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“Genes are the most important determinant of maths and reading skills among schoolchildren”

April 11, 2016

Is it really permissible to say this in public? Jennifer Oriel did: Cash can’t beat genetics in class. Here’s the detailed comment:

Speaking on SBS’s Insight program, Brian Byrne of the University of New England revealed findings of soon to be published research with colleagues at the Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders. It indicates that genes are the most important determinant of maths and reading skills among schoolchildren. Their study of twins’ NAPLAN performance apparently found that maths, reading and spelling skills are up to 75 per cent genetic and writing skills are about 50 per cent genetic. The influence of schools and teachers, the focus of Labor’s policies, accounts for only about 5 per cent of performance.

It wouldn’t worry me one way or the other whether it is genetics or environment, but not since I was very young has it even been possible to side with the genetics without creating a storm of protest. Maybe things are changing, maybe it’s just that this is Australia or maybe I will have to read the papers tomorrow to see the reaction.

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