Have you considered a boys-only school?
Why boys' schools still have an appeal today
Many people might think that boys’ school is an outdated concept from a previous ‘patriarchal’ era. But at a recent conference in Toronto, representatives from schools all over the world listened to speeches and discussed the theme that we are living in a “New World for Boys.” Speakers ranged from Stephen Lewis, head of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and one of the most respected commentators on international and social affairs to Bill Lishman, the inspiration for the movie Fly Away Home.
David Booth hosted a pre-conference workshop on boys and literacy. Booth is the author of numerous books including Even Hockey Players Read: Boys, Literacy and Learning. The workshop presented various strategies to help create a culture of literacy for boys and to motivate boys to read.
In “Decoding Male Communication,” Manfred von Vulte uses a humorous tone while making the important point that there are specific codes of communication you will only ever hear coming from boys. Because the education system tends to praise “girlish behaviour” much more than “boyish,” boys’ communication is often systemically misinterpreted as malicious, foolish or indifferent. Read "Decoding Male Communication"
Still, is it a good idea to send boys to a boys’ school? Do we really need to segregate the sexes in this day and age? Or is it a better idea now more than ever? The International Boys’ School Coalition states, "Boys' schools are able to develop their resources, choose their teachers and design their programs with only one goal in mind—to meet the educational and developmental needs of young men." The organization cites recent research that demonstrates that boys and girls have fundamentally different learning behaviours.
In an article in the Globe last year, Tim Drager, a student at St. Andrews Private School (an all-boys school in Aurora, Ontario), reported on his experiences. Among other comments, Drager says, "At first, I have to admit, I was skeptical about the fact there was no [classroom] interaction with girls, but I have found it easier to concentrate in class and express my ideas. And the competitive atmosphere of having all guys you play on the field with, and are in the classroom with—it's motivating to be around."
Upper Canada College recently undertook a study as to whether or not to maintain its boarding program. Response to the study was a very strong affirmation of the boarding program—let alone the schools’ boysonly policy.
Evidence to the contrary?
Contradictory evidence was brought forth in a 2006 survey. In part, the survey (conducted by The Strategic Counsel, a private research firm) concluded that “despite a traditional viewpoint that students are distracted by their opposite sex peers and that boys, in particular are less focused in class, the data suggest that boys in coed schools are as engaged as their single-sex counterparts and relate equally to examples used by their teachers.”
The survey found that in general, students thrive in either a co-education or same sex environment. But the fine print of the findings did reveal some interesting data, such as “50% of those attending independent single-sex schools revealed they are ‘very confident’ that they will be academically prepared.”
On the important issue of bullying at school, single-sex school students reported far less (perhaps surprising to some): “[Verbal] harassments or attacks were noted as occurring ‘often or sometimes’ by at least 45% of students in public schools (54% coed, 45% girls-only) compared to 37% or less at independent schools (37% coed students and 35% single-sex).”
In the end, of course, the final decision as to whether you send your son (or daughter) to a single gender school is up to you and your child. There are certain advantages to the co-educational system but there remains a good argument today that boys’ only schools do have distinct advantages that allow them to remain a relevant alternative. To learn more about coed and single-sex schools, read our guide.
- Ground-breaking new Canadian research shows students thrive in both coed and single-sex schools. Press release.
- "The boys are all right." Marlene Habib, Globe and Mail. October 22, 2007.