The real villains behind the generation which cannot think

13th February 2009 at 00:00

Professor Tim Birkhead's disturbing article: "We've bred a generation unable to think" (TES, February 6) confirms both anecdotal experience and the findings of disparate empirical research into long-term trends in educational abilities.

With the increasing dominance of screen-based ICT, a concomitant decline in reading and the tick-box commodification of children's learning experience with its stultifying "teaching to the test", is it any wonder that today's university students show less aptitude for independent, creative, initiative-based thinking?

Research reinforces Birkhead's concerns. In 2006, Philip Adey and Michael Shayer at King's College London discovered that 11-year-olds are less "intelligent" than their counterparts of 30 years earlier. This week, research by Professor James Flynn of the University of Otago in New Zealand, shows there has been an unexpected decline in British teenagers' IQ scores between 1980 and now.

This may be a result of them having been subjected to unbalanced, overly cognitive learning at earlier ages. Ephemeral short-term gains may have been at the expense of a longer-term cognitive malaise.

Urgent research is needed so policymakers are alerted to the possibility that their approach to "driving up" educational standards may lead to long-term deterioration.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now