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Dubious assessments
(Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2004-08-09 08:26

The mother of nine-year-old Shanghai schoolgirl Dong Beili was worried as she watched her d

aughter sitting on a bench in the corridor of Xinhua Hospital, patiently waiting her turn to take an IQ test.

So were the parents of other children who were at the hospital to take the test. Dong Beili stared at her feet and kept silent while her mother talked to one couple whose son, Xiao Bao (not his real name), was already taking his test in the outpatient department of the hospital's Pediatrics Division.

"My daughter has a poor memory and she always forgets what she has learnt," Dong's mother said with a frown.

"My son is quite naughty and his teacher told me that his self-control was not very good," Xiao Bao's mother said. But does that have anything to do with IQ? Xiao Bao is a third-grade student at Shanghai Yunguang No.2 Primary school. His father said he had received good marks in his final exams.

However, the teacher in charge of his class had still insisted that Xiao take the IQ test. "The teacher thought that my son probably has attention deficit or hyperactivity disorders," Xiao's mother said.

According to Xiao's mother, the parents finally had to take their son to the hospital to satisfy the teacher's demand. The teacher has spoken with us four times and she said that we would not be acting responsibly as parents if we did not take him for the IQ test.

Having no choice, the couple asked for one-day's leave from work and came to the hospital in the early morning. To their surprise, they found many other children and their parents already there.

"Appointments for children's IQ tests have been arranged for next month," said a pediatrician at Xinhua Hospital who refused to give her name. Children being tested are usually those who do not study well, which certainly has a relationship with their IQ?  Professor Jin Xingming, a leading pediatrician at Xinhua Hospital said that some children at school showed psychological barriers to study. By doing an IQ test, teachers would know each child's abilities and could change their teaching methods.

"As a doctor, I think teachers show a certain sensitivity if they ask students to do an IQ test," Jin said, adding she did not want to give more comments.

Another 40 minutes passed, Xiao came out of the outpatient department. He told his mother that the examination was not as difficult as the exams he sat for at school.

"My son did not know it was an IQ test. Otherwise, it would place unnecessary pressure on him," Xiao's mother said. "No matter what the teacher said, I believe he is a smart boy. What he needs is not an IQ test, but a scientific teaching method to guide him."

In Xiao's class, another five or six students had also been asked to take the test. In the teacher's eyes, the students were not studying well and were sometimes prone to be naughty. But their parents had refused the teacher's request.

Teachers' instruction

"Every child has his/her strong points. There are no stupid children, only teachers or parents who do not fulfill their tasks," said Chen Jianjun, secretary of the Children's Department of the Shanghai Women Federation.

Scientifically speaking, a lack of calcium and other kinds of micro elements may cause attention deficit disorder in some children.

"Under such circumstances, it was understandable that children should take some kind of test. But teachers and parents should adopt a correct attitude towards IQ testing," Chen said.

When Dong Beili left the outpatient department, she had her test report in her hand. Like Xiao, she did not know she had sat for an IQ test. "All of us are very healthy," she said with a smile. After reading the test results, her mother finally felt relieved.

Children who do IQ tests in Xinhua Hospital and their parents are told the test results. "Certainly, we tell them the results. In this way, parents know how to find ways to help their children," said the pediatrician who wished to remain anonymous.

Reference point

However, Yang Xiong, director of Youth and Juvenile Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that no matter what the reason for a teacher to ask a student to take an IQ test, he or she should not be told the result.

He said IQ testing generally was more suitable for students who liked studying. But children have differing abilities some were good at drawing but others were skilled in languages.

"Maybe a child does not have a good logical memory, it is possible that he grows up to be a painter if he shows a strong interest in drawing and persists in it," Yang said.

IQ testing can be regarded as a reference point but non-IQ factors were more important, including how to foster children's interests, habits and study methods, according to Feng Enhong, vice-president of the China National Committee of Education Experts.

When teachers ask students to take an IQ test, we should first ask ourselves, have we fulfilled our duties? Does high IQ only mean studying well and having strong language abilities?

As an educational expert, Feng worried that in today's China, parents and teachers have revealed an impulsive attitude to children's education.

"Even for students with the same IQ, studying abilities are different. The decisive element is what kind of educational and social environment we create for our children's maturation," Feng said.

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