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Maximise learning

Tony Buzan, creator of mind mapping, claims teaching pupils how to learn is key to their success, as well as that of the country

SCOTLAND IS among the most successful nations in the world when it comes to developing creative thinkers - but England is falling behind because of its reliance on measuring outcomes, according to the creator of mind mapping.

Tony Buzan, government adviser, author and renowned expert on brain learning, last week took a masterclass in Glasgow, organised by the Tapestry education partnership, at which he instructed nearly 300 teachers on how to maximise their pupils' learning.

Scotland was up there with Singapore, China, Malaysia and Japan when it came to embracing the teaching of thinking skills. Ireland was also beginning to appreciate its importance, he said.

Singapore's government had carried out an audit of the country's natural, economic and industrial resources 20 years ago, he said. It had no oil, no gas, no minerals, no natural scenery to exploit as a tourism attraction, no fishing and no agriculture. The only resource of the small island was its two million people - so it decided to invest everything in education.

"In a very short time they became number one in the world in most of the academic performance criteria. Now they are going to realign themselves again and focus on learning how to learn, creativity and innovation, thinking education and intellectual capital," Mr Buzan told The TESS.

Students entering the University of Singapore's prestigious Institute of Management did an eight-hour module on advanced study skills before embarking on their course. This focused on areas such as memory systems, original thinking, how to read for comprehension, and how to prepare for exams.

One of the problems for teachers was finding enough hours in the week to teach everything that is asked of them - so teachers tended to resist new initiatives or developments. For example, if a teacher was already teaching 50 hours a week and was asked to add in a further three hours per week on "learning how to learn", that was obviously too much, he said.

However, if you did the sum the other way round and started with three hours on learning how to learn, and added 50 hours for the rest of the curriculum, the sum came to 30. How? Because by learning how to learn, you could learn in 30 hours what used to take 50 hours, he said.

China's new five-year education plan has creativity and innovation as its prime focus, while Malaysia's 20-year plan is to have the whole nation mentally literate by 2020.

A recent Harvard research report had warned that clusters of small nations with populations of between one and 10 million could bring down the big nations by developing their people's intelligence and creativity more effectively.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

Build up your body's muscular strength

Achieve good cardiovascular health achieved through aerobic exercise

Eat an athlete's diet of vegetables, protein and fish

Gain poise - your brain should be properly aligned with your body, through yoga or the Alexander technique

Avoid alcohol and nicotine

Rest - take regular breaks throughout the day, week, month, year and life

Laugh a lot - laughter is the best medicine

Have fun

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