“Flanders needs more intellectual ambition”

“Flanders needs more intellectual ambition”

While Professor Peter Adriaenssens expressed his concern about the mental health of the next generation,professor Wouter Duyck focuses on cognitive development of that generation. He warns that the cognition of the Belgian and more specifically the Flemish younger generations is deteriorating considerably. According to him, this has serious consequences for the further development of our society. “Flanders urgently needs more intellectual ambition”, says the professor of cognitive psychology at LEADERS MEETING PARIS.

Even though the Flemish pupil scores higher than the European average in various fields of knowledge, Wouter Duyck is not optimistic about the cognitive development of the Flemish youth. In recent years, the cognition of Flemish youth has decreased considerably. “We’re still at the forefront of the European peloton, but we’ve had to unload the leading group a long time ago,” says Duyck. The professor of cognitive psychology wants to avoid at all costs having to unload the peloton as well. After all, this decline does not only have an impact on the individual, for example in the form of job performance, but also on our society. “Flanders excels in the knowledge economy. Investing more in that knowledge is therefore a direct investment in society’, Duyck says.

According to Duyck, the reason for the decline in Flemish cognition lies in a change in mentality about education. Duyck cites the difference between an education model that is based on ‘equity’ and a model that is based on ‘equality’. According to him, the ‘equity’ model does not challenge the strong pupils sufficiently, as a result of which these pupils are unable to excel and thus the general cognitive capacity decreases. However, a survey of school principals shows that no less than 92% are inclined to use this model. That is why Duyck is critical of the equity model: “Not only strong students, but also underprivileged students benefit from a sufficient challenge in education. By challenging underprivileged children in their knowledge, they can also get more opportunities and improve their quality of life.”

The cognitive psychologist therefore calls on policymakers to invest more in the quality and intellectual challenge of education. In doing so, he pleads for a policy that is determined by scientific evidence, rather than a social feeling. “We do not necessarily need to renew our education system because society is changing. The way our brains and minds learn has not changed. We know that IQ is partly feasible, so it is important to continue investing in cognitive development. This is done by continuing to challenge pupils and by controlling quality. A standardized final exam, for example, would not be a bad move,” says Duyck.

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