The recent uproar over the supposed co-education policy (mixed boy/girl) has got me thinking.
The issue is whether the public schools should have mixed boy/girl classes. The way I see it is that the problem comes only regarding 'public' school, ie the ones managed and run by (hopefully representative) government.
It is apparent that some people want co-education, while others object to it. The 'correct policy' has to be decided, preferably by debating it in the public. But even then, its impossible to get all to one side. By putting it to public vote, we are in effect asking to find a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. Rarely one does come across a such a solution in trivial problems either, let alone a complex issue like this.
One way around this problem is to actually semi-privatize most (if not all) schools and to introduce a school voucher system. A voucher is equivalent to the amount the government currently spends per pupil in public school system. Each student (well, the parents actually) will get a voucher, and the parent can decide to which school they want to send their children. This way it increases diversity and choice available to parents, while still retaining the public funding.
Thus, some schools will offer co-education, while others will offer single sex schools. Some will try different methods/mediums of teaching, while others will offer non-mainstream subjects. The schools (rather their management) will have to compete to attract more students by offering better facilities that parents like. The voucher is entitled to the parent, not the school. This is akin to the existing schools getting budget funds allocated by attracting more students.
The schools should be as much independent from government as possibly can. If Ministry of Education is to dictate hours/gender/subjects, then there won't be much of a choice. Government can still retain some basic control if thats what the people want.
By privatization, I don't mean just changing the management to a private party. The school should decide which hours/uniforms/methods of teaching and curriculum too. Curriculum is especially relevant, because it is too important to be left to be decided as a one-size-fits-all thing.
I think in the not so distant future, the question will come whether to teach the theory of evolution to students. Understandably, that will be even a bigger uproar. There is no reason to think that all schools should or would follow one policy. Each school can decide for themselves, and parents can send their child to one that teaches evolution or not. After all, evolution is just a theory. So is relativity.