The world needs young people as its future citizens to be good thinkers more than ever. These concerns led me to look at some International comparisons. As part of out Lets Think research project we wanted to find out the cognitive development level of all our grade 5 and 6 students. We used a test based on the original interviews of Jean Piaget. These were developed by Philip Adey and Michael Shayer at Kings College London. It is a group interactive test called Volume and Heaviness. There is a huge literature showing the spread of development from concrete to formal reasoning using such testing instruments. Formal reasoning is necessary to think about complex problems where many variables are interacting. Like say….. immigration!!.
In evaluating our results I came across Examples of data that show how thinking levels declined in the UK between 1976 and 2003. Also the distribution of thinking levels in representative US schools was measured in 2011.
That the average 11 year old in the UK in thinking level down to that of a 8 or 9 year old over 27 years.
The second study (2011) shows 15 per cent of US school graduates were capable of formal abstract thought .
Whereas 19 percent of Finnish 14 year olds had already reached this level. This would seem to account for their outstanding performance in PISA tests.
Is the common factor that US and UK school systems have been dominated by , standardised testing, competition and accountability through league tables? Or is it like the joke about the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK and US being caused by the common factor of speaking English. Do the Math!!