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Can education be personalised using pupils’ genetic data?

By Tim T Morris, Neil M Davies, George Davey Smith

Posted 23 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/645218

The increasing predictive power of polygenic scores for education has led to their promotion by some as a potential tool for genetically informed policy. How well polygenic scores predict educational performance conditional on other phenotypic data is however not well understood. Using data from a UK cohort study, we investigated how well polygenic scores for education predicted pupils’ realised achievement over and above phenotypic data that are available to schools. Across our sample, prediction of educational outcomes from polygenic scores were inferior to those from parental socioeconomic factors. There was high overlap between the polygenic score and achievement distributions, leading to weak predictive accuracy at the individual level. Furthermore, conditional on prior achievement polygenic scores were not predictive of later achievement. Our results suggest that while polygenic scores can be informative for identifying group level differences, they currently have limited use for predicting individual educational performance or for personalised education.

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