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Dear Editor: Self-motivation and high IQ—not prayers or parents—are key to academic excellence

“[…] It is clear that the successful children did not need to be told to study hard but did so without cajoling and certainly without boofing.

“So, contrary to claims that anyone can be a top SEA or CSEC or CAPE student—which is logically impossible anyway—the attributes of a minimum IQ of 120 and self-motivation are essential.”

In the following Letter to the Editor, Kevin Baldeosingh of Freeport considers the root cause of academic brilliance:

Photo: An eager girl in class.

Every year when the scholarship winners are announced, the public is presented with the same plethora of causes for the top students’ success. These are hard work, supportive parents, good teachers, school culture and, of course, prayers and God.

These, however, are only proximate causes for top academic performances. The ultimate causes are twofold: a high IQ and self-motivation.

The latter is almost always revealed by the parents’ comments about their children, since it is clear that the successful children did not need to be told to study hard but did so without cajoling and certainly without boofing.

So, contrary to claims that anyone can be a top SEA or CSEC or CAPE student—which is logically impossible anyway—the attributes of a minimum IQ of 120 and self-motivation are essential.

If the schools which do well remain the same every year, this is because their reputation and entry requirements creates a not-so-virtuous circle which ensures that they get a majority of students with these attributes, hence making teacher quality or school rules secondary if not irrelevant factors.

In this context, the underperformance of boys is significant, inasmuch as the average IQ of males and females is equal—although more men are found at the lowest and highest tails of the IQ curve and more women cluster around the centre.

Photo: Trinity College Moka students support their team during Coca Cola North Zone quarterfinal action against QRC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 November 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

This suggests that motivation is lacking, which is turn suggests that the school curriculum has become maladapted for boys.

Revealingly, gender feminists, who see every statistical disparity in every area of life as evidence of discrimination, do not consider male under-representation among scholarship winners to be proof of bias against boys in the classroom.

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  1. Thought it was high IQ and conscientiousness ( a big 5 trait) were the predictors of academic success. Unless self motivation is being used synonymous with conscientiousness.

    I wonder how much does external influences have on a big 5 trait. Can someone scoring low on conscientiousness be cajoled to a higher conscientiousness score? Figured traits were relatively stable.

    Thought that PISA scores show sex differences in scores even in high achieving countries like Singapore, Japan South Korea and Finland. I can’t comment now on how the differences vary between high achieving countries and low achieving countries.

    There is a push by some to separate the sexes in Europe and North America. Tests scores cited as evidence of the benefit of the move.

    Again, not my field, but just things I have come across.