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UK education 'favours verbal skills over spatial ability'

30/05/2017 Joanna

Current UK teaching methods are not bringing out the best in students with a spatial, rather than verbal, approach to learning.

This is according to a new report from GL Assessment, which has indicated that children with high spatial abilities - who tend to think initially in images before converting them into words - are not getting the grades their intelligence warrants.

An analysis of more than 20,000 pupils indicated that more than four-fifths of children who had both high spatial and high verbal reasoning abilities achieved A* to B grades across all science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and English at GCSE level last year, whereas children with high spatial abilities and poor verbal reasoning skills significantly underperformed.

The latter group includes approximately four per cent of the school population, or 400,000 children across all primary and secondary schools. These students have the mental predisposition to perform well in STEM subjects and the visual arts, but are currently receiving poor grades due to communication issues that prevent them from reading and writing at the same level as others.

Because poor exam results have such a significant impact on future career choices and options, this could mean that the UK is losing out on the talents of tens of thousands of potential scientists, mathematicians and engineers, simply because the current curriculum is not adapted to bring out their best.

Sarah Haythornthwaite, director at GL Assessment, said the talents of these students "often go unrecognised, partly because most teachers are excellent communicators and tend to have strong verbal skills, partly because spatial thinkers often don't speak up in class, and partly because so much of the curriculum and assessment regimes - particularly at primary - are predicated on verbal skills".

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