When it comes to determining human behavior and performance, there is always the question of nature vs nurture. Most social scientists lean towards nurture playing the primary role in how people turn out, but biological factors play a greater role than previously recognized.
Across the developed world, especially in the UK and the US, an alarming pattern is developing where boys are performing worse in school than girls. Since educational performance is a good indicator of future financial stability, health, and mental wellness, we may be sitting on a socioeconomic time bomb. A peaceful and prosperous society cannot afford to have a significant number of its population disengaged and disgruntled.
Why boys perform worse than girls
You could say that part of the reason is that boys in inner-city schools are in environments not conducive to learning. Better quality teachers are needed, better equipment required, and that improved interior design, school layout and wall covering protection are necessary to provide a more robust school.
However, this does not explain why girls facing the same challenges and deficiencies are outperforming boys.
Is it biology? One theory put forward claims that the school set up does not suit what is happening to boys on a biological level. It claims that by 16, when students need to start thinking about higher education and university options, boys are too unruly, with too many biological changes happening in their body.
Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest that girls mature faster than boys, making them better able to navigate and perform better in school, especially at critical moments in their education careers. This theory is backed by many anecdotal claims of teachers who notice a significant difference in the verbal skills and engagement levels of boys and girls entering a new school at 11 years of age.
Is it schooling practice?
Another theory, that’s not mutually exclusive from the previous point, states that the way schools are run is better suited to the social conditioning of girls. Girls tend to have higher levels of self-discipline and are able to sit and participate in classes; boys are more likely to disengage and prefer to assert themselves by challenging the class and authority figure. When this happens, they are sometimes branded as troublesome. Teachers may want to keep the boys quiet rather than encourage them to be active participants in lessons. Early maturity does seem to play a strong part in why girls perform significantly better in school, and this early maturity could also account for how much support they receive from individual teachers.
Both biological and social factors come into play. If boys manage to get into university at the age of 19 or 20, the gap in performance narrows to almost nothing. This would suggest that boys have matured and are now able to take advantage of schooling, or at least understand why they need to focus on their studies.
There are many theories, some more controversial than others. The only thing clear is that the debate has not been settled, and we have yet to fully understand the best way to educate girls and boys.