increased weight to the principle of co-education. Important additions have also been made to the fund of co-educational experience by the King Alfred's school (Hampstead), Keswick school, and West Heath school (Hampstead). In 1907 a Public Co-educational Boarding School was opened at Harpenden.
Since the Education Act 1902 became law, there has been a rapid increase of co-educational secondary day-schools of the lower grade, under county or borough education authorities, in all parts of England. This increase is due to two chief causes, viz. (1) The co-educational tradition of some of the higher grade board schools, many of which have become secondary schools; and (2) the economy effected by establishing one co-educational secondary school, in place of two smaller schools for boys and girls separately.
The idea of co-education in secondary schools has spread in several other European countries, especially in Holland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In Scandinavia, the new practice appears to have begun with the establishment of a private higher secondary school, the Palmgremska Samskolan, in Stockholm, in 1876. A similar school, Nya Svenska Läroverket, was founded upon the same model in Helsingfors, Finland, in 1880. In Norway, the law of 1896 introduced co-education in all state schools. In Denmark, as in Norway, co-education was begun in private schools; on its proving a success there, it was introduced into the state schools, with two exceptions; and it is now obligatory in most state schools but optional in private schools (J. S. Thornton, Schools Public and Private in the North of Europe, 1907, p. 97). In Holland, there is now a good deal of co-education in lower secondary schools of the modern type. For example, at Utrecht, the state higher burgher school provides the same course of instruction, except in gymnastics, for boys and girls. At Almeloo, the municipal higher burgher school, though co-educational, differentiates the classes in several subjects. In Belgium, France, Germany and Austria, co-education, though frequent in elementary schools, is regarded as undesirable in secondary; but the movement in its favour in many parts of Germany seems to be gathering strength. All over Europe the Roman Catholic populations prefer the older ideal of separate schools for boys and girls.
Co-education in colleges and universities, which began at Oberlin, Ohio, in 1833, was adopted almost without exception by the state universities throughout the west of America from 1862 onwards. Since that time the idea has spread rapidly throughout Europe, and the presence of women students at universities originally confined to men is one of the most striking educational facts of the age.
Co-education in the United Kingdom, (a) England and Wales. - The Board of Education does not possess any summary showing the number of pupils in mixed public elementary schools or in mixed departments of such schools. In 1901, out of 31,502 departments of public elementary schools in England and Wales, nearly half (15,504) were mixed departments, in which boys and girls were educated together. But as the departments were of unequal size, it must not be inferred from this that half the children in public elementary schools in that year (5,883,762) were receiving co-education. Of the total number of departments in public elementary schools in England and Wales, the percentage of mixed schools fell from 51.6 in 1881 to 49.4 in 1891 and 49.2 in 1901. But these percentages must not be taken to prove an absolute decline in the number of children in mixed departments.
In England, out of 492 public secondary schools which were recognized by the Board of Education for the receipt of government grant for the school year ending July 31, 1905, and which contained 85,358 pupils, 108 schools, with 21,720 pupils, were mixed; and 20 schools, with 8980 pupils, were dual schools.
Thus, of the total number of pupils in the secondary schools referred to above, a little over 25% were in mixed schools, and about 10% were in dual schools. It is not safe to assume, however, that all the mixed schools were completely co-educational in their work, or that the dual schools were not co-educational in respect of certain subjects or parts of the course. It should also be remembered that, besides the secondary schools recognized by the Board of Education for the receipt of government grant, there is a considerable number of great endowed secondary boarding-schools ("public schools" in the English use of that expression) which are for boys only. There are also at least 5000 private secondary schools, of which, in 1897 (since when no comprehensive statistical inquiry has been made), 970, with 26,027 pupils, were mixed schools. But the great majority of the children in these mixed schools were under twelve years of age. The number of boys and girls over twelve years of age, in the mixed private secondary schools which were included in the 1897 return, was only 5488.
In Wales, for the school year ending July 31, 1905, out of 84 state-aided public secondary schools, 11 were mixed and 44 were dual schools. The number of scholars in the Welsh schools referred to above was 9340. Of these, 1457, or 15%, were in mixed schools, and 5085, or 54%, were in dual schools. The managers of dual schools in Wales have the power to arrange that boys and girls shall be taught together in any or all the classes; and, as a matter of fact, nearly all the dual schools are worked as mixed schools, though they appear in these figures under dual.
(b) Scotland. - In the public elementary schools, including the higher grade schools of Scotland, co-education is the almost universal rule. The exceptions, which for the most part are Roman Catholic or Episcopal Church schools, tend to diminish year by year. In 1905, out of 3843 departments in the Scotch public elementary and higher grade schools, 3783 were mixed. These include the infant departments. Out of the total number of children in the public elementary and higher grade schools, including infants' departments, 98.43% were receiving co-education.
