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The objectives of this work aimed to identify whether RAE is present in Chilean eighth grade students, determining their degree of influence and whether it occurs in the different performance measures observed. Moreover, the study sought to analyse whether the possible influence of RAE took place in the same way when the sample was divided according to the different levels of SES, type of institution, and academic performance.

Finally, the third objective refers to the analysis of the additional contributions of the RAE on performance in relation to the effects of SES variables and type of institution. In relation to these objectives, we set different working hypotheses. Regarding the first hypothesis, the results confirm the existence of the RAE in the Chilean educational system, showing significant effects on global academic performance and also on each of the measures to the different, specific, academic domains [ 1 ]. Overall, this significant effect is accompanied by small values. The influence of SES and to a lesser extent, the type of institution, is, as expected, significantly higher than RAE, showing major effects on performance across the board.

Regarding the results of the RAE, one of the most striking is the reverse effect of G1. This group shows lower values than the G2, but from this group, the trend is that younger students scored lower. As noted above, in the Chilean educational system, the parents can decide whether their children, born in the first quarter, enter into their natural age level or higher. This possibility enables students who stand out during their preschool stage to enter primary education earlier.

This phenomenon also shows that the older students of the academic year were not the ones who stood out and may even have a learning disability, which would explain the results of G1. Some theories state that the sooner the student enters the school system, the easier it will be for him or her to learn while others say students need to reach a certain maturity to learn more complex content [ 6 ].

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It has been found that students who enter school at age 7 obtained higher scores than those entering at age 6 [ 35 , 36 ]. On the other hand, studies show evidence from various international contexts of the relevance of early schooling for learning and school success, especially in situations of risk and sociocultural disadvantage [ 37 , 38 ]. In the particular case of Chile, although the data show that older students are not earning a higher academic performance, probably because they were not in a better position to choose to enter the previous year, they do obtain better performance than those born a year later whose are in the same course.

Between the possible reasons presented in the introduction of this article to explain the phenomenon of RAE, references to the differences in the rates of neuropsychological development of children [ 8 ] are made along with the relevance that could cause the low expectations that teachers can develop based on academic results achieved by students in previous courses [ 7 ]. It is possible that these reasons, along with some of the specific circumstances of the Chilean context noted above, are behind the results obtained.


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In this sense, among these circumstances we must mention the one that refers to the flexibility of the age when first entering compulsory primary schooling based on their previous results in preschool. Although this measure may be beneficial for some students it is possible that students may enter primary education and find that when facing age differences, it might turn into a handicap for their optimal educational development. As mentioned above from the cognitive-developmental models in developmental psychology, the existence of horizontal gaps within the same stage of development and the different rhythms of maturation could explain the RAE, although this concept is not referred to in these models.

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From this perspective, a line divided into stages of development, which would have a universal and unchanging rhythm of acquisition, is established. These stages determine the appearance of the different functions in individuals, including either basic or natura l functions or higher mental functions [ 18 ].

In this sense, the reverse effect found in subgroup G1 would be inconsistent with the idea of development as a result of the independent maturation of sociocultural factors. Conversely, these data support the conceptions of more interactionists of development [ 15 ]. The development, therefore, is not only influenced by culture but also is constructed from social interactions that take place within a given culture. From this perspective, individual differences, especially in relation to the development of higher mental functions, such as reading, arithmetic, or logical reasoning, occur mainly due to the appropriation of psychological instruments that mediate between culture and the individual.

This cultural line of development helps to normalise psychological functions acquired by the school population [ 18 ], namely, to reduce variability in the observed scores of these functions. Thereby, it is assumed that the natural line of development would result in a greater dispersion of the measures, while the cultural line of development would be accompanied by lower dispersion of scores and greater normalisation.

School, in this sense, fulfilled a homogeniser or normalising function. On the contrary, the systematic acquisition of higher mental functions in formal education substantially alters the normal curve of development. In this regard, standardised measurements that assume a normal distribution of the population would mix the analysis of natural functions and higher functions.

In the same vein, Sternberg and Grigorenko [ 39 ] establish that standardised measurements would be mixing consolidated functions with the measuring of developing functions. From these models, ultimately, differences linked to RAE should be understood as a consequence of the interaction and the variability of the result of this mixture in the measurement of natural and higher functions.

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Also, from an interactionist conception, it is assumed that development is the result of a dynamic interaction of neuropsychological maturation and cultural mediation influences. In this sense, the decrease of the RAE as it moves schooling would be related to learning and internalisation of higher mental functions. This dynamic interaction between learning and development assumes neuroplasticity as an essential defining characteristic of human brain evolution.

The data obtained in our study so clearly illustrate the influence of factors related to culture such as SES or the type of educational institution. The effect of these variables is statistically significant, further showing a practical significance [ 40 ] which corresponds to the social relevance of these variables in explaining academic performance in the Chilean education system.

