Schools are killing curiosity: why we need to stop telling children to shut up and learn

Andrea ChesterLeave a Comment

Matt Caldwell, head of Ilminster Avenue nursery school, Bristol, says the youngest children’s creativity and conversational skills have increased since cardboard boxes and cans replaced toys. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Children are born curious. Researchers logging questions asked by children aged 14 months to five years found they asked an average of 107 questions an hour. One child was asking three questions a minute at his peak.

But research from Susan Engel, author of The Hungry Mind and a leading international authority on curiosity in children, finds questioning drops like a stone once children start school. When her team logged classroom questions, she found the youngest children in an American suburban elementary school asked between two and five questions in a two-hour period. Even worse, as they got older the children gave up asking altogether. There were two-hour stretches in fifth grade (year 6) where 10 and 11-year-olds failed to ask their teacher a single question.

In one lesson she observed, a ninth grader raised her hand to ask if there were any places in the world where no one made art. The teacher stopped her mid-sentence with, “Zoe, no questions now, please; it’s time for learning.”

Want to read more? Click here to read this article from The Guardian.

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