When members of both sexes receive their education jointly, the need for separate institutions disappears. This seems an advantage from the economic point of view since separate buildings and separate teaching and clerical staffs for those institutions would mean twice the expenditure that would be required for running co-education institutions would have to be double the number of separate institutions for boys and girls, and the total expenditure in the reckoning would be the same in both cases.
But co-education has other and more important advantages. It enables the two sexes to come into contact with, and learn to understand, one another. They receive their lessons jointly; they plan on the fields together; they participate in the extra-moral and extra-curriculum activities together; they hold joint concerts; they go out for excursions and educational tours together, in short, they get real opportunities to get to know one another. When free contact between the sexes is allowed and encouraged, there will be little sex suppression on either side. It is a psychological fact that the segregation of the sexes leads to many complexes. The age of puberty is crucial both for boys and girls, and if they get no chance to meet one another they are tormented by healthy and morbid thoughts.
Co-education also enables the two sexes to study each other’s habits, inclinations, hobbies and ways of thinking. A mutual knowledge of each other’s psychology and temperament leads to a better understanding. This understanding contributes, at a later stage, to married happiness, as it enables men and women to adjust themselves to their partners in the light of the experience they have acquired. The mutual under-standing brought about by co-education also compels the men folk to give to women a high status in social life.
Again, the presence of girls in educational institutions has a refining effect on boys. Generally, boys, if left to them, will show a tendency to indulge in vulgar talk and indecent jokes. If however a group of students standing the chatting together includes a few girls, the boys will take care not to use any vulgar expressions.
Another good effect of co-educational that it produces a healthy spirit of academic competition between boys and girls. Each sex makes effort to excel the others. Both are, therefore, urged to a more fruitful intellectual exertion that in the case separate institutions for boys and girls.
Co-education has, however, its faults and drawbacks that should be clearly recognized. In the first place, men find it difficult to concentrate upon studies in the presence of women. The temptation to look and gaze at a pretty face is always very stronger. Boys cannot attend whole-heartedly to their lessons when a number of attractive girls are sitting by their side in the class-room. In his easy “on the Need for Quiet College,’ Stephen Leacock rightly observes that “men can’t study when women are around,’ and that if women are into a college, they are likely to get round some of the professors and marry them and then good-bye to research and higher thought! In the next place, there is a real ganger that the free intermixture of the sexes at the age of puberty may lead to sexual misconduct. Boys will try to become intimate with girls and girls may become the willing victims of certain wicked boys. This sort of things is very undesirable and improper.
The needs of women, too, are different from those of men. The same curriculum cannot, therefore, suit both the sexes. Boys and girls should not be given exactly the same sort of education. If the lists of subjects suitable for study by the two sexes are compared, the number of subjects common to the lists may appear few. There is a wide difference between the mental constitutions of the two sexes. Boys are to be prepared for careers, girls mainly for a home life. No doubt, girls are increasingly entering careers and professions, but the fact remains that the essential requirements of the two sexes are different. It is desirable; therefore, that boys and girls should be educated separately.
It will sound a reactionary step to say that the experiment of co-education should be given up. But co-education is not really yielding very good results. Co-education may be continued at the post-graduate level, but in the lower classes it is not desirable. When girls become mature, they can look after themselves, but at the under-graduate stage they are likely to go astray if they are allowed to move freely to move freely with boys.