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Intelligence (IQ) and Schooling

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: How does schooling affect intelligence?

A: Schooling is an important factor that affects intelligence. By schooling, one can improve knowledge of specific facts for intelligence tests, familiarity with testing practices, concentration and attention span, and verbal problem solving skills. Therefore, there is no doubt that schooling helps raise one's IQ.

On the other hand, research has indicated that children who do not attend school or who attend intermittently eventually have poorer scores on IQ tests than those who attend regularly. At the same time, children who move from low-quality schools to high-quality schools are more likely to show improvements in IQ scores. Besides transmitting information to students directly, schools teach problem solving, abstract thinking, and how to sustain attention, which are all skills required to score well on IQ tests.

A few more truths about schooling and IQ (which may surprise anyone who views it as a measure of innate intelligence):

  • Although intelligence does influence the decision to stay in school, staying in school itself can raise IQ or prevent it from dropping.

  • IQ is affected by delayed schooling. A drop in IQ is seen when schooling is delayed.

  • Each additional month a student remains in school may increase her/his IQ above what would have been expected had he dropped out.

  • IQ is affected by remaining in school longer. The longer a student stays in school, the higher her/his IQ.

  • Dropping out of school can also decrease IQ.

  • IQ is affected by vacations. The longer the vacation, especially when the child's time is spent on least "mind-stimulating" activities, this decline is evident. (So, parents make sure your child's holidays are filled with learning experiences in a fun way; e.g., visiting places of interest, enrichment programs, family-bonding activities, etc.)

In short, schooling has a long-term effect on the level of intelligence. Education increases a student's capacity to deal with the problem solving tasks typically found in intelligence tests; therefore a student who has mastered those skills at school will inevitably do well on an IQ test.


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