Monday, December 23, 2019

Not what you think

Preparing for a test (Wikicommons - Excelz)

Why do West African immigrants outperform native-born whites in UK schools? This is the question posed by Chanda Chisala using data from the GCSE, the General Certificate of Secondary Education. 

To be sure, the GCSE is not the same as an IQ test. For most subjects it includes things like coursework and attendance. The test-taker is also motivated by self-interest: a high GCSE score can be a ticket to a good university and a good job. Nonetheless, Thompson (2013) has argued that the GCSE has a correlation of 0.81 with IQ. So perhaps the two are roughly equivalent.

Let's look at the GCSE results from England for 2012. They are indeed astounding for immigrant children from English-speaking Africa. Just look at the percentage difference from the mean by country of origin:

Nigerians -     +21.8
Ghanaians -     +5.5
Sierra Leone - +1.4

Source: Chisala (2019)

This academic excellence seems to be unusually concentrated among Nigerian immigrants. Are we looking at our friends from the Niger delta? Often known as the "Jews of West Africa," the Igbo have a long record of academic and economic success. This has been attributed to their openness to Western learning and the commercial opportunities it creates, although the Igbo were, in fact, a trading nation long before the colonial era (Frost 2015). They became receptive to Western learning because they had long been receptive to learning in general, much like the Japanese during the Meiji era.

Chisala (2015) provides an ethnic breakdown of GCSE results for the years 2009 to 2011:

2009: Igbo - 100%, Yoruba - 39%
2010: Igbo - 80%, Yoruba - 68%
2011: Igbo - 76%, Yoruba - 75%

The Igbo started off as top achievers, but their lead evaporated over the next two years as the Yoruba made remarkable gains. There were 90 Yoruba kids, so sampling error could hardly explain their increase from 39% to 75%. Because the Igbo kids numbered only 16, the decrease from 100% to 76% might not be significant.

Perhaps the Yoruba kids got better coaching and tutoring. Whatever the explanation, GCSE cannot be used as a proxy for IQ, at least not for Nigerians. Yes, IQ can change over the course of a lifespan, but not that fast and not that much—unless you suffer a serious accident.

Exam malpractice

There are less innocent explanations for the rapid rise in Yoruba scores. A study of students in Nigeria found that test-retest reliability ranged from 77 to 85% (Petters and Okon 2014). The authors blame the low test reliability on cheating, calling it "a plague":

Examination malpractice in Nigeria has attained a frightening proportion and it is becoming more sophisticated as years pass by. Efforts by government and stakeholders to curtail this trend have not yielded much success. If this trend is not given an urgent attention, it may utterly destroy the quality of education in Nigeria.

Bisong et al. (2009) come to similar conclusions:

The implication of this study is that the cheating tendency is becoming endemic in Nigerian society. A situation where one in every four students tends to cheat in every examination calls for a significant moral questioning of our society. Even with a high level of supervision, as the results show, students are still prone to indulge in cheating behaviour.

In their review of the literature, Bisong et al. (2009) note that "in 1980, out of the 190,000 candidates who sat the West African Examination Certificate in May and June, 46,000 candidates from Nigeria had their results nullified." Cheating is partly due to Nigerian parents, who understand the value of academic success and push their children to get good grades "by all means":

Parents expect nothing less than passing in examination from their children. There must not be failure. That is to say that he who fails is not entertained in any way. Where there is weakness or a psychological measure that one is not prepared to pass the examination, then fear begins to disturb the minds of students as to how to make it. This leads to serious reading throughout the night, pressing lectures for areas of concentration and arranging to enter the examination hall with every possible means to cheat during the examination. (Halima 2003, p. 17)

Halima (2003, p. 19) notes the harshness of penalties for cheating: "in 1983 the punishment for cheating was increased to a jail term of 21 years without the option for fine. In spite of this cheating in examination increased."

Nigeria's cognitive elite?

It has been argued, notably by Greg Cochran, that Nigerian immigrants are skimmed from the top of their country's IQ distribution (Cochran 2019). They are the best that Nigeria has to offer—la crème de la crème. To make that argument work, however, Nigerian immigrants to the UK would have to be much smarter than the average Nigerian, with an IQ more than one standard deviation higher and probably two.

