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Why do state-school pupils earn less over a lifetime? Because they aren’t taught to dream big.

New Statesman Why do state school pupils earn less over a lifetime Because they aren t taught to dream big


an Institute for Fiscal Studies report showing that UK graduates who went to private school earn thousands of pounds more a year than their state-educated peers – £4,500 more, in fact. We don’t just have a gender pay gap in the UK, we have a class one, too. This is not only because privately educated students are more likely to attend elite universities, or to study subjects that are more likely to lead to higher-paid careers. Even when the researchers compared students who went to the same university, and took the same job after graduating, the pay gap between state-school and private-school students was 6 per cent, or £1,500 a year on average.

One explanation for this is the “confidence gap”. Private schools instil their children with a sense of entitlement and confidence that is lacking among state-school pupils, it is suggested. I often give talks in schools about sex and body image, and the difference in approach between the state and private sectors is striking. I have never, for instance, heard a state-school pupil make the dreaded announcement, “This is more of a statement than a question.”

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The next time you knock a sense of entitlement, think of this.  What we want is genuine confidence, and not confidence only that someone already can do something, but confidence that they can learn to do something.  We don't want blind, shallow entitlement (take me shopping!), but we do want a sense that if someone self-improves in things that are actually useful, that they will have a fair opportunity to employ their skills and will be entitled to fair results.

Confidence that someone can learn something is the most challenging of confidences. 

Because there's always the accompanying fear that the learning curve will be too steep.

People have anxiety over learning curves if they haven't progressed very far up the learning speed curve, which is mostly about practice learning new things, and when they haven't tried to learn much recently.  Learning all the time and being in situations where you can go at your own pace until you are up to speed is probably the best strategy to get there.

Other confidence busters are that something will be taught poorly or that it will be too expensive to learn for what it is worth.

I see. So the main thing school should do is help people learn how to learn.

Yes, and that's what they attempt to do.  Poorly much of the time perhaps.  The big divide is between those who learn on their own and those who don't.  Being taught is like training wheels.  Some people take off the training wheels and ride on their own where they want and need to go.  Many do not.

But, really, metalearning is just like learning something that takes practice or like exercise: You need to keep doing it frequently to stay good and get better.

So the best schools emphasize this every day, rather than just rote memorization.

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