In the secondary schools of Scotland there has been in recent years little perceptible movement either towards co-education or away from it. What movement there is, favours the establishment of separate secondary schools for girls in the large centres of population. Out of 109 public secondary schools in Scotland in 1905-1906, 29 schools were for boys only and 40 schools for girls only. One school had boys and girls in separate departments. In the remaining 39 schools, boys and girls were taken together to an extent which varied with the subjects taken; but there was nothing of the nature of a strict separation of the sexes as regards the ordinary work of the school.
(c) Ireland. - In Ireland, the percentage of pupils on the rolls of mixed national schools (i.e. schools attended by boys and girls), to the total number of pupils on the rolls of all national schools, has slowly increased. In 1880 the percentage was 57.5; in 1898, 59.4; in 1905, 60.9.
The Commissioners of Intermediate Education in Ireland had on their list in 1906, 38 secondary schools which were classified by them as mixed schools. These schools were attended by 640 boys and 413 girls between 13 and 19 years of age. The commissioners do not know to what extent the boys and girls in these schools received instruction in the same classes. As, however, the schools are small, they believe that in the great majority of cases the boys and girls were taught together. In one large school not classified as mixed, the boys (117) and girls (60) were taught in the same classes.
Universities and University Colleges in the United Kingdom. - Women are admitted as members of the universities of London, Durham, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Wales, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St Andrews, Glasgow, Dublin and the Royal University of Ireland. At Oxford and Cambridge women are not admitted as members of the university, but by courtesy enjoy entrance to practically all university lectures and examinations. The social life of the men and women students is more separate in the old than in the new universities. In no grade of education in the United Kingdom has the principle of co-education made more rapid advance than in the universities. The university education of women began in London (Queen's College 1848, Bedford College 1849, both being preceded by classes in earlier years). The University of London in 1878 decided to accept from the crown a supplemental charter making every degree, honour and prize awarded by the university accessible to students of both sexes on perfectly equal terms. By charter in 1880, the Victoria University (now broken up into the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds) received power to grant degrees to women as well as to men. The charter of the university of Wales (1893) provides that "Women shall be eligible equally with men for admittance to any degree which our university is authorized to confer; every office created in the university, and the membership of every authority constituted by the charter shall be open to women equally with men." In 1889 the Universities (Scotland) Act empowered the commissioners to make ordinances, enabling each university to admit women in graduation in one or more faculties and to provide for their instruction. At all the university colleges in the United Kingdom women are educated as well as men.
United States. - Co-education is a characteristic feature of the educational system of the different states of the American Union. Of elementary school pupils at least 96%, and of secondary school pupils 95%, are in mixed schools. In 1903, out of a total enrolment of 15,990,803 pupils in public elementary and secondary schools and training colleges, 15,387,734 were in schools attended by pupils of both sexes. Out of 550,600 pupils on the rolls of public secondary schools (high schools) in 1902, 523,300 were in co-educational schools. The same was true of 43% of the pupils (numbering over 100,000) in private secondary schools. In colleges and universities 62% of all undergraduates were in co-educational institutions, to which category thirty-four American universities belong (U.S. Commissioner of Education, Report for 1903, p. 2454). In America opinion is thus predominantly in favour of co-education, but there is a current of adverse criticism, especially among some who have had experience of school conditions in large cities.
General Review of the Question. - In schools for infants and younger children co-education is approved by all authorities. It is increasingly favoured on educational grounds in smaller schools for children up to 12 or 13 years of age or thereabouts. But where elementary schools have to be large, separate departments for boys and girls are generally preferable, though mixed schools are often established for reasons of economy. At the other end of the educational scale, viz. in the universities, the co-education of men and women in the same institution is fast becoming the rule. This is due partly to the prohibitive cost of duplicating teaching staff, laboratories, libraries and other equipment, partly to the desire of women to qualify themselves for professional life by passing through the same courses of training as are prescribed for men. The degree, however, to which social intercourse is carried on between men and women students differs widely in the different co-educational universities. There are occasional signs, e.g. at Chicago, of a reaction against the fullest form of academic co-education. And it is probable that the universities will provide, among many courses common to men and women, some (like engineering) suitable for men only, and others (like advanced instruction in home-science, or certain courses of professional preparation for teachers of young children) which will rarely be attended by any but women. Common use of the same university institutions is compatible with much differentiation in courses of study and with separately organized forms of collegiate life. It is with regard to the part of education which lies between the elementary schools and the universities that the sharpest division of opinion upon the principle of co-education now exists. In Europe, with the exception of Scandinavia, those who advocate co-education of the sexes in secondary schools up to 18 or 19 years of age are at present in a distinct minority, even as regards day schools, and still more when they propose to apply the same principle to boarding schools. But the application of the co-educational principle to all schools alike is favoured by an apparently increasing number of men and women. This movement