2008 August 14 Thursday
Upper Classes Pulling Ahead On School Test Scores In Britain

A big British Labour government spending program to raise student performance in government funded schools is failing to close the gap with private schools.

A-level results published on Thursday reveal record numbers of sixth-formers gained top grades this year. Fewer than three in every 100 exams was failed as the pass rate rose for the 26th year in a row and for the first time more than half of entries were awarded A or B grades.

Perhaps this result comes as a consequence of more mating between people of similar intellectual abilities and personality types. Greater mobility and greater education of smarter women puts smarter women and smarter men more in each other's company.

Despite a 28 billion-a-year increase in education spending under Labour, analysis of the results shows improvements are driven almost entirely by the success of the independent sector and selective grammar schools.

Figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications showed the gulf between private schools and comprehensives widened over the last six years - just as Labour's education reforms should have been paying dividends.

I like the "should have been paying dividends". Why? Why expect more money spent on education to raise student performance? Hope springs eternal. But reality suggests this expectation is very unrealistic.

The smarter upper class folks who make enough money to pay for private education are having smarter kids (the apple doesn't fall far from the genetic tree) and those kids are pulling ahead of the dumber masses.

The independent sector saw a 9.1 percentage point increase in the number of A grades awarded between 2002 and 2008 - from 41.3 per cent to 50.4 per cent. Over the same period, top grades in comprehensives increased by 3.9 points to 20.4 per cent.

I see a ray of hope in all this. The smarties are managing to separate their kids from the dumber masses and not letting foolish and wrong egalitarian educational ideals from holding back the intellectual development of their children.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 14 09:30 PM  Education

Xenophon Hendrix said at August 15, 2008 12:01 AM:

We waste a lot of resources inappropriately educating people (or at least attempting to do so). One of my hopes for the future is that increasing technology and knowledge of human nature will one day allow us to give everyone an individualized education and steer persons toward lives that have the best chance of making them happy. That not only would increase overall happiness, it should also increase wealth; people happy with what they are doing tend to be more productive.

Having lots of genetic data should help us toward that goal. We would also need better ways of measuring how people have been shaped by their experiences.

Kenelm Digby said at August 15, 2008 3:23 AM:

The real reason is this:
Since 1997 Britain's New Labour Government have had the target of putting 50% of Britain's youth into university.
Traditionally, a university education in Britain was very, very exclusive and only about 5% of youth ever attended.
The education certificate required for British university entrance, since 1948, has been the A-Level qualification.
Up to about 25 years ago, this exam was very tough and stringent and routinely failed a big proportion of entrants - this was done because university entrance was strictly rationed and exclusive.
Now the prevailing 'wisdom' is to put everyone through university, and to this end, the British government has dumbed down the exam mightily so that virtually no one fails - it has been devalued enormously.

This strategy has backfired in as much as Britain's exclusive, expensive (no other advanced nation on Earth has such a a pronounced dichotomy between public and private sector educayion), private schools score ridiculously high on the new 'dumbed-down' 'A' level, and thus monopolize all the best universities.

Nobody said at August 15, 2008 6:57 AM:

Where have I heard this story before? Now let me see...I'd imagine lots more money and many more studies and programs will be needed as well.

Toadal said at August 15, 2008 10:59 PM:

The smarter upper class folks who make enough money to pay for private education are having smarter kids (the apple doesn't fall far from the genetic tree) and those kids are pulling ahead of the dumber masses.

Science News reported a form of gene therapy that boosts a protein called GDNF in aged rats brains significantly improved the rats performance on memory tests, according to the Institute of Biomedical Research and reported in the September issue Neurobiology of Aging.

Today gene therapy treatments are currently available that overcome a host of previously intractable diseases; from anemia to muscle atrophy to immune deficiency syndrome. Will a bad memory someday be classified as a medical condition? Should everyone have the ability to recall a times-table or follow the logic of a mortgage loan? Will real progress in education be made once educators acknowledge much of their failure is due to the genetic shortcomings of their pupils and not to their teaching ability? Can society acknowledge its failure to lessen hunger, poverty, violence, and class disparities and partner with scientists to fight genetics with genetics?

Give a man the capacity to be taught; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

Kenelm Digby said at August 16, 2008 5:59 AM:

Furthermore, analogous to inflation destroying a debased currency, the debased A-level qualification is slowly being destroyed by non-acceptance by elite universities and the exclusive private schools that score ridiculously highly at the exam.
A few years ago top A-level grades guranteed access to all elite British universities.Now, in a ratcheting-up competition, the private schools now enter a plethora of rival examinations (eg the baccalaureate internationale, the Oxford and Cambridge 'pre-U', the 'Cambridge A-level'), to gain that extra needed kudos to differentiate between the 'best'.
Also, for the first time British medical and law schools have set their own pre-med and pre-law (mimicing the USA)exams.
As I've said the analogue is with currency being devalued in a free market.The devaluers think they've gained 'something for nothing', but in reality they've gained nothing, in fact made the intial situation worse.

big bill said at August 17, 2008 4:47 PM:

We really must figure out what to do with Mexicans and blacks in America. Dumbing down the exams just won't cut it as the British example proves, nor will pretending they can all go to college. The previously #3 or #4 rated California schools (in 1960) are now #47, crushed under the burden of educating Hispanics and Central/South American Indians.

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