There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that speaks about the glaring deficiencies in assessment in our education system.

“For the sake of fairness teachers ask students to take the same test. So they say, “climb the tree” but if you assess a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life thinking that it is stupid. “

The education system uses the same assessment tools for all students which makes it inherently unfair and biased in favour of children who learn by taking knowledge in and then regurgitating in writing on test day. This way of learning is not wrong but it is narrow. There is more than this one way of demonstrating intelligence. Using this way on it’s own unfairly prejudices other learners who have a different way of learning.

An educational psychologist named Phillip Gardner came up with a theory of multiple intelligence. In his theory he says that different people exhibit varying types of intelligence. There are people who have interpersonal intelligence, these are the types of people who work beautifully in groups. They are able to read how different characters are motivated and they tailor their leadership to cater to different motivators. There are also people with musical intelligence, these people have a natural ability with rhythm and melody. They are able to sing on key. Another type of intelligence is  kinesthetic intelligence where they have superior hand eye coordination. These people can throw and catch and are able to control their bodies in superior ways. Because I write I have a linguistic intelligence. I use language effectively to describe ideas, concepts, facts and feelings. There are people who possess intrapersonal intelligence. People like this are self-aware; they can navigate their internal spaces with ease, are able to moderate their emotions and self-soothe. There are other types of intelligence besides the ones I listed and the tragedy of our education system is that every single person is then assessed using only a singular type intelligence which can result in the others feeling dumb.

I have two daughters. The youngest one is doing brilliantly in school because the way that the school tests happens to be in line with her type of intelligence. She is able to memorise facts and then regurgitate them comes test day. On the other hand her sister is the complete opposite. She has kinesthetic intelligence and her favourite time of learning has always been at break time where she can run and jump and interact with others. For her sitting in quiet rows while waiting for a teacher to ingest her with information has always been tricky. As a result she fares less well at academics. She does brilliantly though in orals where her linguistic abilities are tested through spoken language where she uses her entire body to achieve a language task by using her facial expressions and tone of voice.

I feel that written exams have a place in assessment but there are other types of assessments that should be used to test knowledge. There are plenty of children who go through the education system feeling inadequate not because they are stupid but because the way in which they exhibit intelligence is not recognised and not tested within the education system. My personal definition of intelligence is the ability to problem solve. Whether a person is a sports person, or a chef or a professor in order to make a living, that person is solving problems on a daily basis. A narrow way of testing that is by writing down information and is unfair for those people who demonstrate musical or any other form of intelligence. I feel that there should be more schools which cater to the different styles and brands of intelligence that learners exhibit. This would be a more comprehensive way of testing intelligence rather than the conventional and outdated way that has proven beneficial to only a select group of learners.

As with all things, the education system should be consistent with the ever-changing needs of society. School should be a place of growth and learning for all types of students and this can only be done by ensuring that the education system is structured in a way that is conducive to different kinds of students.


Learn more about the different types of intelligence here

Tell us: Do you agree that the way we test children in school does not reflect different ways of learning? Why or why not?