Intelligence is not just about scoring high marks in exams
The discussion on the need for our top students to become world beaters reminds one of the campaigns emphasising the highly educated (smart) versus the rest (not-so-smart).
Like those campaigns this issue seems predicated on the same assumption that importance = intelligence = high academic attainment.
Human intelligence is still not fully understood and it is more extensive than IQ. Intelligence exists in various forms and scholastic achievement cannot be the measure for all of them. It indicates a certain type of intelligence – IQ perhaps.
Even if IQ can be gauged through the education system, memory plays a significant role. A person with a good memory can excel over another individual with higher IQ but who suffers from poor memory.
Examinations are about testing a student’s ability to recall and use what is learned. There are individuals who are not good in studies but are gifted in their own ways. They possess other types of intelligence.
Wit, intuition, insight and inventiveness count among them. Their importance cannot be over-emphasized in an age when creativity and innovation are critical to progress.
There is also instinctive intelligence, being street-smart. Those with little education seem to have this quality. That many local successful businessmen come from this group can be explained partly by the fact that they think and act instinctively.
Has it occurred to educationists that education should not only be concerned with learning but also with unlearning?
The highly intellectual, structured approach in education can constrain the thinking process. Unconventional ideas may well be the stuff of creativity and innovation.
A local artist interviewed on TV commented that the approach taken by the government in promoting creativity is wrong because what is really needed is allowing more freedom and creativity to flourish. This is a very insightful comment.
This is not to say that education is unimportant. It is certainly needed to train individuals in certain disciplines. But we must be aware of the downside of formal education and bring into the educational process a freer, more leisurely and more open-ended approach so as not to kill off the other types of intelligence in the individual.
Some US undergraduates are given 30 per cent free time to leisurely engage themselves in any project unrelated to their courses. This is an open-ended approach to education. It was precisely through such leisurely activity that the Yahoo! search engine came into existence.
The exam-orientation and emphasis on good grades in our schools represent too ‘kiasu’ an approach. I believe that many individuals drop out of schools not because they are not smart but because they have had enough of the dehumanising and life-sapping education system.
The parody in the popular local movie ‘I Not Stupid’ that the school is a prison is quite true.
Our education system needs to reform by loosening up and becoming more multi-faceted, richer in approach. It is too narrow to focus only on the top students. We must not forget that there are individuals who have achieved excellence along non-scholastic paths too.
Why is the idea of world beaters so inextricably connected to top students? Is having world beaters so important that other positive contributions to society matter less to us? In fact, fame can cloud this issue and cause society to ascribe more importance to such world beaters than they deserve.
For every top scientist and highly successful entrepreneur who has attained celebrity status, there are many unknowns working under him. These are the people who are instrumental to his success.
This shows where the emphasis should be more appropriately placed, on collective honour. I am sure such an approach can motivate the collective effort and propel society to even higher levels of accomplishment.
Chia Hern Keng
(via ST forum)