There is only a rough consensus on the mean IQ of sub-Saharan Africa. In their review of the literature, Wicherts et al. (2010) argue for a mean of 82, whereas Lynn (2010) puts it at 66. Rindermann (2013) favors a "best guess" of 75. Even if we take the high estimate of 82, we must still assume extreme selection to get a mean IQ above 100. Is that a reasonable assumption?  Elite individuals exist among immigrants from Nigeria, but they are not the majority: 

Socially, the Nigerian diaspora is by no means homogenous. There are those who struggle for basic means of survival such as car park attendants, cleaners and other menial workers working long hours to make ends meet. But some professionals have distinguished themselves and moved on to become members of the Black middle class. (Akinrinade and Ogen 2011)

Furthermore, some doubt may be cast on the credentials of middle-class Nigerians: "they have acquired a notorious reputation for arrogance and fraud" (Akinrinade and Ogen 2011). Finally, the cognitive elite argument fails to explain why immigrants from Nigeria do so much better than those from Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Math scores

On many GCSE components, there is much room for cheating, particularly on coursework. But what about the mathematics component? GCSE math has not had coursework since 2009. It is simply a timed test. How can one cheat on a timed test?

By impersonation. A "ghost" who knows the subject takes the exam by impersonating the student, and the actual student never takes the exam (Azuka 2014). This method requires a photo ID that combines the ghost's photo with the test-taker's name. In most cases, the fake ID is sufficient to dispel any suspicions.


For whatever reason, the GCSE is too volatile to be used as a proxy for IQ, particularly in the case of Nigerian students. The volatility seems to be due to cheating, as well as to the grey area of coaching and tutoring services. Cheating is rife among Nigerians in Nigeria, and it would be naïve to suppose that such behavior disappears once they relocate to another country, especially if their new country imposes none of the harsh penalties that are regularly imposed in Nigeria.

Nigerian academic achievement may be genuine in some cases. This is particularly so with respect to the Igbo, who have a longstanding record of achievement within and outside school. Unfortunately, genuine ability can be cofounded with fake ability. Smart people are better at gaming the system and making themselves look smarter than they really are.

Indeed, I can't help wondering when I look at the GCSE results for Igbo students in 2009. Every single Igbo got a perfect score—that's unusual even for a smart population and even with a sample size that small. Chanda suggests that year-to-year fluctuations might have made the sample even smaller in that year. Well, perhaps.

It would be easy to say that we need more data. Additional GCSE results, however, will be just as distorted by academic fraud. We need data from real IQ tests that provide no incentive for cheating.


Akinrinade, S., and O. Ogen. (2011). Historicising the Nigerian Diaspora: Nigerian Migrants and Homeland Relations. Turkish Journal of Politics 2(2): 71-85.

Azuka, E.B. (2014). Academic Fraud among Students in Higher Education in Nigeria: Reasons, Methods Adopted and Strategies to curb it. Journal of Educational and Social Research 4(3): 289-296. 

Bisong, N.N., F. Akpama, and P.B. Edet. (2009). Cheating Tendency in Examinations among Secondary School Students in Nigeria:  a case study of schools in the Odukpani Local Government Area, Cross River State. Policy Futures in Education 7(4): 410-415  
Chisala, C. (2019). Why Do Blacks Outperform Whites in UK Schools? The Unz Review, November 29 

Chisala, C. (2015). UK: Igbo Nigeria Academic performance destroys the myth of Black Low IQ. Afripol November 28

Cochran, G. (2019). Selective immigration. West Hunter, March 13

Frost, P. (2015). The Jews of West Africa? The Unz Review, July 4 

Halima, D. (2003). A study of some socio-psychological factors of cheating in examination among students of Kaduna Polytechnic. Post Graduate School Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. 

Lynn, R. (2010). The average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans assessed by the Progressive Matrices: A reply to Wicherts, Dolan, Carlson & van der Maas. Learning and Individual Differences 20(3): 152-154.

Petters, J.S., and M.O. Okon. (2014). Students' Perception of Causes and Effects of Examination Malpractice in the Nigerian Educational System: The Way Forward for Quality Education. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 114: 125-129

Rindermann, H. (2013). African cognitive ability: Research, results, divergences and recommendations. Personality and Individual Differences 55: 229-233.

Thompson, J. (2013). IQ and GCSE Results in England R=0.81. The Unz Review, November 5 

Wicherts, J.M., C.V. Dolan, and H.L.J. van der Maas. (2010). A systematic literature review of the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans. Intelligence 38: 1-20.


