The title might be a bit melodramatic but so far it's true. I feel like my life didn't start until after high school.
Don't get me wrong. The school has plenty of positive traits. People just tend to ignore that there are just as many, if not more, problems with the school. To really know if your son is going to thrive in this school, you have to take a lot into consideration.
I had excellent teachers for the most part. Only two of the nine or ten teachers I had throughout my matric year were bad. I'm still friends with some teachers to this day. Some teachers are clearly in it for the power trip, though. I'd give names but it's probably best not to. If your son is indoctrinated into the BHS culture, he probably won't even notice. More on that later. In terms of academics, this is probably one of the best educations you can get for a school that isn't IEB. Subject choices could be better, though.
If your son is good at a sport offered at the school, it'll be great for him. Especially if it's rugby. A wider variety of sports and a better allocation of resources would be nice, though. Just make sure he puts enough time into developing as a decent human. Again, more on that later.
The music department is also very good. I highly recommend that everybody at least try an instrument or the choir. To me, it felt like the only place in the school where my friends and I could be ourselves.
The school used to deal with bullying highly effectively. I never dealt with a bully for more than a week. I have no idea how well the school deals with bullies seeing as certain staff members have retired in recent years. I am grateful for how much they helped me when I was there, though.
Where do I even start?
Probably that BHS culture I mentioned earlier. Not that it really narrows it down, though.
Often times, the school feels more like a cult. There's this expectation that you need to always be a boishaaier for the rest of your life and that you need to be part of the old boys' union. If you don't join the union, you could miss out on job opportunities. Although, I don't know if I'm keen on working with someone who cares if you pay R600 per year to an organization that most likely doesn't really care about you.
You're also expected to behave a certain way. In theory, a lot of it sounds good but it falls apart in the execution. I like the idea of treating people with respect. Having manners. All that sort of stuff is good but it should be taught at home by parents, from a young age. The school fails at really teaching these skills and traits. They excel at teaching you how to fake it. Most guys who are in BHS tend be fairly unpleasant. At best, they're arrogant. At worst, their racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Yet, in front of most teachers, they manage to suddenly become the ultimate gentlemen.
From what I can tell, these are typically the people who don't think for themselves. People who don't question things. These are the people who become indoctrinated by the school and go repeating whatever awful ideology they're told without considering what it means. If your son doesn't critically think for himself, teach him that skill if you send him to BHS. Otherwise, send him to another school so that people can more easily tell if he's a decent person.
One of the weirder things that always bothered me was the way they enforced religion on learners. I have no problem with religion. I have a problem with a public school enforcing Christianity on all of its learners, excluding the Muslims. Many teachers will judge learners who are not religious. I find that highly unfair, hypocritical and only reinforces Christian stereotypes. Being so disrespectful to atheists goes against both the concept of 'love thy neighbour' as well as the school's core value of respecting others. It also furthers the resentment towards Christianity that drives so many atheists away. If your son is an atheist, I would recommend that he keep it to himself. At least at first.
The school isn't bad but there's a lot that people don't acknowledge. I feel that it's important to know these things when going in. So many people who go to this school fixate on the glamourous side of being in BHS that they become blind to everything wrong with the school.
Despite how unhappy I was there, I learned a lot. Most of what I learned wasn't from classes. I learned by watching people and being skeptical of what teachers would say. I have no idea if I would have been better off in another school. Maybe there are other public schools where I would have been happier or where the positive traits and skills I developed would have been even better.
As it stands now, I turned out decently. That being said, I think I turned out decently mainly because of how I went in to school rather than exclusively because of the school itself. It's like my IT teacher always said, "Garbage in, garbage out."
Even though it has it's flaws Paarl Boys High is one of the most prestigious schools in South Africa. It has a rich tradition and a history of over 150 years. I highly recommend that you send you sons to Paarl Boys High as they would walk out men who have an ambition to change the world.
Although, as all schools do, Paarl Boys High has an issue with bullying specifically towards the 'average nerd' .. as most people would consider it a "sporting school" there are a lot of joks and it's totally unacceptable to not participate in a sporting activity.
But then again .. this school offers some of the best educational standards in South Africa and it wouldn't be a mistake to send you son(s) here.