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  • Writer's pictureJeannette Koh

Cultivating intelligences in our children

In part 1, we looked at the 8 intelligences:

  1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence

  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence

  3. Visual-spatial intelligence

  4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

  5. Interpersonal intelligence

  6. Intrapersonal intelligence

  7. Musical intelligence

  8. Naturalistic intelligence

In this article, we look at the demands Singapore’s education system puts on our students and how it is possible to learn and become good at skills even if we are not at first naturally good at them.

How our education system influences how we value the 8 intelligences

The 2 intelligences emphasised in our education system

Our education system is heavily skewed towards the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical areas. 

There is a great emphasis on academics and this has not really changed over the last 30 years. Even though there have been shifts in thinking and more awareness about multiple intelligences, the assessment modes have largely stayed the same. 

This affects the value we place on each intelligence

It is natural that parents see these two intelligences (verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical) as the most important types of intelligence to hone and cultivate. But where does this leave children who are less able in these two areas? 

The fact that there is a multi-billion dollar parallel education (tuition) industry proves how desperate parents are for their children to excel in these two areas. 

I too believe that these two intelligences can be further developed, but every child will still develop at their own pace. This is also determined by how skilled the tutor is when working with the child, the child’s own attitudes and the relationship the parent and child have with the tutor.   

Cultivating other intelligences

This is not to say parents in Singapore only focus on the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences of their children.

It is not uncommon to see parents shuttling their children to music, ballet or swim training as well. The more financially able have nudged their kids into niche areas like bowling, golf and sailing. 

There are a variety of reasons for this, one being that sports and music can be offered for Direct School Admission (DSA) to Secondary Schools. This is why some parents push their children into these areas to give them an advantage over their peers when trying to gain admission into a premier school. The cultivation of natural abilities becomes less noble as it serves a transactional purpose.

Using our intelligences and ability to learn to our children’s advantage

Even so, the example of students practising skills for DSA is proof that one can excel in something that one does not have natural inclination for. 

This can be applied to finding success in an education system that places more importance on a few intelligences over the others.

Let me use some personal examples to illustrate this

Identifying natural inclinations and intelligences 

Growing up, I was never a good student. Although my parents had expectations of my sister and I academically, they also recognised our musical intelligence from our ability to sing in pitch and accurate hearing; and so they let us learn the piano.

While I was not good at the practical aspect, I used the theory knowledge to transcribe music arrangements. Later, I would go on to write my own arrangements for my college and church choir to sing. This was also due in part to the choir teacher who encouraged me in my music interest. 

I was also actively involved in athletics in secondary school and college. I had not known that this was an area I could excel in but it was my secondary school PE teacher that persuaded me to do the trial runs. 

Cultivating other skills and intelligences 

Being heavily involved in my CCA and sports also helped me to cultivate interpersonal skills (or interpersonal intelligence) which would put me in good stead later on in work life. 

Through my teaching career, I experienced excellent leadership through one or two principals. They gave us opportunities to head major projects and further discover our own abilities to lead and inspire others. 

Leaving the Ministry of Education was also a turning point in my life. Setting up my own tuition centre with the support of my husband and family helped me grow further especially in the intrapersonal area. Over the years, my own perspective of teaching and learning has changed from just pouring content into students’ heads to analysing and breaking down concepts to make learning more meaningful for my students. 

In short, our brains have the capacity to learn anything!

This is because of neuroplasticity!

According to Carol Dweck, we can either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

A writer, Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Outliers” claims that talent is overrated. Instead anyone can become an expert if he puts in 10000 hours of practice. Of course the quality of that practice matters as much as whether one really had those number of hours to practise.

Another book “True Grit” by Angela Duckworth further stresses the point that it is more likely a combination of passion, perseverance and determination that will see a child successfully complete and fulfil tasks rather than sheer talent alone.

So how do we use this to our children’s and students’ advantage?

Ultimately, a combination of factors determine how successfully one lives one's life. These include a growth mindset, determination and discipline to practise (in addition to the natural intelligences that one possesses).

Fun-da-mentals Learning Centre

Established in 2009, Fun-da-mentals Learning Centre has since been a trusted learning partner for both parents and their children. We inspire inquisitive minds with our Primary, Secondary and Junior College academic programmes.

Call +65 98472637 for more information and make an appointment for a trial course today!


Fun-da-LAB is the Science enrichment branch of Fun-da-mentals Learning Centre.

With our one-of-a-kind laboratory and specially curated science enrichment programmes, we seek to nurture the scientist in every child through experiments and more-than-hands-on activities!

Call +65 98472637 to sign up for our upcoming programmes!

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