Monday, January 12, 2009

IQ vs achievement - it's not the same thing!

Before I write this, I just want to say that in case any parent reads my previous post and thinks that I'm trying to brag about my gifted child or elicit sympathy for what is often perceived as already a privileged position, that it is not so. I've mentioned this before, every child is different, you just have to work with what you're given. And anyway, a gifted child is not any reflection of a parent's "accomplishment", so there's nothing to take credit for.

Ok, now that we've gotten that out of the way, this is a follow-up post on my last entry. Some parents may be curious as to what are the different levels of giftedness. Here is the range (please note that the numbers can vary depending on the scale that's used).

Average IQ is between 85-114.

I wrote in an earlier post about how to tell if your child is intellectually gifted. An example of a profoundly gifted individual is Bobby Fischer, whose IQ is estimated to be 180. He was obsessed with chess since the age of six and spent hours everyday studying the game. By 15, he became a Grand Master, the youngest ever in history.

But IQ is just a number. And it's important to always remember that life is so much more than numbers. Giftedness is complex because the variation is so wide. A child can be extremely gifted in maths and not languages or vice versa.

The issue I want to address is that of IQ vs achievement. A mother reminded me the other day that it's not the same thing, ie higher IQ does NOT automatically translate into higher achievement. I briefly addressed it in my previous post but I think it warrants a separate post.

People tend to imagine gifted children happily embracing their abilities and continuously adding to their accomplishments. You might therefore be surprised to hear this: research has shown that a large proportion of highly gifted children seriously underachieve in the regular classroom and that by the end of elementary school, many have almost completely lost the motivation to excel (Pringle, 1970; Painter, 1976; Whitmore, 1980; Gross, 1993).

Aside: I found most of the relevant information and research on the Hoagies Gifted Education site. It's a terrific resource although I personally found the navigation a little confusing.

Research by Miraca Gross found that gifted children are aware from a young age that they are different from other children around them. Instead of feeling superior however, more often than not, gifted children feel uncomfortable about being different and feel the pressure to change their behavior to fit in with their peers. Gross's study (1993) found that highly gifted students with advanced reading abilities, on entering school and realising that no other children could read, deliberately decreased the quality and quantity of their reading after a few weeks. Some even stopped reading altogether.

Anxiety and depression often occur in misplaced gifted children. Self-sabotage or deliberate underachievement to fit in can lead to the "imposter syndrome", where gifted adults believe their success is due to luck rather than their own abilities and worry about being found out.
"The “imposter syndrome” strikes people everywhere, especially high achievers... The more successful you get, the greater the inner stress. Now people have expectations of you that you may not be able to meet. Now each decision you make should be perfect because there’s much to lose." - Simran Bhargava, The Imposter Syndrome: Feeling Like A Fraud
One of the biggest issues is the discrepancy between the mental age and the chronological age. The higher the IQ, the higher the mental age, therefore with exceptionally or profoundly gifted children, the gap between the mental and chronological age is enormous.

“Precocity unavoidably complicates the complexity of social adjustment. The child of 8 years with a mentality of 12 or 14 is faced with a situation that is almost inconceivably difficult. In order to adjust normally, such a child has to have an exceptionally well-balanced personality, and has to be well nigh a social genius. The higher the IQ, the more acute the problem” - Burks, Jensen, & Terman
Sometimes, underachievement could simply be due to boredom due to lack of interest in too-easy classes, the negative connotation of being seen as smart ("geek"! "nerd"! sounds familiar?), or unrealistic perfectionism.

While these are social or emotional reasons, there's also the possibility of biological reasons for underachievement. Many gifted children are twice exceptional, ie children who are gifted and have a learning disability like ADHD or dyslexia. Twice exceptional children are especially common among the exceptionally or profoundly gifted. Because gifted children are more able to compensate or mask their learning disabilities, these disorders often are left undiagnosed or discovered much later.

Experts generally agree that an effective way of reversing underachievement in gifted children is to provide accelerated education and placed in intellectually stimulating classes with appropriate mentoring and enrichment. Gross's study found that gifted children who attended school in the regular classroom had frequently quashed or moderated their own abilities. Their early curiosity and love of learning were eroded or completely eradicated by the time they became teenagers, and they displayed disturbingly low levels of motivation and social self-esteem. Ironically, education administrators took the decrease in academic achievement to mean that the child has "leveled out" and is no longer gifted.

In contrast, gifted children who were more appropriately placed in an accelerated environment displayed higher levels of motivation and self-esteem, and significantly reduced pressure to underachieve for peer acceptance. They also had more friends and enjoyed closer social relationships than before the acceleration.

See? Not that I want to keep harping on the GEP but this research again supports my view that the GEP is a necessary part of our education system. It is not the be all and end all, but it does serve the needs of a segment of the population that would otherwise have been underserved in the current education system.


