What are the benefits of an all boys education?

I am often asked “why a boys only school”? Economically it would make sense to include girls in a brand new school simply because girls make up slightly more than 50% of the population. Why ignore half of the market?

Hamilton House is geographically situated in the most well established part of Johannesburg where monastic education has a long and reputable tradition. A simple analysis of the independent schools available reveals that there are more options for girls than there are for boys. As a consequence, the existing boys’ schools are much larger with a significant number of learners per grade. Many boys find themselves lost in such big environments.

This of course is not the only reason for a boys’ school. I have spent approximately half of my teaching career (11 years as a Head) in a co-ed environment, and the other half (16 years as a Head) in monastic, all boys schools. I have experienced the benefits of both systems. I am firmly of the opinion that girls are better able to perform in either system, than boys. Nevertheless my wife and I still sent our daughters to an all-girls school. There is no doubt in my mind that an all-boys learning environment is better for boys regardless of the economic implications.

There are numerous reasons for this but I would like to highlight two. With the steady demise of patriarchy, girls are now at last being fully advantaged by the schooling system. Girls have always developed vocabulary and language, on average, about two years ahead of boys. Language is the key to unlocking the mystery of every other subject discipline. Girls get out of the starting blocks quite a way ahead of boys. As the head of a co-ed school, I kept records of the top achievers. Girls always outperformed the boys, every year. The independent prep schools in Gauteng have for many years written common, shared assessments. I cannot recall a year when the girls’ schools didn’t outperform the boys, or where the boys’ schools didn’t outperform the independent co-ed schools. In fact, this “embarrassment” has changed the reporting of these results and the averages are no longer calculated separately for each category of schools.

The second reason I wish to highlight has to do with sex. Girls tend to reach puberty slightly ahead of boys. They tend to have more confidence in reaching out to boys during the school years. She gives her friend the note that informs the boy across the playground that she fancies him. Boys learn what girls value. In the heterosexual world this tends to be someone “tall, athletic and with a sense of humour”. Do your own research. How many boys sing in the choir, play in the orchestra, get involved in the dramatic productions in a co-ed school? In boys-only schools the boys are free of this pressure to be “chosen” by the girls and freely participate in the widest range of activities, thus able to fully develop themselves.

A 2014 research paper conducted by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research showed that in all age groups and at all socio-economic levels boys tend to do better in an all-boys learning environment. View their findings here: Click to download

Wylie, C. & Berg, M. 2014 Achievement in Boys’ Schools 2010–12