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I Spent 10 Years In All-Boys Schools & Here's What Happens When We Finally Meet The Elusive Female 

What it’s like attending all-boys schools in Singapore


Many of us can agree that our school years were precious. It was a time when long-time friendships were forged, where the worries of adulting seemed so far away. The only thing we had to endure was the arduous task of making it through the education system … oh, and all-boys schools, for me.

Yep, that’s right – I spent the majority of my formative years with no chiobus to impress. It was just days of “boys being boys”, where fights took place in the bathrooms and canteen discussions were all about girls. At least that’s what people think. 

Here’s what my experience was like spending 10 years in a boys’ school, and what it was like being thrown into the world of co-ed environments right after: 


What even is the opposite gender


primary school photoImage credit: Raiz Redwan

It started back in P1 registration, when my parents die die wanted me to enter what was, in their eyes, a good school. This had to hit several criteria, but the main one was that it had to be an all-boys school. Obviously, 6-year-old me had no qualms about it – I wasn’t really too keen on the whole concept of school to begin with.

At this age, I wasn’t even fully able to grasp the idea of gender – my only interaction with girls in kindergarten didn’t really leave an impact. I didn’t really think much about them up until we had a certain class in P5 that rocked my world – Sex Ed.

It wasn’t just me; my fellow classmates were shell-shocked by the difference in our biology and the reasons for it. These classes were always filled with giggles whenever the teacher would talk about the other gender – particularly when it came to certain body parts. Even those with sisters were visibly confused – I’m assuming it’s not a topic you would discuss with a sibling.

This was truly the beginning of how I started seeing females as a completely different species altogether – that and the monster we know as puberty.


Making contact with the unknown


sec school photoImage credit: Raiz Redwan

Moving on to my teen years in secondary school, my parents picked out yet another all-boys school for me to attend, Victoria School. I wasn’t that bothered, but this time I was painfully aware of the lack of interaction I would be having with someone of the opposite gender for the 4 years to come.

Not all hope was lost, though. The one shining ray of hope for most of the boys was found in a place you would least expect – tuition classes. 

Well, that was the case for most of them; I was stuck with one-to-one tuition classes. My parents were worried about the possibility of me getting distracted in group tuition classes so they wanted to avoid it as much as they could.

Instead, I heard stories from friends about their wonderful times at tuition classes where they were doing everything but learning. There was a lot of bragging about who had the most chio girl in their class – some even went as far as to sneak photos of them without consent.

Looking back, this was rather creepy behaviour but I suppose they were only teens and didn’t know better. That aside, I did have a bit of FOMO listening to them. 


The failed attempts of building relations


By the end of Sec 2, the one-on-one tuition classes weren’t enough to save my abysmal grades. I was enrolled in a tuition centre as a supplement where my parents must’ve thought I was old enough to make the right decisions and focus on studying. Boy, were they wrong.

For the first time in my 14 years of being alive, I developed a crush on a girl. This was where my lack of experience really shone. I made every mistake in the book – mistaking kindness for interest, quadruple texting, and getting gifts for a girl who considered me just a friend. If you’re reading this for some reason, I’m so sorry for the secondhand embarrassment.

all-boys - ferrero rocherIt may not seem like much now, but these gifts were heavy on the wallet as a kid.Image for illustrative purposes only.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, I had steeled myself to confess my feelings to my crush with a box of chocolates I had bought with my allowance. I even went through the trouble of hiding it from my parents since the timing would’ve outed me. Unfortunately, after pouring my heart out in the whispered words, “I like you”, my feelings were not reciprocated.

That should’ve been it, right? My heart was crushed by the first rejection I had ever faced, and I still had classes with her. But for some reason, I was a lot more resilient in my youth than I am today. I tried again, the next Valentine’s. And again, the year after that. I asked this poor girl out 3 years in a row without getting the hint that she was never going to be interested.

all-boys - o-levels resultsNot too shabby – I guess all those tuition classes paid off.Image credit: Raiz Redwan

Finally being defeated after my 3rd attempt, I decided to let it go since we were going to end up in different schools anyway. I managed to scramble my way into JC, and this time it was my choice. Then it hit me – there aren’t any single-sex JCs in Singapore. I was struck with a sense of both fear and excitement since this was more than just tuition class – this was the real deal.


