Boys thrived in the rules-based school environment of days gone by where discipline was firm and consistent and every action had a clearly-defined consequence.
Male learners thrive in a competitive environment. This is why many competitive industries are male-dominated. As competition has receded from schools, male learners have lost motivation and female learners have steamed ahead of their male counterparts.
The sales industry offers a snapshot of the reasons why schools are failing young boys. At a time when more females are entering the IT professions and pouring into the science and technology industries (STEM), sales remains a male-dominated industry. Between 2008 and 2018, female representation in sales increased by just 3%. Males still hold 61% of sales jobs. The reason is that males tend to thrive on competition. The competitive nature of the sales industry provides self-affirmation and job satisfaction for male employees and offers them an environment in which they can thrive. But competition has been systematically stripped from our school systems. Standardised testing and traditional methods of measuring achievement are on the way out, and the “everyone’s a winner” dogma that has become engrained in schools is eroding motivation among masculine students.
The ability to thrive in a competitive environment is not a male trait. Our response to competition has less to do with our gender and far more to do with the way we are raised, our previous experiences and, bizarrely, our genetics. A study undertaken in Taiwan found that a significant indicator of a child's ability to thrive in a competitive environment was the presence of the fast-acting COMT gene. The gene is responsible for clearing dopamine out of the frontal cortex. Those that clear it out quicker, handle stressful and competitive environments better. Stress floods the frontal cortex with dopamine. The fast-acting enzymes are able to clear this dopamine out quickly and maintain a clear head under pressure. Those with slower-acting COMT genes are not able to clear it fast enough and have more negative outcomes in high-stress, competitive environments.  Because we inherit one COMT from the father and one from the mother, 50% of children are a mixture of the two and are not particularly advantaged or disadvantaged by a highly competitive environment. But around 25% of students will find they are highly suited to competitive environments, and around 25% will be particularly unsuited to competitive environments. This depends on which version of the COMT gene they inherit and has nothing to do with their gender.
[P1] Males thrive in competitive environments. [P2] Our schools have become less competitive as the 'everyone's a winner' mantra has become ubiquitous. [P3] This is disengaging male students and reducing their motivation.
[Rejecting P1] Testing shows that our ability to thrive in a highly competitive environment has nothing to do with our gender and everything to do with our genetics. [Rejecting P3] Therefore, a lack of competition in our schools will not disproportionately affect male students.