Children's Learning Potential Can and Never Will be Equal


   The dream that all children are capable of reaching the same level of attainment providing they work hard enough is a wonderful dream, but there is now ever increasing evidence from reliable genetic and cognitive and neuro-science research that the learning potential of children can and never will be equal. 

         Our brains are unique as our faces, both in terms of structure and also what they contain.  Any given level of learning will be always be more difficult for certain children to achieve than others, especially in the basic skills.

       Plomin's research on genetics is viewed as controversial, but the fact that adopted children resemble their birth parents more than their adopted parents is not. He has done a lot of work on identical twins, who were split between two different adopted parents. Genetics has around a 50% influence on children's cognitive development including intelligence and school performance 

      The Cockcroft Report 1982 into mathematical attainment concluded from its reasearch into mathematical standards in the English speaking world that however much maths teaching standards improve that the seven year spread in attainment will remain. This reflects working memory capacity.

       Plomin contended that the more children educated, the spread in children's attainment will increases. The harsh reality of working memory is that those with high working memory have the capacity to develop fluency faster, which leaves them with even more working memory that enables them to create more fluency. It can be a vicious circle.

        Research is now illustrates that white matter, which connects the brain hubs, is the motorway of the brain. The speed of it has an important impact on the efficiency of mental processing. Deficiency of white matter in certain parts of the brain has been attributed to causing dyslexia. It is not a fixed condition.

        White matter is associated with working memory capacity and speed. Sue Garthercole et all in Cambridge University of Brain has concluded that there is no evidence that working memory can or will ever be trained, improved a whole. Sue Garthercole had suggested that there is not magic bullet to resolve children with low educational learning potential difficulties.

       This does not mean that children's educational attainment is predeterminedbut it does mean that certain children need to work harder to reach a given level of attainment than others. There will be limits to what children can attain, however hard they work.

      Plomin emphasises that parents with two children can have one child with high learning potential and the other with a low one. The one child is told well done. The other is told to work harder despite the fact that he, she is doing their best.

          If children's learning progress is viewed as being the equivalent to running, when children engage in 'catch up' they are expected to race towards children who are running more comfortably at a faster speed.  Hirsch suggests that in the United States that catch up is not always sustained in later schooling. 

     Plomin contends that half the population will always be below average.  If children's progress in terms of their learning potential is considered, then catch up for proportion of them will essentially amount to 'catch forward'.

Plenary: What is the Answer?

      There is evidence as Hirsch () reports that catch schemes in the United States does not necessary into sustained improvement. This reflects the fact that there heritable factors in respect of intelligence and working memory. Parents with lower intelligence and working memory capacity will be inclined to have low income employment or none. They will be socially deprived. Social deprecation does not rigidly determine children raw learning potential.

        The graph that Sue Garthercole showed in her L lecture illustrated children's Cognitive development high and low for affulent and socially deprived children. Each at 10 months were distinctively separate, but by 10 years of age the high social deprived cognitive line crossed the lowest affulent line. This illustrates that social deprecation has effected on children of all learning potential.

        The willingness to accept that children's learning potential is not equal tends to be taboo amongst politicians as Plomin argues. There are risks in branding children as failure, but the hypocracy of the situation is that children are being constantly assessed and all too often being remained of what they cannot do. None of enjoy failure. 


These children's patents will not be able afford for their children to have private lessons which is increasingly occurring throughout the world.



       What is important to recognise is that children inherit a cocktail of genes? Plomin contents that parents of average intelligence will be more inclined to have there most intelligent children. Hereditary only accounts for 50% of children's potential.

Key Points

1. The working memory capacity of children and adults, will never be equal, child geniuses have exceptional working memory capacity.  Working memory is the brains processing capacity which has the greatest impact upon maths and language development.

2.  Intelligence and working memory resembles height, most people are around average, while 10% of the population are extremely tall or short.  Our brains are as individual as our faces.

3. The Institute of Brain Cambridge University contends that although worming memory increases three fold from 4 to 16 the spread of it increases over that time and that it cannot be changed. This means that learning will always be more difficult to achieve for certain children than others.

4. Their research illustrates that white matter, which links the hubs in the brain are the motorways of the brain, shorter and faster links are associated in those who have higher intelligence and working memory capacity. This means that certain children will always have learning advantage throughout their lives.

5. Plomin, who is a genetist contends that adopted twins reflect their birth parents in terms of all attributes, 50% children's intelligence and learning potential is influenced by genes. Height is 90% genetically determined, education  at 50% means that parenting and schooling will have an  influence on the extent that children reach their full learning potential.

6. Plomin argues that education increases the spread of children's attainment. Fluency reduces the demands upon working memory, those with higher working memory will develop it quicker, this means that it becomes a vicious circle. Even when children achieve a given level of fluency they will still have more limited working memory capacity.

7. The Cockcroft Report 1982 research into mathematical attainment in the English speaking world concluded that there was a seven year spread in children's mathematical attainment. This reflects the seven year spread of children's working memory capacity.

8.  Cockcroft contended that however much the standard of maths attainment is improved the spread will remain.  Working memory actually accelerates the spread, because fluency reduces the demands upon working memory, increasing learners working memory capacity. As happens with reading.

9. Kirsh contends in the United States that early 'catch up' does not necessarily mean that the 'catch up' is maintained as children progress through school. If learning is viewed as being like race, children who attempt to 'catch up', when they have generally lower learning potential are being ask to run faster to catch those learning more comfortably at a high speed than then.

10. Sue Garthercole contended that P.I.S.A. raises concerns about the spread of educational attainment in the United Kingdom. It is important on the one hand children of generally lower learning potential have high expectations about what they can achieve, but on the other hand they should not be 'put down' an d 'punished' for doing what is their best.