Should advances in genetics change the way children are taught?

The Education Media Centre held a background media briefing on genetics & education. Hear from the  experts 

The debate over the role of genetics in education is back in the news after Boris Johnson’s dismissal of those of “our species” with a low IQ and after Michael Gove’s outgoing adviser, Dominic Cummings, urged educationists to stop ignoring the evidence on genetics and its impact on learning.

But what is that evidence and can genetics answer some or any of the important questions in education?

Could it, for example, explain why people differ in their motivation to learn or why some children find it easier to learn to read than others?

Are the fears of parents who suspect future research might lead to labelling some pupils as having the “wrong genes” justified?

As researchers uncover more about the genetic influence on children’s attainment should that change the way we teach and organise schools?

Geneticists and educationists are increasingly interested in studying these areas. The media and parents are fascinated too, but there is concern the impact of genetics research is easily misunderstood.

Some are concerned it is an area of enquiry whose findings could be “dangerous in the wrong hands”; others argue robust research is easily obscured by misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

The EMC spoke to three experts in the field of genetics and education:

Dr Claire Haworth, Deputy Director to Professor Robert Plomin on the influential Twins Early Development Study at King’s College London. Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

Dr John Jerrim, Institute of Education, London. Author of recent research findings of the influence of genes on children’s reading skills.

Dr Lavinia Paternoster, Research Fellow in Genetic Epidemiology, University of Bristol

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