Co-education is a system of education in which both men and women attend the same institution and classes under the same roof. Co-education has a long history from the time of Plato who vehemently advocated this idea to the present when most of the countries in the world have adopted co-education system. The co-education is very much common in the western world and widely seen in India as well. In the United States alone except for a few dozen single-gender institutions all 5,000 colleges/universities are coeds and nobody bothers to call them coeds. It is true that co-education system encourages stronger sense of competition among boys and girls in the same classroom giving them more motivation to work towards their goals besides being economical as the Govt cannot open colleges for girls everywhere. However, there are arguments that co-education causes trouble in the learning process. A separate education system for both girls and boys can provide a more structured learning environment where attitudes and emotions of the students can remain under control and that it can help students to perform better. The co-education at school or at the university level is not an issue, however, at the college level it is turning out to be a nuisance.
There are arguments from sensible people that education is must for both boys and girls but not necessarily in the same classroom or an institution. At the school level, there is no reason to educate boys and girls separately considering their innocence when they want to play, and learn together. The problem really starts growing from Matric onwards when boys and girls enter the period of adolescence. Even then the boys and the girls have not enough maturity level about the life. They remain under the awe and respect of their parents and teachers. Besides, most of the students remain engrossed preparing for cracking professional exams. I have vivid memories of the time when I was a student of 11-12th class at a co-educational higher secondary institute. The teaching learning process at the institute was excellent; the atmosphere was competitive, full of mental and emotional situations. The boys most often would do better because of the presence of girls and some girls wanted to show the boys that they are equally smart. The boys would like to draw the attention of girls in the classroom by posing questions to the teacher and vice-versa. No doubt there was a feeling of attraction towards the opposite sex but there was nothing of bad or immoral thoughts in the mind. It was full with emotions and that was all natural. Except the day today minor issues, even today there is not any kind of serious problem with the system of co-education.
The things really take a different shape in colleges when youngsters are going through physical and psychological changes. The students are supposed to be mature enough to take their own decisions. They are virtually free with less control of parents and teachers. The academics and teaching-learning process is not that serious and the students bunk classes. College life is a thrilling experience with a lot of fun and joy but at the same time there is a greater responsibility of building the confidence and career. The students in presence of the opposite sex remain more consumed by how they appear to them than focusing on academics. There are chances that young boys and girls may fall a victim to their emotions, go in the wrong direction as they get more opportunities that may ruin their career. I remember during my tenure at GDC Sopore 1998-2001 then a purely co-educational institution, I never ever found any sort of indiscipline, rowdiness on the part of either gender that would cause distraction in the classroom or in the college. The boys/girls would feel it awkward to indulge in gossiping. They would respect and behave properly with each other. It was because of the strong leadership influence created by the then the Principal Prof M A Charoo in the campus. That kind of set-up if present today would definitely provide a healthy atmosphere for both girls and boys on the same platform.
The world today has migrated into the world of virtual reality where social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, U-tube, Instagram have become our existential reality. With the readily available internet data at cheap rates, the students too are in the race. The addiction and the misuse of social media and other forbidden sites has weaved a cocoon around which is eating into their vitals. Even when the colleges have banned the use of mobile phones in the campus, one can notice most of the boys and girls carrying this device openly in their hands, either engaged in talks or searching on the internet. The lack of discipline, unserious academics with real/virtual worlds nearby, we are witnessing a growing indiscipline among students in the co-educational institutions.
The teacher’s primary job is to deliver lectures in the classrooms, set lab- experiments in order; off course they are responsible for their classroom discipline. They cannot monitor each and every student in thousands who enter the campus gate every morning. We should not create another front for teachers to deal with that may not be good for our future.
I do not advocate discouraging co-education in the colleges. Let there be co-educational as well as gender-based colleges. Let the colleges for women remain for women and vice versa in the cities as well as in towns. Let committed boys and girls come to the college for education and focus on their studies. In the recent past we have converted our gender-based heritage colleges into coeds. Let us revert them to their old status. These premier colleges are there for centuries and stand for our culture, traditional values and ethics. The point I want to make is that higher educational institutions are places to develop the faculties and to promote intellectual growth; it should not become the intellectual and moral wasteland. There has to be some level of serious discipline within the campus. Education and life are two different things and students need to take control of their vulnerabilities. The college life is the most important time to learn about the whole world and ascertain one’s future. In conclusion, the colleges should not become the places to fragment our society rather it should produce responsible, charactered and mature individuals to preserve our values and ethos.