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coeducation

coeducation, instruction of both sexes in the same institution. The economic benefits gained from joint classes and the need to secure equality for women in industrial, professional, and political activities have influenced the spread of coeducation. There were scattered examples of coeducation in the late 17th cent. in Scotland and in the American Colonies, but there was no general trend until the great expansion of public education between 1830 and 1845 in the developing W United States. The distance between schools in that region and the small number of pupils caused elementary schools to admit girls. The movement spread naturally to the secondary schools during the reorganization of public education after the Civil War. Oberlin College gave degrees to both men and women as early as 1837, but it was the development of state universities during the post–Civil War era that standardized collegiate coeducation. Since 1960 nearly every formerly single-sex college has become coeducational; only about one hundred, mostly historic women's schools and men's seminaries, remain. The coeducational movement encountered stronger resistance outside the United States. In Europe, the Scandinavian countries were the earliest supporters, but many other nations limited coeducation to institutions of higher learning. Although coeducation has expanded since World War II, there are many nations where it still meets opposition on religious and cultural grounds.

See C. Lasser, ed., Educating Men and Women Together (1987); D. Tyack and E. Hansot, Learning Together (1990).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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