Domestic Goddess said...

Hi Monica

Thanks for all these wonderful posts that are always so insightful. I am curious about our local primary schools and would appreciate if you could share more.

Did you know that Lesley-Anne is gifted before her streaming exams at P3? If so, how did you find out?

Was she understimulated or underchallenged intellectually when she in P1 to P3? How did you find out?

How did she find the teaching style of our local schools? Specifically, did you find any difficulties/adjustment issues etc with regards to the teacher/pupils ratio, lack of Q&As in class, tons of homework and exams that she had to deal with, boredom etc?


monlim said...

Hi DG: Before the GEP, I wasn't sure Lesley-Anne was gifted although I knew she was bright and could learn things quickly. She was also very intuitive about many things beyond her years. I guess I didn't have any comparisons (I was one of the earliest among my friends to have kids) and I didn't do any research. You could say I was rather bochap in fact :P

She did very well in school in p1 & p2, but in p3, when she was streamed into the top class, her results slid cos it was so competitive (to unhealthy levels, looking back) & all the emphasis on drills and homework just got to her. So I was surprised when she got into GEP cos her results were actually nearer the bottom of her class than the top (I think I wrote about some of it in the earlier posts, check under label GEP).

I don't think she had problems with teachers or curriculum in class that arose from the giftedness, she was more motivated when she had a more interesting teacher but that's normal. But in p3, she did find the drills and repetitive work boring and stressful (it was all focused on getting top marks) so when she went to GEP, she found it so much more interesting and more enjoyable.

I think it's difficult to comment on the teaching style of local schools as a whole cos the variance is so large. It really depends on the individual teacher and whether he/she has rapport with the child. Andre loves his teacher this year, compared to the one he had for the past 2 years, so he (so far) appears to be more motivated.

Hope this helps - if you have more questions, perhaps you'd like to email me? Probably an easier format to address specific issues than in this comment page :)

Domestic Goddess said...

Thank you so much Monica for the detailed reply. I really appreciate it.

We are in the midst of considering whether to send my first boy to international or local primary sch. Hence, I am hoping that talking to other parents will provide some insights.

Will email you if I have more questions in future. Thanks a lot for offering. :)

monlim said...

I received this comment from Anonymous:

"Ha Ha ..... looks like you are very "selective" in deciding which comment to "approve". You don't agree that the GEP Selection Test is flawed ??

oh... maybe you are all FOR it... since it SELECTED your daughter into GEP.

Anyway.... stop showing off by writing as if you know everything about giftedness in your blog. It shows how snobbish you are."

To Anon: Actually, I was sparing you the embarrassment because you were ranting about how the GEP testing must be flawed because your son has such a high IQ and didn't get in.

If you want a valid comment to make, have the courage to sign your name. I have the right not to publish any hate mail in my blog. This will be the last.

Lilian said...

Whoa...Anonymous, please reflect on what you've written here. Why so much hate?

Monica's blog is about giftedness and it has become a very popular one precisely because it provides useful information to readers. What she writes is based on her experience with her does that make her a show-off?

And you will notice she writes not just about her daughter but also regales us with stories about her cute boy, whom she has presumed not to be of GEP-material, but who may well surprise her.

Monica, I hope Anon's opinion doesn't in any way curtail your contributions on giftedness. Keep them posts coming my friend.

Alcovelet said...


Dear anon,
I'm quite shocked by what you wrote. You sound like you have a real chip on your shoulder. If you have a problem, why don't you take it up with the relevant authorities? Whatever your story is, you really shouldn't let your hate and malice spill over to other people. It reflects poorly on you.

I'm only glad that Mon is generous enough to provide a platform for other people to share and learn more. I for one have benefitted tremendously.

Keep it coming, Mon!

Domestic Goddess said...


Anonymous, I totally agree with the rest. What is your problem here? Sounds likes it is a case of sour grapes!

I think this blog is wonderful and very informative. The detailed reads not only provide good insights and very often, interesting perspectives which I personally find very valuable. Monica has taken the time and effort to write and share her experience. If you are not keen to read, you don't have to. It is her blog and there is nothing wrong about disapproving distasteful comments. Especially one that comes from a sender who signed as Anonymous.

Monica, please keep your posts going. I love them! And again, thanks for your detailed reply before.

monlim said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful show of support, ladies. Mothers like you keep me going :)

bACk in GERMANY said...


Dear Anonymous,

I'm sure readers of this blog will agree with me that Monica has never once claimed to be the expert in the field of gifted education. What she shares on this blog is her personal experience with her school-going kids, GEP or mainstream education alike. Her posts are her sincere and honest opinions and never once have they come across to me as snobbish.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom."
I need not point out who's the Haughty and who's the Humble here. I think the answer is obvious.

Dear Mon,
May you not be discouraged by such a comment.
Blog on!

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