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How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 4

Updated on July 5, 2011

This hub is a continuation of How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 3

An experiment conducted in Singapore's National Technical University showed that students who were taught information processing using MI methods performed superior to controls in their project work (Foo, Majid & Mokhtar, 2008). Living in a multicultural society means that many students have classmates from different ethnic backgrounds. While English is the main language of instruction in schools, not all students speak English at home. An MI approach to education will help students handicapped by language. A good example of this is Macpherson Primary – where most children come from financially needy homes, and many more are from foreign countries like Cambodia and Nepal. Students in this school have outstanding performances in the arts and sports competitions, winning Gold awards in Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging competitions, although many struggle academically. Obviously, many of these students are budding musicians and dancers, and I think if schools like this could pilot MI theory approaches, their students would benefit greatly.

One challenge of MI is that students may miss out on learning opportunities when they selectively participate in activities that involve their "stronger" intelligences, attributing achievements to their high intelligences while dismissing failure as lack of ability (Klein, 1997). This is potentially exacerbated in Singapore, where students have strong notions of elitism. Here 'triple science' subjects are more prestigious than arts, and medicine and law are better career paths than sports or the performing arts. From young, students grow up with the mentality that if they are in the Express Stream or in an Institute for Technical Education(ITE), they are not smart and 'it's the end' of them. If we are careless, MI could then foster more competition between students instead of showing them how each individual's uniquely giftedness complements and supplements another's. This attitude towards schoolmates will invariably be transferred to fellow Singaporeans; in a society bursting with foreign talent and ageing citizens, it is crucial that our future leaders do not grow up seeing others as threats or second-class citizens but instead as valuable resources with unique contributions to be made.

Another challenge would be garnering parental support for MI. It is no secret how parents fight to put their children in certain high ranking schools. I feel ranking schools puts unnecessary pressure on teachers to resort to pedagogically questionable means to raise student's performance to meet certain educational goals (Tan & Gopinathan, 2000). None of the intelligences should be viewed as inferior to others, although some may deemed more desirable in society. Ideally, parents should embrace MI theory as instrumental to realising their child's learning potential, instead of a tool to create 7 additional performance indicators that schools, or worse, their children ought to be measured against.

Beyond the classroom setting, we can apply MI theory to many settings. Gardner even proposed that in future museums would apply MI theory in their exhibits! MI theory is 'work in progress' as Gardner has added naturalist, spiritual and existentialist intelligences and possibly sexual intelligence to his list of intelligences (Gardner, 1999). Clearly, MI has exciting possibilities when explored in various real-world contexts, which are continually being delved into by researchers.
To conclude, MI theory offers much potential to illuminate Singapore's students. Singapore is generally conservative and pragmatic, structuring our education to supply our economic demands. However, if society, especially parents are willing to embrace new creative (and seemingly unorthodox) teaching methods in schools, more students would be able to experience academic and personal success. Indeed, educating students using their intelligence profile is mutually advantageous to the students, teachers and society.


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