Coeducation: A Contested Practice in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Secondary Schooling

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This chapter discusses the history of coeducation in secondary schooling, mainly in Europe and North America. The analysis focuses on the gendered characteristics of educational systems and curricula, as well as on national discourses about single-sex or mixed schooling. The focus is on the latter half of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century, when the merits and perils of coeducation were debated for this stage of schooling. Until after World War II, children of the working class hardly ever attended school past the age of 13 or 14. Therefore, this is a history of middle- and upper-class education. In the early nineteenth century, girls had to do with a very limited, private education that prepared only for homemaking and motherhood, while boys could attend public grammar schools that opened the door to the university and the professions. From the mid-nineteenth century, initiatives to improve the quality of girls’ education were taken. Few countries opened up boys’ public schools for girls; in most cases, new girls’ schools were established with more serious but still unequal curricula, focusing mainly on humanities. Schools teaching a curriculum equivalent to that of the boys’ schools were not created until after the turn of the century, when a more critical view of coeducation became the rule. Democratization and coeducation came hand in hand with the introduction of comprehensive mixed secondary schooling in the 1960s and 1970s. The shortcomings of coeducation, however, were not rediscovered until after it had generally been introduced.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Historical Studies in Education
Subtitle of host publicationDebates, Tensions, and Directions
EditorsTanya Fitzgerald
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-2362-0
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-2361-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameSpringer International Handbooks of Education


  • Historical Studies in Education

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