The alien takeover


JCThe ones wearing white were our orientation facilitators.Image credit: Raiz Redwan

It seems the universe decided to repay me for the 10 years of being devoid of female companionship – my JC class had 20 girls and 5 guys. I was unaware, but this gender ratio was common for an arts or hybrid course. I was so over the moon when I found out, I immediately ran to some of my secondary school friends in the same JC to share the news.

The 5 of us guys stuck together as I had expected. I was thankful though – at least I had some comrades while venturing into these uncharted waters. However, the initial experience of being in a class with this many girls was not what I had expected.

Firstly, there was a large divide between the genders – there was barely any interaction other than work-related discussions. There were a couple of girls who were social butterflies that made friends with everyone regardless of gender, but the majority kept their distance from the 5 of us guys. 

But to be fair, we did make a big faux pas early on. Although the rest of the guys were from co-ed schools, they seemed almost as awkward as I was when it came to interacting with the girls. That’s probably why we thought it was a good idea to spill who we had a crush on during one of the first few outings we had as a class. 

And this was within our first month, during the orientation period when we barely knew each other. After that, it was definitely awkward and made making friends with the girls much harder than it needed to be.

all-boys - project workImage credit: Raiz Redwan

But time passed and eventually, we had to work in assigned groups. Although it was initially uncomfortable working with girls I didn’t know well, I was able to keep it professional. This was where I think I learnt that girls weren’t really that different after all – just talk to them like how’d you talk to your guy friends and show them the same respect you have for the boys.

That being said, I did have to code-switch a bit depending on the person I was talking to. Not every person is going to be comfortable talking about certain topics – like those of the Rice Purity Test variety. 

Another thing I had to take note of is physical contact – hugging the boys and giving them a slap on the behind might have been acceptable in all-boys schools. But obviously, you can’t do this to girls – or anyone outside your guy group, for that fact.

I also eventually realised that platonic relationships between boys and girls were possible and were just as important to have. The group projects really helped break the ice and made me realise they weren’t scary after all. I was able to see things from different perspectives, be more empathetic, and be more considerate of their feelings.


Living in harmony with the foreign life forms


With this new set of social tools in hand, I ventured into the land of university after 2 years in the army. It seems like destiny was really trying to balance things out for me, since for the first 6 months, I was the only guy in my course. 

But things were a lot smoother than when I first stepped into JC. While some things could be attributed to maturity that came with age, I feel that I was generally just more comfortable with making female friends. I was more confident from surviving previous mistakes and interactions – I knew topics to avoid and how to better draw the lines between platonic and romantic interests.

all-boys - friend groupsImage credit: Raiz Redwan

Being adopted by a group of girls was definitely not something that I saw coming, but definitely something I appreciate. They’re very vocal with their validation, super supportive, and show their empathy a lot more. Not saying that boys don’t do these things, but my girl friends do it more actively while my guy friends are more passive about it. 

Hearing about the horror stories about the men in their lives has also taught me a lot about how to treat women better and what mistakes I may be making unknowingly. I’m glad that the guys in my all-guy friend group from secondary school aren’t like that though – I was fortunate enough to have made wonderful friends over the years.

Finally, even as an intern at TheSmartLocal, I am once again the only guy in my department. However, I’m thankful that I’ve developed the skills to be able to work and make friends in such an environment even though it took a while.


All-boys schools vs co-ed schools


Despite everything, I wouldn’t trade the friends I had made and the fun I had during my time in all-boys schools. Although I did miss out on some experiences like young romance or being socially adept with the other gender, I made many great memories.

To anyone out there going through something similar, the message I have to you would be to enjoy yourself and don’t worry about it too much. At the end of the day, you’ll come to realise that girls aren’t as foreign as you think they might be – they’re just like you and me on the inside.

For other life-changing stories, check out:

Studying at ITE in SingaporeSwitching careers from arts to scienceFoodpanda student riders


Cover image adapted from: Raiz Redwan

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