Academics is Not Enough
“Study hard and get good grades so you can get a good job” – this was the mantra of our parents because it was the formula that worked in their world. But the world we live in is constantly changing – the world we grew up in is vastly different to the one our parents knew as children. When our children grow up, their world will be different yet again and who knows what it will be like then. The only thing that is for certain is that getting good grades is no longer enough to ensure a successful future.
When the world changes, it favours the ones that have evolved to survive in the new world. To ensure our children’s success means we need to train them for adaptability so they can succeed no matter what the environment around them is like. The emphasis on academics, therefore, is misplaced. I’m not saying it’s irrelevant – just not as important as other skills and abilities. We do not require individuals with heads stuffed full of knowledge. We need individuals with the ability to absorb new information, combine it with existing information, manipulate that information, and create something useful out of it all. Simply knowing stuff doesn’t help you do that.
Rethinking Education – What Do Our Children Need to be Successful?
So if academic success in school is no guarantee of future success then what are we looking for? Well, based on what we’ve seen so far, it seems we’re looking to develop qualities like:
- Executive function – this is the set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. It is used to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategising, remembering and paying attention to details, and managing time and space.
- Working memory – the active part of our memory that allows us to hold on to information while we work on a problem that requires that information at some point.
- Fluid intelligence – the ability to think abstractly, reason, identify patterns, solve problems, and discern relationships.
And they are all interlinked:
- Working memory is one of the executive functions
- Fluid intelligence can be improved by training your working memory
- The executive functions are required to maintain self-control
- Improving working memory has been linked to improved self-control
Nurturing Successful Qualities in Children
Even if your child failed the Marshmallow Test, has a poor working memory, or low fluid intelligence, you can be assured that all is not lost because all of these qualities can be trained and developed. The best time to start is as early as possible but even if you haven’t done anything, just remember that it is never too late to start. Here’s how (keep in mind that the interconnected nature of these qualities means that working on one area will also improve another area)…
- Activities that develop self-control – imaginary play, learning a second language
- Programs that develop self-control – Tools of the Mind (for preschool and kindergarten)
- Since focus and self-control are interrelated, activities that develop focus will also develop self-control
- Games to develop focus
- Larry Ferlazzo has a great list of articles and resources for developing self-control
- Activities that develop executive function
- Since focus and working memory are executive functions, activities and games that help develop these qualities are also relevant
- Teach your child executive function strategies – setting goals, flexible thinking, organisation skills, prioritising, use of working memory, self-monitoring
- Interventions that aid executive function development in children age 4-12 years – CogMed computerized training, aerobics and sports, martial arts and mindfulness, yoga, and school curricula such as Tools of the Mind and Montessori Method
- Activities that train working memory
- More activities for developing memory
- The Dual N-Back Training also develops working memory
- More ways to enhance working memory – doodle, get creative, and get outdoors
- Strategies for managing weak working memory – these are used for children with learning disabilities due to weak working memory. Parents are encouraged to utilise their children’s strengths to build up weaker areas.
- 7 ways to improve your working memory that do not require a computer program or app
- The Dual-N-Back Training has found to be effective for developing fluid intelligence
- By virtue of the fact that fluid intelligence and working memory are linked, training your working memory will also help to improve your fluid intelligence
- 5 ways to train fluid intelligence – seek novelty, challenge yourself, think creatively, do things the hard way, and network