May I ask for your thought on this argument? I copied this lengthy argument from a reader of The Times today. It seems very persuasive, so I would appreciate your opinions.
To summarize, the reader said "the quality of schooling makes little difference to our children’s academic outcomes".
If this is true, the implications are that the main benefits of private schooling are its reputation and its personal network. The reputation (Eton, Winchester, etc) would help you enter the Russell group and Oxbridge, which think you are better than another state school's student even though you achieve the same exam results. And the network - your connection with other well-off friends - would help you get better positions in life.
Below is his detailed argument. Pls let me know if you think he is right.
"there is now very strong evidence from the UK Government’s own university funding body that shows that in a developed, relatively socially mobile country such as the UK the quality of schooling makes little difference to our children’s academic outcomes. This is so anti-intuitive that most people simply won’t believe it. But lets look at how this may be true.
For at least 30 years genetic research has shown us that the main determiner of who and what we are is genetically pre-determined.
This was recently confirmed by yet another study from Kings College in London:
“The degree to which students’ GCSE exam scores differ owes more to their genes than to their teachers, schools or family”
This research confirms that up to 60% of our educational achievement is genetically predetermined. The rest is composed of a mixture of “nurture” type influences, such as parenting, schooling and peer group as well as a number of “random” life events, which are neither nature nor nurture. The existing genetic research seems to indicate that peer groups is the biggest of these nurture influences and parenting made surprisingly little difference by the time we reach the age of 35.
There is now new research by the UK Government’s university funding body based on the entire UK cohort who started university in 2007-08 (130,000 students) and graduated three years later. This huge study eliminates potential sampling biases and offers a robust and comprehensive examination of questions that smaller or institution-specific studies are unable to answer. The study looked at how likely these students were to achieve firsts or 2:1s, depending on their background, and controlling for different academic grades.
What did this research tell us?
1. Degree outcomes are not affected by the average performance of the school that a student attended. Specifically, a student from a low-performing school is not more likely to gain a higher degree classification than a student with the same prior educational attainment from a high-performing school. For example, regardless of ‘school type’, a student gaining AAB at A’ Level from a school in the highest 20 per cent of schools in the country has the same likelihood of gaining a first or upper second as a student gaining AAB from a school in the lowest 20 per cent of schools in the country. In both cases, the proportion gaining a first or upper second is 79 per cent.
2. Among students achieving A* and A grades at A’ Level, there was also no statistical difference in degree attainment according to school type.
These are the grades required by elite Russell Group University applicants and Oxbridge candidates. These data seem to back up the genetic theories that if a student is academically gifted the type of school he or she attends makes little difference to their academic achievement. Your genes win out – at least in in an advanced, relatively socially mobile country with a good, national, free State education system. It also seems to indicate that Oxbridge and Russell Group Universities should not be discriminating according to school type. If they do they will dilute their high academic standards.
3. At the maximum differential, students educated at state school, achieving A-level grades of around BBC were 7% to 8% more likely to achieve a good degree than their private school peers with the same grades.
This seems to indicate that at best the standard of schooling can improve the performance of more “average” ability A’ level candidates by up to 8%. This is much lower than I expected, considering the considerable perceived difference between good quality and poor quality schools. However this seems to confirm the importance of other nurture influences on education, such as peer group.
4. A much smaller study by Exeter University found that someone achieving AAB at A’ Level from a low-performing school or college had the same potential to succeed as someone achieving AAA at a high-performing school.
Assuming that the differential between pupils from good or even average state schools compared to “a high performing school” is even less, it seems that the maximum benefit from a very expensive private education is a single grade increase in only one of three A’ levels. In most cases it will be less than that. Again it proves the majority of the educational ability is inherent to the child and independent of schooling.
Conclusions in a relatively socially mobile, developed country such as the UK:
1. The type of schooling makes no difference at all for the brightest students.
2. Russell Group and Oxbridge universities should not discriminate according to school type.
3. Schooling makes a small difference (8%) for A’ level candidates of more average ability.
4. For those Universities making offers around BBB and CCC grades there is a good case for offering pupils from poor performing schools slightly lower grades (e.g. BCC or even CCC instead of BBC).
5. Parents should look at these statistics before spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a private education. If their intention is to get significantly better A’ level results for their children they will be disappointed. This is poor value for money.
These research results seem to back up existing research that concluded that schooling has a limited influence on educational achievement. At best it makes up 8% of the 40% which is open to environmental influence. For the brightest students it makes no statistical difference. Peer group, parenting and random life events make up the rest of the 40%."