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Psychologist proposes 'learning chips' for children

21/02/2014 Joanna
A new book by psychologist Robert Plomin draws on research into genetics to propose new policy ideas for education.

Genetics has proven to be a controversial subject, particularly where education is concerned, the Guardian reports. Recently, controversy was reignited when Michael Gove's former adviser, Dominic Cummings, claimed in a 250-page paper leaked last year that genes accounted for more of the variation between GCSE scores than environmental factors.

Plomin, research professor in behavioural genetics at King's College Institute of Psychiatry in London, recently co-authored a paper which reported that genes account for just over 50 per cent of the variations in GCSE scores overall and 60 per cent in science subjects.

However, he claims to be on the left side of the political spectrum and many of the policies proposed in the new book, G is for Genes, have a progressive flavour. 

These policies include free, high-quality pre-school education for disadvantaged children from age two; a reduced national curriculum; more freedom for teachers; an individual education plan for every child and free or subsidised horse-riding, piano or ballet lessons for children from poor homes.

The professor's approach to genetics breaks with much conventional thinking. He explains that genes account for more differences as environments become equalised. Genes count for more and more when children attend school and environments are equalised to some extent.

He is dismissive of suggestions that genetic factors may account for differences in IQ and achievement between races and social groups. Variation between individuals within groups are much more significant than those between groups, he says.

Professor Plomin claims learning about genetics should be an essential requirement for those in teaching jobs, to enable them to focus on individual talent. He is a staunch advocate of 'personalised learning'.

As every child has specific requirements, schools should offer the widest possible range of subjects and extracurricular activities, he claims.

More controversially, the professor suggests introducing a 'learning chip' that would predict individual children's strengths and weaknesses. While many are skeptical of the amount of the amount of variation explained by genes, the outcome of the debate may depend on future scientific research.

Posted by Charlotte MichaelsADNFCR-2164-ID-801696221-ADNFCR
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