How Ability Grouping in Schools Fuels Socio-Economic Divides: Aston Lecturer Reveals Startling Findings in Cogent Education Journal

Kunal Chan Mehta

By Kunal Chan Mehta | Article Date: 21 April 2023

The practice of ability grouping, which involves dividing students into academic groups based on their abilities, has been found to potentially exacerbate the socio-economic divide among students, as per a recent study published in Cogent Education by Mr Muhammad Zubair, a Senior Business Lecturer at LSST Aston.

The newly published study explores the historical and current practices of ability grouping in Western countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia. Ability grouping is common in these countries but has been found to be unfavourable in its intensity.

‘Our study suggests that ability grouping results in diverse educational experiences for learners, which can contribute to the widening of the socioeconomic gap among students,’ said Mr Muhammad Zubair. ‘The study calls for education reforms that prioritise equal opportunities and alter national policies to harmonise with the potential of learners.’

Mr Muhammad Zubair argues that ability grouping ‘prioritises the market-based education system over promoting academic attainment in students’ (Photo: LSST)


Mr Ali Jafar Zaidi, LSST’s Deputy CEO, commenting on the study, said: ‘This study finds that ability grouping in schools can exacerbate existing socio-economic inequalities among students, which is a concerning trend. This reinforces the need for education systems to consider more inclusive practices that promote equity and fairness for all students, regardless of their background or perceived ability.’

The study argues that ability grouping is embedded within the contemporary hyper-accountability culture in education that has shifted the focus of the teaching community from promoting academic attainment in pupils to being highly ranked in the market-based education system.

The study also highlights that students should not be divided into groups that advocate academic homogeneity. Instead, schools should provide diverse educational experiences and opportunities for learners, regardless of their academic abilities.

Dr Mustafa Kasim, a Business Lecturer at LSST Aston, asserted: ‘Mr Zubair's article on ability grouping exposes how this practice contributes to widening socio-economic divides. A must-read for those interested in addressing these issues.’ Dr Wasim Khan, also a Business Lecturer at LSST Aston, added: ‘All students deserve equal opportunities to learn and grow. This study highlights the negative impact of ability grouping on students and society. There is now a greater call to create an inclusive education system that supports the growth of all students.’

Mr Mohsin Riaz, Dean of LSST Aston, stated: ‘The research is critical and commendable, as it brings into the spotlight the negative impact of ability grouping on students' learning and socioeconomic status. The authors of the study rightly call for educational reforms that can alter students’ academic outcomes and increase employability.’

Muhammad Zubair, the lead author of the study, is a Senior Business Lecturer at LSST’s Aston campus and is completing his doctorate at the University of Wolverhampton. He will be offering workshops and seminars about his research in the upcoming weeks. To find out more please email:  

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3 thoughts on “How Ability Grouping in Schools Fuels Socio-Economic Divides: Aston Lecturer Reveals Startling Findings in Cogent Education Journal”

  1. This article has touched on an ongoing issue in the domain of schooling in Britain and other regions. Interestingly, our colleague, Mr Zubair, has visited multicultural studies to collect data and present impressive findings. As an author, he has presented his ideas systematically, making other scholars’ contributions visible to support his ideology. It is a very concise and well-structured study; thus, its publication in the Q2 journal was made possible.

    • Profession: Business lecturer
    1. I fully agree Zulkiffel Ali’s comments. Even I think it is a very well explored research dense with multi regions perspectives. Hardly, any individual scholar has seen ability grouping as a positive approach.

      • Profession: Teacher
  2. What an eye opening research it is. Really impressive as this research should be used to bring reform in UK education system.

    • Profession: Teacher

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