Single-sex schools make little difference in Korea


Students in Korea who attended single-sex, as opposed to co-educational, secondary schools showed little difference in their achievement scores.

The Office of Education in Korea allocates placements in general high school randomly. In the capital, Seoul, there is a mix of co-educational and single-sex schools. Similarly, teachers are not allowed to choose which school they work at. If they live in a particular school district (there are 10 in Seoul) they will be allocated to one of the schools in that district.

Using this information, a paper in the Economics of Education Review examines the impact of single-sex schools on student achievement. Over seven years, the author found that any positive effects of single-sex schooling were small. The effect was relatively greater for students in the middle of the distribution of test scores. For students at the very top and very bottom, the impact was trivial. There were also no differences in the students’ choices for further study or in their test-taking behaviour.

Source: Mean and distributional impact of single-sex high schools on students’ cognitive achievement, major choice, and test-taking behavior: Evidence from a random assignment policy in Seoul, Korea, Economics of Education Review (2016).

English teenagers do well at problem solving…

A new PISA study has been published, responding to the question of whether today’s 15-year-olds are acquiring the problem-solving skills needed in the 21st century. The study presents results from the PISA 2012 assessment of problem solving, which was administered on computer to about 85,000 teenagers in 44 countries and economies.

Singapore, Korea, and Japan top the performance table. However, England, which is often cited as “underperforming” in international tests, is 11th, with pupils performing significantly better in problem solving, on average, than pupils in other countries who show similar performance in mathematics, reading, and science.

In general boys outperformed girls in problem solving, and the study also found that the impact of socio-economic status on problem-solving performance is weaker than it is on performance in mathematics, reading, or science.

Source: PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving: Students’ skills in tackling real-life problems (Volume V) (2014), OECD.