Maths and reading skills found to be 75 per cent genetic

kidmath

 

New research shows genes are more important in explaining differences in academic performance than teachers and schools

By Madeleine King
14 MAR 2016 – 2:57 PM  UPDATED 21 JUL 2017 – 10:12 AM

Australian research into the academic performance of twins in NAPLAN tests has revealed that skills in maths, reading and spelling are up to 75 per cent genetic.

Genetics also had a 50 per cent impact on writing skills.

In stark contrast, the influence of teachers and schools on students was only found to be around 5 per cent, when looking at why children performed better or worse than their peers.

The research has been conducted by Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne and colleagues at the Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders, and the University of New England.

Byrne is a guest on this week’s episode of Insight, sharing his views on how research into twins can deepen our understanding of the general population.

The research will shortly be published in full, with much of the peer review process complete. Some parts of the study have already been published.

Byrne and his colleagues were allowed access to around 3000 sets of twins and were able to look at their academic performance in literacy and numeracy NAPLAN tests in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

The results were surprising.

Families, teachers and schools had a much more modest contribution when explaining the difference in academic performance of children in the same grade or class.

The majority of difference between students’ abilities in literacy and numeracy were instead attributable to their genetic make-up.

Writing skills were the least influenced by genetics – only about 50 per cent.

Genetic influences on reading, spelling and mathematics abilities were found to be between 50-75 per cent.

The findings back up earlier research done in the UK.

“Genes are the things that are, for the most part, driving differences among children, and not different teachers or even different schools,” Byrne told Insight’s Jenny Brockie, during filming of the show’s feature on twins.