In ancient times, co-education was prevalent in Sparta, a city-state of Greece. Both boys and girls were given academic education and physical training together. There was no discrimination between the boys and the girls. They played and studied together.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, was also in favour of co-education. He believed that co-education helped in the development of personality of men and women and created a feeling of comradeship between them. He felt that coeducation was the only method to make both men and women useful members of society. In ancient India also boys and girls were brought up and taught together. They were not segregated from each other.
Nowadays, the system of co-education is in vogue in U.S.A., Europe and other advanced countries of the world. In India also, a number of co-educational schools and colleges have been established.
There are a number of advantages in the co-educational system of education. Firstly, if boys and girls are taught together in the same school under the same roof, there will be no need to open separate schools for girls. A poor country like India cannot afford the luxury of opening separate schools for boys and girls. Co-education is thus economical.
Secondly, there is a shortage of trained teachers in India. If the same staff teaches boys and girls together, we can manage with the existing staff of teachers.
Thirdly, if boys and girls study in separate schools, they will grow up in watertight compartments. The result will be that girls will feel shy in the presence of boys. Boys will have curiosity about girls. Co-education helps the boys and girls to inter-mingle and understand each other well. It leads to harmonious relationship between boys and girls.
Fourthly, co-education generates healthy competition between boys and girls. Both boys and girls work hard to remain ahead of each other in studies and sports.
Fifthly, co-education creates a feeling of comradeship between boys and girls. As the boys are free to meet and talk to the girls, they do not indulge in eve-teasing. Girls too do not feel shy in the presence of boys. The system co-education is thus very conducive to the balanced development of the personality of boys and girls.
However, there are some conservative people who are opposed to system of co-education. They point out that this system is against our tradition and culture. They apprehend that if boys and girls study together, the possibility of their developing immoral relationship cannot be ruled out. They also felt that the system of co-education may spoil the character of boys and girls.
But these arguments are not very convincing and do not hold well in modern times. If our experience is any guide, boys dress properly and behave well in the company of girls. They use dignified language. By nature, boys are curious about girls. If they study with girls, their curiosity will be satisfied. They will not regard girls as strange creatures. Likewise, if girls are taught with boys, they will not feel shy. They will understand boys better.
Thus, we can say that the advantages of the system of co-education outweigh the disadvantages. Since the boys and the girls have to, later on, live together as husband and wife, there is no point in segregating them in schools or colleges. We should move with the times and open more and more coeducational institutions in India. The hackneyed morality of the medieval ages should not be allowed to stand in the way of the progress of our youth who are the future citizens of India.