June 2, 2000 To improve a child's likelihood of succeeding at school, educators need a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the IQ test, says a University of Toronto psychiatry professor.
"The IQ is sometimes touted as a test of whatever it is we call intelligence, but it's a lot less than that," says Dr. Morton Beiser, David Crombie Professor of Cultural Pluralism and Health at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). "IQ tests cover a certain range of abilities, but 'intelligence' is a much more complex thing than what the tests measure."
In a study, Accounting for Native/Non-Native Differences in IQ scores, Beiser and Dr. Andrew Gotoweic, a post-doctoral fellow at CAMH, tested the IQs of 691 native children across North America and compared them to same-age-group, non-native children. They then examined variables such as cultural and social differences and English-language skills. The scores of native children were significantly lower than non-native children.
"Our research challenges the idea that IQ is something in-born," says Beiser, who is also director of the Toronto Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, a joint University of Toronto, Ryerson Polytechnic University and York University program. "Instead IQ is likely a product of both innate ability and a child's social and cultural experiences. For instance, if a child's home life is predisposed to disliking the culture that the school represents, then the child will not perform as well. In addition, learn-to-read primers like 'Dick and Jane' may not serve native children well. Reading traditional myths is less abrasive and help bridge the culture gap between the local community and the dominant society."
Although the study focuses on native children, its findings apply to all youngsters, Beiser says. "Since the IQ test is highly used, we had better understand it."
University of Toronto
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