The recent debate about so-called "gifted" children has long roots that spring from IQ as a measure of giftedness. Forms of assessment of cognitive abilities such as this are useful for various purposes, and it is the prerogative of parents to put their children through such tests. However, the folly of an obsession with IQ scores lies in equating these exclusively with giftedness. While all children are patently gifts to parents, their own varied gifts are often less obvious at a tender age. Over-enthusiastic parents risk making their children feel less prized when they set about to divine and measure the presence or possible absence of talents based on IQ test results.
Though a relatively narrow gauge - principally of analytical and reasoning abilities - IQ has traditionally been valued in education systems, such as Singapore's, which emphasise performance in examinations. When treated judiciously, IQ scores can help parents and teachers better understand and plan for a child's educational needs, especially if he or she is found to be different from his peers and struggling to fit in. Children gifted with higher intelligences have special needs, too, in the sense that if not stretched mentally, boredom might set in and they might lose interest in different forms of learning.
An over-emphasis on IQ scores, however, can give parents and even children the wrong impression of latent abilities and what it takes to prepare young people for a changing world. It's natural to try to boost the performance of growing children but not to the extent of treating them as automatons whose processing power must be doggedly enhanced via, say, brain-training programmes.
Wise parents recognise that talent has to be broadly defined and nurtured in multiple ways, so children do not set limits on their own potential as a result of IQ scores. Psychologists have in recent decades described and studied other forms of intelligences. And educators have acknowledged the role of emotional and social attributes that determine how well individuals can succeed as both productive players in the marketplace and fully engaged members of society.
As workplaces adopt more collaborative strategies, bosses are seeing that IQ alone may well matter less than other types of intelligences or personality traits that equip people to work well with others to achieve corporate ends - beyond the capacity of any one "gifted" person. Research, reported in The New York Times earlier this year, uncovered the key characteristics that explain why some groups are reliably smarter than others. "Kiasu" parents should note that the higher average IQ of team members was not among them.