At the same time that famed Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai presided over the opening of a new library in Birmingham, England, a few miles away, officials at a school that William Shakespeare allegedly attended as a child have decided to overturn its ban against enrolling female students … after 460 years.
"Books are precious," Malala said at the opening ceremony of the Birmingham library. "This library will continue to enlighten future generations. It is written that a room without books is like a body without a soul. A city without a library is like a graveyard."
Meanwhile, the King Edward VI school in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon will have more than thirty female students for the September term for the first time ever. Well more than 200 girls from 38 different schools had applied for the prestigious places at King Edward VI. The school’s board of governors had unanimously voted to allow girls back in 2011, after having rejected a bid to make the institution co-ed in 2002. Beginning with this fall semester, the school will allow up to 25 percent of the student body to be girls.
"The Bard would have seen girls as a great addition to the school,” said head-master Bennet Carr, according to BBC. "Research shows male and female students tend to bring different learning styles, approaches and perspectives to their A-level studies and both genders benefit from seeing how each other work."
Shakespeare is believed to have studied at King Edward VI beginning in 1571 at the age of seven, although there are no definitive records of his attendance there. Nonetheless, the institution touts itself as “Shakespeare’s school.” According to the school itself, Shakespeare likely learned the subjects of Latin, rhetoric and perhaps Greek during his stay there.
Meanwhile, scholars debate the value of children going to school segregated by sex. Once the norm in Britain, the number of all-boys and all-girls schools in the UK has been plunging – in 1966, there were 2,500 single-sex schools in the country, by 2006, that figure had dropped to 400.
In 2008, the head of the Girls’ Schools Association, Vicky Tuck, defended single-sex schools in a speech given at a conference in Winchester. “What is obvious to us will become obvious to everyone: girls learn in a different way to boys and it is crucial to cater for their separate needs,” she said.
But the authors of a paper entitled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling”, published in the journal Science, deny that there is any benefit to children attending a sexually segregated school. “Although excellent public SS [single-sex] schools clearly exist, there is no empirical evidence that their success stems from their SS organization, as opposed to the quality of the student body, demanding curricula, and many other features also known to promote achievement at co-educational schools,” the study stated.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.