What’s the best way to mea­sure in­tel­li­gence?

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE -

Back in cave­men times when cave chil­dren were about to be­come cave ado­les­cents they were sent out to see if they could hunt for them­selves and if they couldn’t they died, prob­a­bly.

Then in the era of the Spar­tan war­rior, sev­enyear-old boys were ripped from the clutches of their moth­ers and en­rolled in a state-spon­sored mil­i­tary train­ing pro­gramme, ac­cord­ing to the film 300.

In the an­i­mal king­dom when chicks are deemed old enough to fend for them­selves they leap from the trees and ei­ther fly away for­ever or fall to their deaths, ac­cord­ing to Sir David At­ten­bor­ough.

In 21st cen­tury Bri­tain we’ve moved on a bit and no longer send our off­spring to their deaths, and of course we’re far more in­tel­li­gent than birds. Or are we?

Exam sea­son al­ways makes me a lit­tle de­pressed and leaves me ask­ing the ques­tion: Is mak­ing young peo­ple, some only six (be­cause that’s the age chil­dren are when they sit their first SATs which set them on an aca­demic tra­jec­tory for at least the next four years of their lives), shuf­fle into a hall and sit in si­lence for two hours while be­ing made to re­call in­for­ma­tion they’ve had pushed into their brains for the past year re­ally that much bet­ter than what cave peo­ple prob­a­bly used to do?

Ev­ery one learns dif­fer­ently and many peo­ple are im­me­di­ately at a dis­ad­van­tage as soon as they sit down at the heav­ily-doo­dled desk and turn over the top se­cret exam paper.You’d think maybe in 2018 we might start ex­plor­ing al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of as­sess­ment which could look at, say, how a child per­forms over the course of the aca­demic year rather than dur­ing a two-hour pe­riod in a deadly silent class­room.

So the idea of a re­formed GCSE sys­tem where let­ters have be­come num­bers all seemed very mod­ern, that is un­til you dis­cover that the tougher tests vir­tu­ally abol­ish course­work.

Exam cul­ture has in­fil­trated ev­ery as­pect of ed­u­ca­tion. It’s high time we woke up to the fact the abil­ity to re­gur­gi­tate facts is not the best way to mea­sure some­one’s in­tel­li­gence.

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