Don't blame poor genes for school dunces, childhood experts warn

BRISBANE. July 13. KAZINFORM Rich kids can be just as thick as their poorer classmates, a Labor Party senator declared yesterday. The parliamentary secretary for housing and homelessness, Senator Doug Cameron, rubbished "inconclusive research'' by the Productivity Commission linking poor kids' genes to their failure at school.

"I don't agree that if you're born rich you're born more intelligent,'' he told News Limited.

"You've only got to look at some rich people to understand that's not the case.''

The Productivity Commission cited genetic "inherited abilities'' as one of the reasons rich kids outperform poor children at school, in a provocative report published yesterday.

The federal government's main policy advisory agency cited "parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes'' at the top of a list of reasons why kids from poor families lag behind those from wealthy homes.

Other reasons were access to books and computers, parental attention and aspirations, and the quality of schooling.
Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall said it was wrong to assume poor children were not as smart as kids from wealthy families.

He said children from poor families could "absolutely succeed in society if they are given the right early education''.
"It's easy to blame genes,'' he said.

"Some teachers have the attitude that a kid's just not clever when that's just not the case.

"Quite often that child comes from a home where they've been up until two in the morning and they need extra help from the teacher to be successful.''

Mr Hall said the gap in school performance between wealthy and poor children in Australia was one of the highest in the developed world.

Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page said it was "not helpful'' for a government agency to cite genes as a factor in poor children's performance at school.

"There is a risk people will say there's no need to invest in these (poorer) children,'' she said.

"I don't think it is at all plausible to say that poorer children are somehow genetically dispositioned to poorer outcomes, or to suggest people of limited means are less committed to their children.

"They have less means to provide early education and books at home, but most parents want the best for their children.''

Ms Page said all children from low-income families should be guaranteed a place in preschool for $1 or $2 per day.
"Genetic inheritance is a lottery and you can do very well or very badly and it's not necessarily associated with the income of your parents,'' she said.

The Productivity Commission report on disadvantage in Australia includes a section entitled "inherited abilities'', which states that "one explanation for differences in educational attainment between children of low and high socio-economic backgrounds is parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes''.


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