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Meanwhile, although the RAE values are small, the significance shown must be taken into account by assuming an interactionist conception and a developmental approach as a variable which influences in interaction with others. Regarding our second hypothesis, we expected that the RAE was higher in low-performing students belonging to public institutions and low SES. In this sense, it could occur that the RAE accentuates the poor performance of students who get lower scores while strengthening the possibility that low expectations appear in the school context based on poor performance.

Also, we wanted to know whether the SES or the type of institution established differences in the observed effects. As mentioned above, the effect values found in the analysis for the RAE were generally small. The SES and educational institution have greater influence on academic performance than the RAE with somewhat larger values of the effect.

In other studies in the field of physical education and sports, the effect sizes found for RAE are equally small [ 41 , 42 ]. These studies suggest the heterogeneity of the sample decreases the effects of date of birth. However, focussing on our study, the data show that when the effects of SES and type of institution are controlled, namely with decreasing heterogeneity, they also decrease RAE. Similarly, the RAE decreases as the age of the student increases, and even reverses [ 9 ]. A much larger effect has been found in first grade students [ 7 ] and gradually disappears by the age of 12 [ 43 ].

These data suggest in turn that the effect of sociocultural factors increase as schooling progresses. That is in line with the arguments above that the further normalisation of the school population as a result of schooling, and the acquisition of higher mental functions help to reduce the heterogeneity and variability in the measurements observed of natural psychological functions, which would be parallel with the decrease in the RAE.

In this sense, the data obtained in part confirm our second hypothesis because the RAE showed higher value in students with lower scores. It seems that the greater heterogeneity between the scores obtained by these students would have been a key factor in explaining higher RAE.

In addition, since the relationship between SES and academic performance is very significant, potential negative effects of RAE could actually accentuate in this subgroup of students. Finally, regarding our third hypothesis, we hoped that the RAE contributed to explain academic performance by providing additional information with respect to SES and type of institution. In this sense, the results support the relevance of RAE in academic performance, offering additional information to those explained by variables SES and type of institution.

Although the increase in the proportion of explained variance is minimal, we must emphasise the practical significance that this contribution could have, especially in the early years of schooling in the face of decisions on measures such as flexibility in the stage of initial entry into school or at different stages of the same or the implementation of measures to help support students.

Within the limitations of the study, it should be noted that this work, even using a large representative sample of Chile, only analyses senior students of primary schooling. Undoubtedly, the analysis of academic paths according to the date of birth throughout schooling could give more information on how the RAE evolves in students across the 8 years of primary education.

These studies also allow assessment of whether the initial or preschool moments, differences linked to RAE, are increased in situations of cultural disadvantage when the school still has not fulfilled its normalising function by providing tools to develop higher functions. Although the cultural differences become even larger in this way, the dispersion of scores of development of natural functions could lead to higher RAE values. Also, these studies would allow assessment of the effect of teacher expectations on academic performance in relation to those younger students.

On the other hand, regarding the methodology used, we note that the non-identifiability of the model and the consequent need to impose restrictions on the parameters greatly increases the complexity as well as the distance of the results obtained with the reality. Also, we have already mentioned that the application of nonparametric techniques for parameter estimation is less efficient for model analysis [ 34 ]. The RAE is a relevant factor when deciding on the right moment of schooling age.

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This could be especially important when it comes to children with low performance in previous stages, such as in preschool stage, as well as students at risk or with sociocultural disadvantages. In this sense, it seems essential to implement comprehensive and effective early-warning systems that include individualised assessments of the various areas of development in order to obtain valuable information and thus recommend or not an early start of compulsory primary education.

These evaluation systems must provide information based on skills perceived by educators [ 44 ] and also dynamic tests adapted to the preschool stages which will provide access to their full learning potential [ 45 ]. Data from our study suggest, showing residual values at the beginning of adolescence, consistent with data from previous research that RAE decreases as age increases and the normalising influence of formal schooling increases.

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Despite this decrease, the RAE is still significant in the tested eighth graders, suggesting that its relevance would have been higher in earlier stages. Thus, even though the practise or substantive significance of the RAE, which is derived from data obtained, is small, the significance and social relevance could be especially important in the initial stages of schooling.

Moreover, this seems to be more important for those students who show a poor performance in achievement tests. In this sense, the relevance of RAE contributes to rethinking the flexibility measures adopted in some educational systems in relation to the time of entrance to the school system of the students in different educational stages.

Depending on the potential adverse effects that this factor can have throughout schooling, it is essential that counsellors and educators who are aware of these effects inform parents by providing precise guidance on whether or not to anticipate entry to the school system. Thus, the flexibility of these measures should take into account this factor, contemplating changes to the policy of school clusters, which are based on a better understanding of development, which in turn can increase the chances of all students.


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The authors thank the Agencia de Calidad for the possibility to access their information. All the results of this study are under the strict responsibility of the authors and in no way involve the agency mentioned above. All the results of this study are strictly responsibility of the authors and in no way involves the agency mentioned above.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. PLoS One. Published online Oct Olivares 3. Pedro R.