Why Kids Can’t Think

Sometimes people ask me to recommend curriculum for their kindergartener, or their three year olds or five year olds, too. When people want me to tell them what workbooks they should use with a preschool aged child, my short answer is always “Don’t. Just let them play.”

A recent study in England confirms that children need extensive play time in their developing years:

Far from getting cleverer, our 11-year-olds are, in fact, less “intelligent” than their counterparts of 30 years ago. Or so say a team who are among Britain’s most respected education researchers.

After studying 25,000 children across both state and private schools Philip Adey, a professor of education at King’s College London confidently declares: “The intelligence of 11-year-olds has fallen by three years’ worth in the past two decades.”

It’s an extraordinary claim. But it’s one that should startle parents and teachers out of complacency. Shocked by the findings, experts are questioning our entire exam system and calling for radical changes in the way our children are taught in primary schools.

In their painstaking research project Adey and his colleague, psychology professor Michael Shayer, compared the results of today’s children with those of children who took exactly the same test in the mid-1990s and also 30 years ago. While most exams have changed (been made easier, if you listen to the critics) this one is the same as it was in 1976 when pupils first chewed their pencils over the problems.

In the easiest question, children are asked to watch as water is poured up to the brim of a tall, thin container. From there the water is tipped into a small fat glass. The tall vessel is refilled. Do both beakers now hold the same amount of water? “It’s frightening how many children now get this simple question wrong,” says scientist Denise Ginsburg, Shayer’s wife and another of the research team.

There’s more, much more:

“By stressing the basics — reading and writing — and testing like crazy you reduce the level of cognitive stimulation. Children have the facts but they are not thinking very well,” says Adey. “And they are not getting hands-on physical experience of the way materials behave.”

Ginsburg says parents too can do their bit. “When did children stop playing with mud, plasticine and Meccano and start playing with Xboxes and computer games?” she asks. Parents should switch off the television and “sit children around the dinner table to debate issues such as ‘What should we have done about the whale in the Thames?’ ” says Adey.

If these experts are right — and our children are losing the ability to think, the burning question is: what is the value of what they are being taught in primary school and of all those test results that every year rise to new heights? Paul Black, professor of education at King’s College, London is one of the experts so startled by these findings that he now wants ministers to reassess what our children are being taught.

“The decline shown up by this research is big and it is worrying,” he says. “It casts doubt on claims that standards are improving . . . There is not much evidence, in fact I don’t know of any good evidence, that the things tested at the moment in national tests at the age of 11 and 14 are of long-term benefit to learning . . . The government should look at this again.”

So, who writes these tests and why do we trust them?


See also:

Another link with the story posted above, in case the first link goes dark.

Live an interested life– this will help you help yourself and your children.

Applying this knowledge to the early years (Brandy at Afterthoughts)

More here

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