in opinion is connected with the increase in the number of girls desiring access to secondary schools, a demand which can most easily and economically be met by granting to girls access to some of the existing schools for boys. The co-educational movement is also connected with a strong view of sex equality. It is furthered by the rapidly increasing number of women teachers who are available for higher educational work. Mixed secondary schools with mixed staffs are spreading for reasons of economy in smaller towns and rural districts. In large towns separate schools are usually recommended in preference, but much depends upon the social tradition of the neighbourhood. Those who advocate co-education for boys and girls in secondary schools urge it mainly on the ground of its naturalness and closer conformity to the conditions of healthy, unselfconscious home life. They believe it to be a protective against uncleanness of talk and school immorality. They point to its convenience and economy. They welcome co-education as likely to bring with it a healthy radicalism in regard to the older tradition of studies in boys' secondary schools. They approve it as leading to mixed staffs of men and women teachers, and as the most effectual way of putting girls in a position of reasonable equality with boys in respect of intellectual and civic opportunity. On the other hand, those who oppose co-education in secondary schools rest their case upon the danger of the intellectual or physical overstrain of girls during adolescence; and upon the unequal rate of development of boys and girls during the secondary school period, the girls being more forward than the boys at first, but as a rule less able to work as hard at a somewhat later stage. The critics further complain that co-education is generally so organized that the girls' course of study is more or less assimilated to that of the boys, with the result that it cannot have the artistic and domestic character which is suitable for the majority of girls. Complaint is also made that the head of a co-educational school for pupils over the age of 10 is usually a man, though the health and character of girls need the care and control of a woman vested with complete authority and responsibility. While demurring to the view that co-education of the sexes would be a moral panacea, the critics of the system admit that the presence of the girls would exert a refining influence, but they believe that on the whole the boys are likely to gain less from co-education than the girls are likely to lose by it. In all these matters carefully recorded observation and experiment are needed, and it may well be found that co-education is best for some boys and for some girls, though not for all. Temperaments and dispositions differ. Some boys seem by nature more fitted for the kind of training generally given to girls; some girls are by nature fitted for the kind of training generally given to boys. The sex division does not mark off temperaments into two sharply contrasted groups. The introduction of girls into boys' secondary schools may remove or mitigate coarse traditions of speech and conduct where such persist. But it would be unfortunate if stiff and pedantic traditions of secondary education were now fixed upon girls instead of being reconsidered and modified in the interests of boys also. In any case, if co-education in secondary schools is to yield the benefits which some anticipate from it, great vigilance, careful selection of pupils and very liberal staffing will be necessary. Without these securities the results of co-education in secondary schools might be disappointing, disquieting or even disastrous.
Bibliography. - Plato in the Republic (v. 452-456) and Laws (vii. 804-805) argues that women should share as far as possible in education with men. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), contends that "both sexes ought, not only in private families but in public schools, to be educated together." J. G. Spurzheim, Principles of Education, pp. 272-288 (Edinburgh, 1821), replies to this argument. In the Board of Education Special Reports on Educational Subjects, vol. vi. (Wyman & Sons, 1900), J. H. Badley, writing on The Possibility of Co-education in English Preparatory and other Secondary Schools, is strongly in favour. "In co-education ... half-heartedness means failure. The more completely both sexes can be brought together upon an equal and natural footing the less the difficulties grow." In the Board of Education Special Reports, vol. xi. (Wyman & Sons, 1902), Rev. Cecil Grant, writing on Can American Education be grafted upon the English Public School System? answers strongly in the affirmative; co-education is recommended on eight grounds: - (1) Vast economy of expenditure; (2) return to the natural system; (3) discipline made easier; (4) intellectual stimulus; (5) a better balance in instruction; (6) improved manners; (7) prevention of extremes of masculinity or femininity; (8) a safeguard against the moral danger.
Co-education: a series of Essays (London, 1903), edited by Alice Woods, is in favour of co-education, nine practical workers recording their experience; this is one of the best books on the subject. J. H. Badley's Co-education after Fifteen: its Value and Difficulties. Child Life (London, January, 1906), is candid, judicious and practical. M. E. Sadler in Reports on Secondary Education in Hampshire, Derbyshire and Essex (1904, 1905 and 1906 respectively) gives details of the curriculum of many co-educational secondary schools. In the U.S. Commissioner of Education Report for 1903, vol. i. pp. 1047-1078, Anna Tolman Smith, writing on Co-education in the Schools and Colleges of the United States, gives an historical review of the subject with bibliography (compare bibliography in Report of U.S. Commissioner of Education for 1900-1901, pp. 1310-1325). G. Stanley Hall on Adolescence, its Psychology and its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education, vol. ii. chap. xvii., on Adolescent Girls and their education (New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1904), is strongly against co-education during adolescence. In W. Rein's Encyklopädisches Handbuch der Pädagogik (Langensalza, Beyer), art. "Gemeinsame Erziehung für Knaben und Mädchen," K. E. Palmgren is in favour of co-education (vol. iii. of 2nd ed. 1905). See also W. Rein, Uber gemeinsame Erziehung von Knaben und Mädchen (Freiburg, 1903), and Bericht über den I. Internationalen Kongress für Schulhygiene (Nürnberg, 1904), vol. ii. pp. 140 ff., "Co-education in der höheren Schulen."
(M. E. S.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)