Calgary's Catholic school board is considering setting up all-boys schools, while the public board – concerned about boys' performances in the classrooms – is researching the issue.
Over the years the pendulum of education techniques has swung toward teaching girls, said Lynn Bosetti, an education professor at the University of Calgary, who helped set up an all-girls charter school. Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded.
Some parents are worried about their sons, Bosetti said.
"Their boys aren't achieving, their boys aren't engaged in their learning and the answer isn't always just more sports or kinesthetic ways of learning," she said. "[How] do we not lose our boys? How do we keep them engaged?"
The Calgary Board of Education looked at an all-boys school about six years ago, but there wasn't much research available, said chair Pat Cochrane.
"We haven't had a lot of parents coming to us saying please set up an all-boys school. But we're trying to look at trends and research and base our decisions on that."
The Calgary Catholic school board has had a couple of public sessions to determine interest in single gender schools.
Sharon Friesen, an associate professor at the University of Calgary, said the curriculum, not the classroom makeup, should be adjusted.
"It doesn't make a difference whether the school itself is a co-ed school. It's are the learners getting what they need in order to grow into strong, roboust, good, deep thinkers?"
Fewer distractions in all-boys classrooms
At Clearwater Academy, a private Catholic school in Calgary, students are divided by gender from Grades 4 to 9.
"That's the way it's been all my life since kindergarten," said Michael Franko, a Grade 12 student. "I don't really know any other way. I didn't mind it. I didn't really find it confining."
Grade 12 student Ryan Taylor said that, in junior high especially, not having girls in class cut down on the distractions.
"It really just, I guess, allowed you to focus because it's all guys. You just don't have to worry as much. It takes away that tension."
Clearwater principal Paul Hudec said boys tend to learn in a more active environment and girls get along better working more quietly in groups. When tests scores come back, there is no gender gap, he said.
"Overall, looking at our students' marks, both boys and girls are doing very well."
Boys and girls develop at different rates and have different learning styles, said Bosetti.
"We find that there are lots of reasons to create learning environments that privilege each sex," she said.
She suggests public school boards look at all-boys and all-girls classrooms for some subjects.
"We really have evidence to say girls are advantaged to be in same-sex classes. We have less evidence about boys being in whole schools like that," Bosetti said. "I think we could start with single-sex classes in particular subject areas."