Grey said...

one thing that *might* be a factor

teaching in schools dumbed down so much that pupils who get any amount of home tuition become leagues ahead of those who don't.

i don't know if this applies to Nigerians.

Sean said...

In Paul Collier's 2015 book Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World, given as an example of how in Nigeria even doctors had not internalised professional norms, he said it was not possible for Nigerians to get life insurance, because it was too easy to get a death certificate without being dead.

Anonymous said...

This is a shameful coping mechanism by Frost after his Igbo explanation proved wrong. Frost and the rest of the HBD crowd got wrecked by Chisala, so now Frost has come to his last resort.. "t-they cheated! there is no way any black population can be intelligent!"

Furthermore, he puts forth estimates for a subsaharan IQ as though that category has any meaning genetically. Differing groups of SSAs are completely distinct genetic clusters so why even bring those nonsense estimates into the conversation?

Worse still, he keeps legitimizing Lynn's numbers as though his data hasn't been exposed as unreliable already: This guy's 69 estimate for Nigeria is based on 3 samples, yet he keeps posting this.

HBD needs to move away from this anti-black bias. "Blacks have to be of low intelligence...they just have to be....If the evidence doesn't reflect this then something isn't right."

The reality is that the sheer achievement by Nigerians and other Africans abroad puts a lot of hbd orthodoxy about intelligence into doubt and Chisala made the case well. Not to mention an honest look at the pre-modern cultures such as the Ashanti in Ghana, Yoruba and Igbo kingdoms and others.

Anonymous said...

There is no "sheer achievement" of africans abroad except in uk - and only there a very limited one. Everywhere else in Europe and the new world the results are disastrous.

Anonymous said...

Nope, they are among the most educated immigrant groups in the US as well. Frost can't explain it. His Igbo and self-selection explanations have proven insufficient. Now he's resorting to cheating. Yes, cheating might be a factor in test scores but it still is not enough to explain everything.

No one in the HBD crowd has been able to explain this.

Anonymous said...

None of this matters.
Until proven otherwise (I want IQ test results of the actual parents of those children), there is zilch reason to believe that they are representative of anything.
Better yet, instead of dealing with IQ proxies (which education and this test taking are), we just need to look at actual IQ data.
Seems strangely absent to me. In fact, if this was true, I'd expect the liberal establishment to be all over it and publishing papers debunking "heredity" (at least as far as racial differences are concerned). This is strangely absent.

Indians both in the states and in the uk are also highly educated (and well-earning) yet this would lead no one in their right mind to update their priors about indian IQ.

In the end, black IQ after the flynn effect benefiting whites currently has been applied to them as well, will end up exactly where everyone expected it to end up - between 85 and 95, obviously with different results for different black ethnic groups.

Anonymous said...

I took GCSE equivalents not long ago. I fail to see how cheating can account for such a massive, or any, disparity. Cheating isn't easy in the UK; we have one of the best education system in the world and it would be well-known and widely reported if cheating to the scale Frost implies was happening. Incidentally, here in Scotland (we have a slightly different system), the African-White gap persists. It appears as though every ethnic group here -- Indians, Pakistanis, the Chinese, Africans -- outperform White Scots.

What Frost fails to mention is that the UK's immigration system was anything but selective, which makes these findings all-the-more substantial. That's how Britain managed to recruit immigrants from some of the most despised areas within countries like Pakistan, who still manage to have similar GCSE scores to White Brits, a higher proportion of people in medical school, just as low crime rates once adjusted for age, and so on. And this happens while the population is highly consanguineous. Imagine if they stopped cousin marriages, they'd have overtaken White Brits by just about any metric, despite being from a *lower class* area within their country of origin. Source:

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as "non-selective migration from the third world".
The mere fact that those people were able to get the spot to migrate puts them at least 1 SD above the mean of the population.

Also, I have to laugh at "just as low crime rates once adjusted for age".
All those grooming gangs must be a figment of the imagination, no?

I think we found the paki-hapa troll here.

Jim Bowery said...

Both HBDers and anti-HBDers need to read my response to the debate between Chisala and Welton.

Anonymous said...

The Cope is real. Igbo have been well-respected academically a on both sides of the Atlantic for half a century...f.o.h. And I'm not even Nigerian, but have both worked and taught many. It turns out that being steict about education and their history of it related to trade checks out.