Why a Boys School Instead of a Coed School? | Maritzburg College

Why a Boys School Instead of a Coed School?

Why a Boys School Instead of a Coed School?

From the Headmaster’s Desk

Dear Parents and Guardians

Why a boys school instead of a coed school?

Apart from the significant fact of recent research conducted in Australasia in 2017 where boys in single sex schools have out performed boys in coed schools in all qualification systems, Dr Stephen Johnson, Head of the Preparatory School at Upper Canada College suggests the following ten reasons for a boys school which I subscribe too :


Over the past 20 to 30 years, there has been a great deal written about the value of single-sex education for girls. It’s now well accepted that a single-sex learning environment helps girls develop to their full potential. The same is true of boys. The literature on educating boys is still relatively new, but it is affirming what most parents with boys have known intuitively for many years: boys are different.

How many of you have both daughters and sons? Have you noticed differences in their learning styles? In the way they relate to their peers? In how they approach life?

In an all-boys’ school, we can celebrate boys’ strengths. We can tailor our programs and activities to the way boys grow and learn. With thanks to Michael Thompson, a celebrated author on boys’ social and emotional development and resident psychologist at a boys’ school in Boston — and with apologies to David Letterman — here are my top 10 reasons for boys’ education.

1. Boys learn at their own developmental pace in elementary school.

What does that mean? It means that girls learn to read before boys do, and they tend to achieve better in school, particularly in the early years. In an all-boy environment, boys are able to develop at their own pace. They are not judged in comparison to girls. They do not start off their school life with the sense that they are behind. As a result, they don’t lose interest in school or in reading.

The Prep instituted a daily reading period back in the 1930s, long before the research on the value of reading was in. We still have that reading period today. By the time our boys are in Form 3 or 4, most are avid readers and are reading far beyond their grade level.

2. Boys mature later than girls – physically and socially.

An all-boys’ school gives boys a little longer to grow up socially. It protects them from society’s pressure to get involved with girls before they are ready. It saves them spending all their time trying to impress the girls, and lets them focus on their school work and on being boys.

3. Boys have boundless physical energy.

Boys tend to engage physically with the world. I call it the stick principle. When you go out walking in the woods with boys, they all immediately pick up a stick. Girls don’t do this. But boys like to touch the world, poke at it and explore it physically. It is this male energy that is at the root of most behaviour and discipline problems at a young age. Boys are more physical. They have to move. They are more likely to fall or knock things over. In a class with girls, this normal boy behaviour stands out. It often seems inappropriate or wrong.

In an all-boy environment, we can use and direct that male energy, and help boys learn to manage their bodies and physical strength. Because they have positive outlets for their energy, they focus better in the classroom.

4. Boys are essentially disorganized.

This seems to be a male trait that doesn’t change with age. Back in the 1800s, Thomas Huxley wrote, “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; …”

Just walk down any hallway at the Prep between classes or when school is over and you will see examples of male disorganization! For boys, who tend to live in the moment and do not always think ahead, finding the right books at the right time, keeping lockers organized, and arriving at class with shirts tucked in can be an overwhelming challenge. Unfortunately, boys need organizational skills to succeed at school and in life.

5. Boys are creative.

We know that, given the right opportunity, boys love to create. They throw themselves into music, art, drama and creative writing. Most have a strong artistic side. But in a co-ed setting, many boys simply will not pursue these activities.

In an all-boy setting, boys are not silent or disengaged. They can explore their creative side without fear, take risks and develop a broader, more inclusive sense of what it means to be male.

6. Boys are great leaders.

Boys can handle responsibility from a very young age. Given the chance, they take charge, lead others and accomplish great things. In a co-ed environment, they may not get the same chance to be leaders – perhaps because of that male energy I talked about or because they are not as organized as the girls or as willing to volunteer. Peer pressure may keep them from becoming leaders.

In an all-boy environment, they have no choice. They have to play all the roles. They learn leadership skills they will use the rest of their lives.

7. Boys are risk takers.

Boys tend to act first and think later. They often take risks without realizing they are risks. This can be a good thing – some of the greatest achievements in civilization start with someone taking a risk. We don’t want to subdue that male trait. But we do want to direct it and help boys learn the judgment they need to avoid hurting themselves or others.

8. Boys make great friends.

What does friendship look like for boys? It changes as they grow. As your sons mature, their friendships become deeper and more supportive. Here is a list of what boys in Forms 5 and 6 said recently about what it meant to be a friend: “being loyal; standing up for someone else; being encouraging; trusting; caring and helping; being someone you can depend on.”

9. Boys are funny.

In my experience, men tend to have an irreverent sense of humour. We use humour to cope, and to relate to one another. And that sense of humour starts very young. Boys make each other laugh, and they make their teachers – particularly the male teachers – laugh. They are always telling jokes – often very bad jokes – or imitating each other or their teachers.

In an all-boy setting, the sense of humour is everywhere. The more we can encourage that sense of humour, the better equipped your sons will be to develop relationships with other people and to thrive in the real world.

And, finally, my number one reason for boys’ education …

10. Boys need male role models.

Boys need male role models to help them grow and develop. They need men around to show them different ways of being male. These days, fathers are much more actively involved in their children’s lives than they used to be, and that’s good. But, even so, during the early years, boys often spend very little time with men.

At a boys’ school, they will have a number of male teachers. Those men will have different strengths. Some will be coaches, some musicians. Some will have a great passion for drama or poetry or science or English, and those men will make a huge difference in the boys’ lives. Almost every old boy I’ve met has talked about a particular male teacher who inspired or challenged him.

Another thing our male teachers model for the boys is how to relate to women, and this is no small thing.