Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Not all about IQ

Some of you may have watched an interesting programme last night on the significance of IQ as a factor in personal and professional success. I found the documentary fascinating, principally because it made some very similar points to those stressed in Malcolm Gladwell's recent book 'Outliers'. Two of Gladwell's preoccupations in this work are the significance of 'cultivated development' and the limited importance of IQ. He draws on an incredible study that identified the children with the highest IQ in America and tracked their professional and personal development throughout their life. The study's principal investigator was convinced that he had identified future Nobel laureates, supreme court judges and presidents. In fact he had - in the early part of the study. They had been filtered out, discarded and untracked - because their IQ wasn't high enough. As Gladwell asserts - potential to achieve is not just about IQ or some theoretical measure of it at a random point in time. It's about opportunities and challenges: stimulating minds and building understanding. I urge you to read the book, because in many ways it represents a passionate argument for resourcing all children's access to the best possible education at every level. We all know the phrase 'If you think education is expensive, try ignorance', and in NI we have paid an enormous price for arbitrary assessment and rejected potential.

We have an immense opportunity to design and develop a potential enhancing system of education for all our children. In simple terms there is a business case: in an economy which is undergoing seismic shock, we need to grasp every opportunity we have. We cannot afford the human wastage of that young potential. There are deeply held feelings on all sides - we are right to want excellence but we need it for all. Otherwise we make the same mistake as the principal investigator of the IQ study in the US, who just missed the wood for the trees.

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