Scientists can now predict at birth who will have academic success

Study identifies predictors of which students are likely to do well in education.

  • Researchers looked at data from 5,000 students and found 2 factors that were strongly linked to academic success.
  • Students with genetic predisposition towards academics were much more likely to go to University.
  • Equally important was having well-educated parents with wealth.


Will your child be a good student? A new study claims it's possible to predict how successful kids will be in academics at the moment of their birth.

An international research team discovered that the genetic differences and the socioeconomic status of the parents were key in establishing future success in school. Interestingly, just having good genes is not the most important factor. Having parents with their own great education and wealth has more of an impact.

The study, which looked at data from 5,000 children born in the UK between 1994 and 1996, found that among those who made it to University, about 47% of the children had a genetic predisposition for education but were from a poorer background. Tellingly, compare that to 62% of the kids who made it to University while having a low genetic predisposition for academics but had parents with money.

The kids who did the best, with 77% going to University, had both rich, well-educated parents, and were blessed with good genes for academics.

On the flip side, among the children with less genetic propensity and whose families were on the low end of prosperity, only 21% made it to University.

For their analysis, the researchers looked at test results at key stages of the children's education, data about their parents work and education, as well as genome-wide polygenic scoring to look at the effects of inherited genetic differences.

The study's lead author, Professor Sophie von Stumm from U.K.'s University of York, said their study captured "the effects of both nature and nurture".

She noted that their research also indicated that growing up with privilege can have a negative "protective effect", adding "Having a genetic makeup that makes you more inclined to education does make a child from a disadvantaged background more likely to go to university, but not as likely as a child with a lower genetic propensity from a more advantaged background."

How can we best help students? Cultivate their love for learning.

Professor von Stumm also pointed out that ultimately the study showed how unequal access to education can be among children. "Where you come from has a huge impact on how well you do in school," she said.

The researchers, who hailed from UK's University College London and Kings College London, as well as the University of New Mexico in the U.S., hope to use the study to identify the children most at risk of getting a poor education.

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