Monday, 11 June 2007

None so blind as those who think they already know...

Today the BBC trumpets “Wealth gap in learning by three”

Baaad selfish rich people! Taking all the education for themselves.

This is in relation to a report based on various studies by The Institute of Education research in the UK.

Children were given 'school readiness' tests and they apparently showed that by the age of three, children from ‘disadvantaged’ homes are up to a year behind in their learning than those from more privileged backgrounds.

Graduates' children were seen to be 12 months ahead of those of the least well educated in tests on their grasp of letters, numbers, colours and shapes.

One of the studies found large differences between children living in families above and below the poverty line.

Professor Heather Joshi stated the poorest children were 10 months behind their wealthier peers in tests of their grasp of shapes, numbers, letters and colours known as "school readiness" tests. She also stated in another study, girls were educationally three months ahead of boys on average.

So are girls on average more ‘advantaged’ than boys? Unlikely.

Take graduates. They are a group pre selected for their ability to – well – graduate.

If intelligence were in any respect even partly inherited then children of graduates would on average start of with a genetically loaded deck of cards.

Then add to that the likelihood of graduates being highly likely to try to ensure their children got a good start and that they would be likely to be exposing them to a more varied and comprehensive vocabulary. It is hardly surprising that their children would on average perform better that average.

Consider people living below the so-called poverty line. Whilst there are many reasons for someone to be in such circumstances it is not unreasonable to suppose, that people living below the poverty line, are on average, less likely to be highly educated. To some extent the reverse of what applied to graduates applies to them.

Now Consider children living below the poverty line. A significant number of those children live in single parent families. This means that there is only one parent who is quite probably likely to have less time to devote to preparing the child ‘educationally’.

So in fact being disadvantaged is by no means the whole story. Native intelligence and a stimulating environment provided by motivated engaged parents are probably responsible for the differences observed.

Advantage, or wealth, is more a by-product than a cause, more an indication of the previous generation’s drive, commitment, intelligence and educational attainment.

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