The changing needs of boys’ education

While Upper Canada College has maintained many traditions that date back to its 1829 founding, over the last 20 years it has also opened up to a more diverse group of students, teachers and ideas. New programs and initiatives have steadily been introduced, in part due to an education evolution that is impacting on boys’ education in particular.

An alarming exposé in The Globe and Mail points to boys’ behavioural problems, lack of role models and poor performance on standardized tests as evidence of an outmoded education system that privileges girls’ learning styles and leaves boys behind.

Boys rank behind girls in virtually every area of scholarly achievement through both elementary and secondary school­ing. Girls perform significantly better than boys on a read­ing test in all Canadian provinces, according to research by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

PISA statistics also suggest boys are less engaged in education than girls. According to 2009-10 data, male dropout rates continued to rise across Canada, with five boys leaving school early for every three girls who did. Various studies also indicate boys are more likely to be identified by schools as having behavioural problems.

As a result, the perceived value of boys’ schools has shifted. Historically, many went co-ed after their “legitimacy” was questioned, but there’s been a major shift recently in single-sex schools’ perceived value. Boys’ schools are more likely to been seen as expert resources that are more capable of responding to the needs of young males, and are being relied upon to step up to fill soci­ety’s leadership void.

Several UCC initiatives support that raison d’être and the concur­rent, changing face of education. On first glance, these changes seem to impact different areas of the College. But collectively they’ve been driven by a common goal: to provide boys with the skills and experiences they’ll need to be successful in an increas­ingly complex, competitive and challenging world.

Here are some examples of how UCC has adapted to the new demands of boys’ education over the last five years:

  • Character: While the school has always indirectly taught character, UCC launched an initiative in 2013 and hired dedicated staff to ensure character skills development and learning are integrated into all aspects of curricular and co-curricular programming.
  • Facilities Enhancements: Boys are active learners, and require a flexible space and modern technologies for optimal performance. This understanding was at the core of a slew of renovations that resulted in the complete overhaul of many common spaces, classrooms and labs at both the Prep and Upper Schools.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): UCC has renewed its commitment to the IB continuum of education and its ever-evolving, globally renowned standards by introducing the Middle Years Program to Year 6 and 7 students. In 2020, UCC will become the first boys school in North America to offer the IB from SK-12.
  • Financial Assistance: Upper Canada College is committed to ensuring the school remains affordable for families, and recognizes the need to attract the best and brightest students — regardless of their financial circumstances. Since 2012 the number of families at UCC receiving financial assistance has grown from 11 per cent to 20 per cent of our student population.

It’s reassuring that UCC remains at the vanguard of boys’ education, but the school recognizes that staying abreast of trends while preserving existing standards is an ongoing challenge.