We had a fascinating debate about genetics and education last month when Kathryn (co-author of “G is for Genes”) and Nic Timpson (Reader in Genetic Epidemiology at Bristol) came to visit us. I asked Kathryn in the tea-break whether genetics had implications for education and what these might be:
I also managed to corner Nic with my camera and asked him whether there was such a thing as “genes for education”. Note that he’s talking about population studies here:
Some messages I took away were:
1. It’s a good time to start discussing genetic perspectives in relation to education. We can benefit from understanding what we know and don’t know, and from trying to anticipate how genetics may impact on education in the future.
2. Genetics doesn’t currently help us diagnose or categorise/label children in terms of learning disorders, and isn’t likely to in the future. It supports the idea that we are all on a continuum.
3. It can help us understand the contribution of shared and non-shared environments in explaining the differences between children.
4. Preschool children appear particularly susceptible to their shared environment but, interestingly, significant shared environments are now emerging at Key Stage 4.
5. Although overall heritable effects are high, effects of individual candidate genes are very low. This makes headlines of a “gene for intelligence”, “gene for maths” etc rather misleading.