Preparing educators and students for success on a global scale

July 14, 2007
The National Coalition of Girls' Schools Conference on Single-Sex Education spotlights the changing roles of schools in an era of globalization.

Science & Technology Education
Spotlight on inspiring the next generation of scientists & business leaders

The National Coalition of Girls' Schools Conference on Single-Sex Education focuses on the changing roles of schools in an era of globalization.

Grace Klonoski

Finding effective ways to prepare students for tomorrow's challenges and opportunities is a daunting task that is made even more complex when one considers the dynamics of the classroom environment and the different ways students learn.

Organizations like the National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS), a leading advocate for girls' education, focus on education strategies and learning environments that enable female students to excel. The NCGS believes that girls' schools are the most powerful, transformative learning environments for girls, and seeks to document the unique qualities that best define the girls' school experience.

Among the leading experts on single-sex education for girls, NCGS represents 118 all-girl schools across the United States plus international members and affiliates in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In the U.S. alone, more than 48,000 girls and young women attend NCGS member schools.

Single-sex education has been the subject of increasing interest among researchers, and several major reports have detailed the ways in which all-girl learning environments can be beneficial. A 2000 study of 4,274 girls' school alumnae, conducted for NCGS by the Goodman Research Group of Cambridge, Massachusetts, examined outcomes at single-sex schools for girls. The girls' school alumnae were overwhelmingly positive in their responses:

--91% cited preparation for college and academic challenge as very good or excellent.
--88% would repeat their girls' school experience.
--83% perceived themselves to be better prepared for college than female counterparts from co-educational high schools.
--93% agreed that girls' schools provide greater leadership opportunities than coed schools; additionally, 80% had held leadership positions since graduating from high school.
--13% intended to major in math or science--significantly more than females and males nationally (2% and 10% respectively).

In June NCGS held its annual conference in Baltimore, MD. The event brought together nearly 200 experts and girls' school educators to examine how schools can integrate programs and subjects from around the world into the everyday curriculum.

The conference promoted the exchange of innovative educational practices among teachers, department leaders, curriculum experts and school leaders. Presentation topics included international partnerships online and in real-time; the rising capabilities of e-learning; science and global problem-solving; and brain research and implications for teaching and learning.

The task of NCGS is to go beyond simple intellectual exercises and put practical tools into the hands of educators, as they prepare young women to compete in an increasingly complex, interconnected world, according to Meg Milne Moulton and Whitney Ransome, NCGS co-executive directors.

"The pace of globalization seems to grow faster every day," said Jean Waller Brune, Head of Roland Park Country School, which hosted the event. "Education professionals everywhere must recognize that there are both daunting challenges and enormous opportunities to be faced and embraced."

Significantly, female students were among the conference participants. Eleven seniors, from NCGS member schools in the U.S. and international affiliates took part in the fifth annual International Girls' Forum. These student delegates presented recommendations for excellence in the education of girls and young women.

In partnership with the Optical Society of America Foundation, a number student delegates and main conference attendees participated in "The Science of Light," workshops that focused on promoting young women's interest in scientific and technical fields. The workshops were facilitated by Yasaman Soudager from Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal, and Brenitra Mosley from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Both presenters are Optical Society of America (OSA) members and are active in education outreach activities through their universities. Student representatives from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, England, and Australia took part in hands-on activities that included demonstrations of frequency, amplitude and phase; reflection and refraction; and the transmission of sound using a beam of light. Liquid-crystal kits, donated by the University of Rochester, were also used during the sessions.

A survey done after the workshop clearly underlines the impact a three-hour workshop can have on changing minds and opening new learning doors. "The workshop was a testament to the power of education even in concentrated doses," notes Moulton, as the following survey findings reveal:

--100% of the student workshop attendees gave the interactive nature of the workshop their top rating (highly effective).
--When asked to compare their interest in optics and photonics at the start of the workshop, 91% of the girls responded that their interest in the subject matter had greatly to distinctly increased.
--When asked if the girls in the workshop would encourage their school to add optics and photonics to the curriculum, 91% responded "yes."
--90% would recommend a similar interest to a friend.
--Over 90% of the delegates to the NCGS Girls' Science of Light Workshop had completed physics by the end of their junior year.
--When the delegates were asked what they would change about the workshop, Meg Moulton reports that one replied, "make it longer!" This speaks well for the OSA Student Chapter workshop facilitators and the hands-on, interactive nature of the workshop.

The OSA Foundation has also committed to supply NCGS schools with classroom materials and teacher training resources as part of its ongoing commitment to advancing youth science education and providing education and resources to underserved populations.

To learn more about the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, visit: www.ncgs.org
(phone: 978- 287-4485, e-mail: [email protected])

Grace Klonoski is the senior director of OSA Foundation and Member & Education Services for the Optical Society of America, 2010 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; e-mail [email protected]; www.osa.org.

The National Coalition of Girls' Schools contributed to this column.

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