The Drawbacks of an All Boys’ School

Faiz Khwaja


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When I first moved to Toronto and found out I was attending UCC, what stuck out most was the fact that it was an all boys’ school. At the age of 12 and only just realizing what a blessing it was to go to a co-ed school, I was stripped of my curiosity. I remember looking up from a particularly difficult math test in Grade 7, scanning the room for some solace only to drown in a sea of prepubescent boys. In fact, I used to grimace as I let slip to my non-UCC friends that I went to an all boys’ school. That being said, I’ve come to realize that attending an all boys’ school is not all bad. Like most systems, it has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Please keep in mind that this is one guy’s experience at a school of roughly 1,000 students.

Firstly, the environment created at UCC with regards to sports is unrivalled by most high schools of its kind. The electricity flowing through a pep rally before A-Day or Winterfest is infectious and creates a healthy atmosphere with a heavy emphasis on sports. Furthermore, the all boys’ environment encourages students to be less self conscious and to be themselves without fear of judgement from the opposite sex. This is present both inside and outside the classroom. Boys have the opportunity to develop into young leaders by having a fearless mindset with a higher self esteem. As a result, they are more driven and are less hesitant to pursue their interests and some studies show higher average test scores. Outside the classroom, the ‘brotherhood’ shares a familial bond like no other. To me, the biggest advantage of UCC being a single-sex school is the intellectual curiosity that is present in everyday learning; students are, in fact, ‘less distracted’.

However, the downsides of being an all boys’ school, while less obvious, are just as present. We as students are extremely proud of the brotherhood where no student ever walks alone. At times, this entity is fantastic as it supports boys in need, evidenced by the countless students who have admitted to having the UCC community be there for them when they needed them most. At other times, I feel that there is a sense of exclusivity created by the brotherhood where if a student doesn’t agree with a certain accepted ideal, they are cast out to the dogs. I don’t mean to suggest that the brotherhood holistically is bad but rather there are some flaws in its implementation. Additionally, throughout my time at UCC I have come across instances of casual sexism. The freedom for students to be themselves at the school is wonderful and it is one of my favourite aspects about the school. That being said, at times this freedom causes students to let misogynistic remarks slip without fully realizing their gravity. I don’t think that anybody I know of at the school actually believes that women are somehow inferior than men but whether it be in the hopes of being funny or clever, seriously offensive comments keep materializing. The lack of female students at the school is in part what allows these comments to occur. If there were girls at the school, I think that this would be different. For instance, I feel that because there are no female classmates, a female teacher at the school is often summed up more by their appearance than their quality of teaching, which was not the case in my experience at co-ed schools. Additionally, something that has baffled me is seeing sweet, kind young men struggling when it comes to communicating with the opposite sex as if they are an alien species. Students who have been at the college since Grade 4 or 5 have not experienced being in a setting with female peers, which has a lasting effect on their social skills. To the school’s credit, there are many events organized by the school with other girls’ schools which I encourage anyone to participate in. Still, being in a setting without girls almost everyday for a number of years has an effect on students’ mentality. The world is co-ed and in a sense at an all boys’ school, you lack exposure to the real world. Another major issue at the school is that of masculinity and what makes a man. Because of the school only having boys, it is very difficult to show that you are vulnerable, as it may display you as ‘weaker’ or ‘less of a man’. There is this expectation that to be a man you have to be strong, show no emotion, and love sports. Admittedly, the school community over the last few years has continued to try and break down these barriers but they still exist in interactions between students. The final issue at an all boys’ school is the lack of an LGBTQ community. While I realize that by no means does a boys’ school necessitate that there be more gay students, there is a complete lack of representation. I don’t think this is because there are no gay students but rather, they are afraid to come out because of a lack of a visible support system for them. There is a great support system coming from the health centre and the GSA, but there is a lack of acceptance from the students themselves. Specifically with the GSA, it is extremely underappreciated at the school and somehow people think that in order to be a part of it you have to be gay yourself, which is not the case. Maybe some students don’t think this but instead fear being called gay for being a part of the organization.

This isn’t supposed to be an attack on the UCC community whatsoever. I just wanted to outline a few flaws that I’ve experienced during my time at the school, much of which I feel have been created by the all boys’ environment. While I have grown to love UCC for its strengths and its flaws, the all boys’ aspect is something I personally have never quite gotten used to. As usual, please feel free to share your thoughts.