Gene screening to find top pupils?

According to the Sunday Times, one of Britain’s leading scientists is proposing to genetically screen children as they begin their education and establish a new kind of school to help them learn.

In G is for Genes, a book to be published next month, Professor Robert Plomin calls for a “genetically sensitive” school that uses regular IQ testing to fast-track the brightest children. Those less intellectually gifted would opt for vocational subjects, such as sports or music, which best match their passions and talents.

Plomin, an American-born professor based at King’s College London, argues that, if successful, the experiment could be introduced across the country.

A huge research project to identify the genes underpinning the intelligence of more than 10,000 twins born between 1994 and 1996 is being led by Plomin.

He believes that, in future, children could carry “learning chips”, a DNA sequence of their intellectual abilities. “IQ is still the best predictor we have of success in later life,” Plomin said.

“The biggest factor by far in how well a child does in exams is genetics. It is a tough message for people to get but the science is clear. I think children like to do what they’re good at and they’re good at what they like to do . . . If you don’t accept genetic influence, you’re going to create hardships for yourself.”

Plomin, who has presented his work to education ministers, said that he had been approached to work on plans for a free school in the home counties that would develop his ideas.

The “genetically sensitive” school envisioned in Plomin’s and Asbury’s forthcoming book would be as large as a university campus and would accept children with a range of genetic abilities. All children would have to pass tests in reading, writing, numeracy and computer skills. Beyond that, and within a structured framework, children would be able to choose subjects that suited their aptitudes and preferences, seeking out those subjects they enjoyed as well as those they were good at.

Pupils would have a homeworker who would liaise closely with the child’s family to seek to maximise the chances of each fulfilling his or her genetic capabilities.

Am I the only one who thinks this is absurd? This whole book is talking about a school based on genetic makeup, completely ignoring other factors which can inhibit development such as environmental issues. You may carry the ‘gene’ that these people look for, but actually can not be a top pupil. This to me makes a complete mockery of science and our education system. I also don’t like the idea of choosing what subjects to take based on the ones they enjoy and are good at. What about the ones that they aren’t so good at? Are you just going to use a give up mentality by saying ‘if you’re weak at this, don’t do it’? How is that going to look when you go to a job interview?

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