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In 2014 the independent New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER) was commissioned to undertake research into the achievement of boys in boys’ schools compared to the achievement of boys in co-educational schools in New Zealand. The findings of this research were unequivocal:
- Boys in boys’ schools consistently achieve above boys in co-educational schools at all levels of NCEA, including merit and excellence endorsements
- Boys in boys’ schools have a higher rate of achieving scholarships
- Analysis of schools by decile shows that boys’ school students achieve at a higher rate than those in co-educational schools in all 10 deciles.
NZCER Chief Researcher, Cathy Wylie, summarised the report’s findings:
“What was really interesting was how the high-performing schools stressed the importance of a student-centred approach, offering co-curricular activities alongside academic programmes for holistic development, and developing self-managing students who set high goals for themselves.
Other strategies mentioned by the high-performing schools included: Providing leadership opportunities for senior students; identifying student need early on, particularly with targeted literacy and numeracy strategies; close tracking of student achievement in relation to student goals; and threading core school values through the school day.”
Boys’ schools are havens for young men and provide environments in which they can be nurtured and have their academic, cultural and sporting talents developed. The emphasis on values and character, that is central to many boys’ schools, will also help young men to develop the resilience that is essential if they are to thrive in the world beyond school. Unfortunately for New Zealand our young men are over-represented in a range of negative statistics: educational underachievement, car crash fatalities, suicide, depression and risk taking behaviour including binge drinking and recreational drug use. Boys’ schools are uniquely placed to challenge the place of young men in these statistics so that they can go on to make a valuable contribution to New Zealand society for their benefit and the benefit of all New Zealanders.
1. Boys learn differently from girls.
Research indicates that boys do learn differently from girls. Those differences require distinct approaches to teaching and learning for boys to fulfill their potential and explore every avenue for self-expression and success. Teachers in a boys’ school understand how a boy learns and as a result are successful in implementing teaching techniques that allow young men to flourish and achieve the best results that they can.
2. The focus is entirely on boys.
When you don’t have to plan curriculum, lessons and events to include both sexes, you can focus on boys’ needs exclusively. Young men enjoy different kinds of activities than girls do. They grow at a different pace than girls do. A boys’ school allows a boy to remain a boy for as long as he wants and needs to.
3. Boys need positive role models.
Young men need to be surrounded by positive role models – especially males – on a daily basis. Boys’ schools tend to place particular emphasis on providing opportunities for senior students to work alongside younger boys and in doing so provide positive role modelling for these younger students to emulate. Boys’ schools also tend to have a higher proportion of male teachers than coeducational schools. Given the growing trend of the breakdown of the nuclear family, male teachers are the only males in the lives of some young men, and fulfil a vital role in providing positive role modelling.
4. Boys learn best in a relationship focused environment.
Having a positive relationship with teachers is essential to boys academic achievement. The emphasis on strengthening classroom relationships through involvement in co-curricular activities is a distinctive aspect of education at boys’ schools. The social, emotional, and academic connections that develop between boys and their teachers are a crucial element that drive boys to want to succeed in school. Boys flourish when they trust teachers and feel both safe and understood. Boys’ schools help boys seek a balance, supporting them in adjusting or adapting to different kinds of learning environments, as well as to the world beyond school.
5. The social pressures are much less stressful.
Boys mature later than girls do. Learning how to cope with and relate to girls on a daily basis in a coeducational setting causes added stress in those early adolescent years. That’s exactly the time a boys’ school is able to build confidence without the social distractions inherent in a mixed setting.
6. Boys’ become comfortable with non-traditional subjects and activities.
In a co-educational high school boys often shy away from joining activities such as music, choir or the performing arts. To be involved in such activities may be considered non-masculine. In a boys’ school you can’t have a band, choir or dramatic performance without the involvement of boys. Breaking down the stereotypes society has imposed on what are considered proper activities for boys is one of the many things boys’ schools strive to do well.
7. Boys learn that there are many paths to manhood.
Traditional stereotypes can be dismantled and replaced by a more thoughtful approach to maturation. Not every boy can be a star sportsman or a high achieving mathematician. Competition is fine and to be encouraged. However, boys need to be in an environment in which they learn that the strong bonds of friendship, teamwork and social interaction are what matter most in later life.
What about interaction with girls? That is indeed a very important part of any boys’ school’s social calendar. Typically a boys’ school will have an established relationship with a nearby girls’ school. A range of supervised activities gives both sexes ample opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. This works to their mutual benefit.
8. Boys need to be encouraged to pursue a variety of interests.
Students at boys’ schools feel more comfortable exploring a variety of subject areas than their male counterparts in coeducational schools, who can feel pressured to focus on stereotypical “masculine” subjects such as Science and Mathematics. Young men who attend boys’ schools are more likely to study subjects such as Visual Art, Music, and Languages to a higher level. This freedom also affects boys’ choices of co-curricular activities. In boys’ schools, it is common for a boy to participate in cultural, sporting and community service activities alongside their academic qualifications.
9. Boys value camaraderie and lifelong friendships.
Because students who attend all boys’ schools feel comfortable pursuing a variety of interests, young men find they have more in common and are more likely to view each other as close friends. Furthermore, boys’ schools often have a set of core values, which serve to create a clear direction and a sense of understanding and commonality in their students.