Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Educational success in families

I can't recall where or when  I heard the quote that one learns despite the educational system rather than because of it. It's facile. We all have teachers to thank for our educational achievements, but a recent study reported in PLOS One, Added Value Measures in Education Show Genetic as Well as Environmental Influence, indicates a grain of truth. It gets back to the old nature vs nurture debate.

Here's the abstract from the article by Haworth et als.

Does achievement independent of ability or previous attainment provide a purer measure of the added value of school? In a study of 4000 pairs of 12-year-old twins in the UK, we measured achievement with year-long teacher assessments as well as tests. Raw achievement shows moderate heritability (about 50%) and modest shared environmental influences (25%). Unexpectedly, we show that for indices of the added value of school, genetic influences remain moderate (around 50%), and the shared (school) environment is less important (about 12%). The pervasiveness of genetic influence in how and how much children learn is compatible with an active view of learning in which children create their own educational experiences in part on the basis of their genetic propensities.
Would this bear out in your family history? Do smart parents in your family tree who placed an emphasis on bringing out the innate abilities of a child raise them to succeed despite the educational environment - one room schoolhouse or costly private school?  What about the children of less intelligent parents but raised in a community, like Scotland, that put an early emphasis on education?

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