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Study shows an all-girls education improves non-cognitive outcomes

Study shows an all-girls education improves non-cognitive outcomes

At St Mary’s we know that teaching so-called ‘soft skills’ is critically important to student achievement, both in and beyond the classroom. As educators, we obviously have an obligation to equip the next generation of women with the academic know-how they need to achieve their career ambitions and rise to the top. However, in parallel, we also need to embed them with the communication techniques, critical thinking, adaptability, resourcefulness and resilience they will need to help shape a better world and live a happy, fulfilled life.

A recent study entitled ‘Non-Cognitive Consequences of Single-Sex Schooling’ published in the Journal of Economic Theory and Econometrics found that single-sex education settings are the best place to develop soft skills, particularly for girls*. The study, which was undertaken in South Korea, used national longitudinal data to investigate the effects of single-sex schooling on three non-cognitive outcomes: depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and school aspirations – all of which researchers found improved significantly in an all-girls education environment.

As the only all-girls school in Cambridge, we already know that there are countless benefits that a single-sex education can offer. As well as championing the full spectrum of academic subjects to girls, and ensuring no subject is off limits, single-sex schools like St Mary’s can help young women find their voice. In classes, where the teacher to pupil ratio is low, our girls have the chance to develop a strong sense of who they are.

Learning in an environment where discussion is as important as debate, and listening is as important as talking and speaking, they can gain the self-belief and the soft skills needed to succeed at university, in apprenticeships and in employment. Alongside academic excellence, this is vital if we want to encourage girls to take more of a lead in society.

This research – along with many other studies - reinforces the fact that girls’ schools, such as St Mary’s, are uniquely placed to equip young women with the knowledge, tenacity and persistence needed to navigate the obstructions, obstacles, and opposition that they may, regrettably, still encounter in the adult world. 

Within the supportive, open and non-judgemental environment we have created, girls can discover – unhindered – where their passions and ambitions lie and explore their capabilities. The outcome is engaged, compassionate young women with the aspirations, confidence, and integrity to be themselves. Teaching our girls to dream big and strive to reach their full potential is pivotal. This requires both hard and soft skills – with academic and exam results opening doors, and soft skills propping it open for them, and others, to walk through.

* Research can be viewed here