Poverty and Succeeding in School

Neuroscience is providing us enormous insights in to many aspects of the working of the brain – not least how the learning process works, as evidenced by this article;

Smartblogs – How Poverty Affects School Success
(Click on the link above to read the article)

I have to confess that as I was reading the article, until about 2/3 of the way through there was this ever louder voice in my head shouting out, “Yes, but just because poverty CAN have negative affects on learning and success in school, that doesn’t mean that it MUST.” I don’t doubt for a moment that these findings from neuroscience do highlight statistically proven ways n which poverty has been undermining success in school for children brought up in situations of poverty.

In other words, I was thinking, surely we can put all this new-found knowledge and awareness to work to minimise the impact of poverty on children’s educational outcomes.

So, I was relieved by the final sections of the article that acknowledged this very point. My hope is that in the hands of highly skilled and caring educators this knowledge from the field of neuroscience will provide clues and ideas that can be utilised to reduce, minimise and even perhaps eliminate the built-in disadvantages of children brought up in poverty. That is the circumstance. Skilled educational and teaching strategies can enable children to overcome those circumstances, leading them out of victim-hood.

Social mobility was long held out as one of the potential benefits of mass education and a desirable aspiration for a modern democracy – a meritocracy in which nobody should believe that their potential in life is pre-ordained by their starting circumstances. However, data shows clearly that, so far, few developed economies have really achieved levels of social mobility to boast about. However, I believe knowledge like this brings such aspirations in reach like never before.


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