More selection for a better education in the UK?

The present document is a commentary to an article dating back from March 24th, 2018, written by Hannah Devlin, Science correspondent for The Guardian (which is a middle left English newspaper). Hannah Devlin reports a scientific analysis arguing the fact that selective school is making difference to pupils’ General Certificate of Secondary Education results. This study presents now a challenge to May’s government policy of allowing existing schools to expand their campuses and debate the role of genetic testing. 

The main problematic deriving from this article is such: is a selective system, optimized for the brightest pupils the best way to educate the nation?

As such, Hannah Devlin shows (l.4) that the type of school doesn’t have a real impact on pupil’s results, it is rather their environment and family backgrounds which explains disparate levels of academic results.

The fact that the 7% difference on GCSE results between selective (private and grammar) and comprehensive schools (l.5) is not explained by the school itself but is explained by the difference of ability and family income of the pupils. The government’s tendency to expand grammar school will neither provides any increase in the level of education, nor increases a child’s chance of being academically more performant. (l.22: “The idea that private schools do not increase a child’s chance of being awarded more GCSEs and A-levels is not very credible”, Danny Dorling)

The problem of education disparity has its origins elsewhere, which are directly linked with the roots a child’s living environment. To analyze more in depth these origins, the study focused on differences of genetics between pupils as factor to reach their full academic potential.

Using genetics to increase education level is still controversial and not certainly the most efficient of increasing pupil’s education.  The study is the first to show up subtle genetic differences between children who attend schools and those who do not. Nevertheless, the method used to assess the children’s level is controversial and doesn’t reach a unanimous agreement between scientists as a true index for intelligence assessment. (l.12), Ewan Birney, director of the European Bioinformatics Institute is confident on the specific results of the study, nevertheless, he is for more robust tests.

But is it the main goal of a nation, to build a homogenous, academically performant nation? This idea reminds us of the 20th century’s darkest times when Hitler came up with the idea of developing a one and only human race in power: the Aryan race. Isn’t it the role of the state to balance social differences through its institutions such as school as a means to the end of erasing inequalities.

Adrien Gonin
About Adrien Gonin 19 Articles
Adrien Gonin is a young and rising economic analyst. He studied Economics in top French and German University. He is widely recognized as an expert of European and American Economies. Email:

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