Secrets to scoring

SMART genes and good teachers alone do not make a brilliant student.

According to new research, parents’ occupation or the number of books in a home is a better predictor of student success across different cultures, and in global exams.

The study, conducted by Dr Kimmo Eriksson at Mälardalen University College in Sweden, and published on open science platform Frontiers in Education, involved analysing the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores for almost 600,000 students from 77 countries, including Malaysia.

Malaysia was in the middle 30% of the ranking, but still at the bottom of the list when compared to the 11 developed countries assessed in PISA 2018, which measured the performance of 15-year-old school students in mathematics, science and reading.

While most would associate one’s highest academic qualification with how well one’s child performs in school, occupational level was found to be a determinant factor instead.“Transfer of achievement-promoting traits accounts for the relation between children’s achievement in school and parents’ occupational status,” said the study.

It also found that books at home had a much more positive effect on achievement in the most developed nations, including mathematics scores.

For students in developing or least developed countries, parents’ possessions – such as cars and mobile phones – have a substantial positive effect on achievement.

“It is plausible that the direct effects of monetary input and economic hardship are more substantial in societies with low economic development.

“High economic development makes wealth possessions affordable for most people and appears to lead to post-materialist values where wealth possessions are no longer what people strive for,” the study read.

Published on Nov 22, the study was carried out to see if analysing the individual components that underlie socioeconomic status, such as parents’ occupation, education and wealth, is a better predictor of student success across different cultures than the current composite index involving multiple factors.

“Our main finding is that relations between student achievement and socioeconomic factors look very different in different countries,” said Mälardalen University College professor of mathematics and social psychology Dr Eriksson, who is also the lead author of the study.

“In many countries, achievement is strongly related to the number of books at home while it is unrelated, or even negatively related, to wealth,” he said in a recent press release. — By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM