It’s not like I’d even thought of this but if you had asked me what online learning meant for women and men, I’m sure we’d have had a good natter about how great it is that all this stuff is out there for everyone. Unless you already knew access for all hasn’t meant women accessing all, I doubt we’d have mentioned it. But it’s true.
If it’s on a website or iTunes U or any digital spot, there is zero difference between a man”/ ability to access online learning and a woman’s. Yet there is difference. Great difference:
…dismally low numbers provide a reminder that “access” to education is more complicated than simply throwing open the digital doors to whoever wants to sign up. So how can we turn the mere availability of online instruction in STEM into true access for female students?
One potential solution to this information-age problem comes from an old-fashioned source: single-sex education. The Online School for Girls, founded in 2009, provides an all-female e-learning experience. (A companion institution, the Online School for Boys, is opening this fall.) It appears to be doing an especially good job of educating girls in STEM: Last year, 21 of its approximately 1,000 students were recognized by the National Center for Women in Technology “for their aspirations and achievements in computing and technology.” And over the course of the 2013-2014 academic year, the Online School for Girls prepared 30 female students to take the Advanced Placement exam in computer science. To put that number in perspective: 25 American states each prepared fewer than 30 girls to take the AP computer science exam.
I went to a comprehensive school and I’d say its sole value to me – no, wait that was where I learnt authority could be having a nervous breakdown and I had to fight, both of which helped me later in journalism – but otherwise its sole value was that it was a mixed school. I loathe the idea of single-sex education because I think it damages your education about two sexes. Men, at least, can end up as permanent schoolboys unable to talk to women. Look at the UK government.
Yet Annie Murphy Paul’s piece does make compelling arguments. I’d rather we didn’t have single-sex education but we’ve got to have education that works. Read the full piece. And take a look at the Online a School for Girls, well, online.