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Howard Gardner and Education: How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 1

Updated on December 29, 2012

Ask anyone 'What is intelligence?', and after much contemplation, many people would wonder aloud ''how 'smart' or 'clever' someone is?''. Many children measure intelligence by the number of 'A's one can score in school. This appears as an oversimplification of intelligence but even Psychologists struggle to define this ordinary yet profoundly abstract concept. In fact, most of their conceptualizations bear much similarity to the layperson's. In the 1980s, the prevailing school of thought surrounding intelligence revolved solely on the reflective and predictive value of one's IQ score (Gardner, 1983, 1997). In 1983, Howard Gardner's (1983) multiple intelligences theory (or ''MI'') emerged, proposing 7 different 'intelligences' that humans possessed – linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, where ''intelligence is a biological and psychological potential to solve problems and/or create products that are valued in one or more cultural contexts’’ (Gardner, 1983). MI theory has provided much inspiration and insight especially to those in the education field. While exploring MI ideas, I propose that we should embrace MI learning approaches in schools, and this departure from traditional teaching methods needs to be collectively embraced by society to see success.

Singapore's education system is internationally recognised; countries like US use our mathematics textbooks and our Primary 4 and Secondary 2 pupils consistently rank top among students from 46 other countries in Mathematics and Science (Ministry Of Education(MOE), 2004). Our education system places top emphasis on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, causing students less proficient in these intelligences to suffer during examinations. Hence MOE facilitates learning by streaming students into classes according to their perceived intellectual ability measured by examination grades.

This approach assumes that examination grades reflect a student's potential to excel in all other areas, but MI theory says it is a fallacy and injustice to students when average grades in core subjects brand them as a person with mediocre potential to excel. In Frames of Mind (1997), Gardner proposes that an individual's set of intelligences is as unique as his fingerprint. Using bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to illustrate – most people are average athletes, while a few are graceful swans, and those at the other end struggle with coordinating simple movements like bouncing a ball. One's intelligences also compliment other intelligences independently or interdependently – a lead dancer could be the star soprano of the choir (musical intelligence), or she could use body movements to remember the pitches of a music scale.

Next: How do we apply the theory of Multiple Intelligences in Singapore? Pt 2

A Simple Video Introducing Gardner's Multiple Intelligences


Foo, S., Mokhtar, I. A., & Majid, S. (208). Teaching information literacy through learning styles: The application of Gardner's multiple intelligences. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 40(2), 93-109. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from

Gardner, H. (1995). Reflections on Multiple Intelligences: Myths and Messages.. Phi Delta Kappa, 77(3), 200-203, 206-209. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Redlands: Fontana Press.

Hoerr, T. (n.d.). Applying Multiple Intelligences in Schools. Retrieved October 10, 2009, from

Klein, P. D. (1997). Multiplying the Problems of Intelligence by Eight: A Critique of Gardner's Theory. Canadian Journal of Education, 22(4), 377-394. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from

MOE. (n.d.). Enhancing Arts Education In Schools - MOE Press Release (4 January 2003). Retrieved October 11, 2009, from


Tan, J., & Gopinathan, S. (n.d.). Education Reform in Singapore: Towards Greater Creativity and Innovation? . Retrieved October 12, 2009, from

SOTA. (n.d.) Teaching Philosophy  . (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2009, from


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    • Charlotte B Plum profile image

      Charlotte B Plum 6 years ago

      Hey Fossillady!

      Thank you for dropping by! I think the way MI can be applied is very inspiring. And I agree that it has made such a difference to education - a positive impact that is.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I love the MI theory and applied it when I was a teacher! It has changed the face of education from rote memory read the chapter then answer the question to much more intense involvement with subjects! Well don Charlotte!