Adversity Quotient in Education | Sunday Observer

Adversity Quotient in Education

4 October, 2020

There have been numerous studies carried out over the past one hundred years, identifying different factors affecting the teaching-learning process in formal education procedures throughout the world. In most countries formal education follows a pattern of preparing students for the workforce which is the lifeline of the economy of the country.

Therefore, most of the studies have been motivated and carried out with the intention of identifying the factors that would help improve productivity and contribution of school leavers within the context of developing the economy of the country.

It has been well documented that factors such as the physical and social environments at home and school, socio-psychological and cognitive factors, educational policies and standardised testing methods and students’ levels of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and creativity have a significant impact on the academic achievements of students as well as their achievements in life after leaving school. Until the latter part of the twentieth century IQ was assumed to be the major factor determining the level of academic achievement of the learner.

Most of the standardised tests were designed to test the IQ of the candidate and the whole world believed that individuals with higher IQ would have a higher chance of succeeding in life. Some of the follow up studies after the corrective measures and appropriate adjustments in education policies had still not shown a significant improvement in the level of students’ achievements academically or otherwise.

Emotional Intelligence

This prompted the researchers to look into the impact of Emotional Intelligence (Emotional Quotient, EQ) and Adversity Quotient (AQ) as factors influencing the learning process of students in the formal education systems.

Psycho-Analytical research in all different parts of the world started to show that there is more to the success of a human being than his IQ where managing one’s emotions seemed to be more important than his intellect. Therefore, behavioural scientists started analysing the impact of one’s emotions on his decision making process and his ability of dealing with others’ emotions giving birth to the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI) or ‘Emotional Quotient’ (EQ). Daniel Goleman, a clinical psychologist, championed the concept with his 1995 book, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ where he describes EQ as the ability to understand one’s own and others’ emotions and to use emotional information to guide thinking, behaviour patterns and interpersonal relationships.

Understanding each other’s behaviour patterns becomes important even in the teacher-learner relationship. Especially, the ability to detect the EI of the student will help the teacher to decide the best method and time to deliver the information to optimise the level of absorption by the student.

Living in this world as an individual or as a group in general, means facing challenges, obstacles and problems and overcoming them.

One’s happiness, growth and success depend mainly on the way one responds to the difficulties of life one has to face. Stress is a result of an adverse, difficult or demanding situation which creates psychological or emotional tension or pressure on an individual. This may be obvious for Sri Lankan students preparing for their GCE Advanced Level examinations scheduled to begin in just one week from now.

The postponement of these examinations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, first without any specific time frame and then the lockdown, the curfews, school and tuition class closures and even students themselves or family members or their neighbours getting infected with the virus, can contribute to such stress.

Different people handle adversities and stress created by them in different ways. Even though, at eighteen or nineteen years of age, Advanced Level students do not have much experience in facing adversities and finding feasible solutions for them, they have to be able to manage the stress created by the competitive nature of the examination. Dr. Paul G. Stoltz, in his 1997 book “Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities” introduced the concept of AQ and the importance of developing the skills of facing adversities with the intention of turning them into one’s advantage.

He tries to describe why some people persist in the face of life’s seemingly insurmountable obstacles while others fall short or even quit, or why some individuals or organisations thrive on competition while others fall apart. AQ is a type of measurement that describes how well one withstands adversity and his ability to surmount it.

Quitters, Campers, Climbers

It will indicate who will overcome adversity and exceed expectations and who will fall short. According to Dr. Stoltz, we are all born with a core human drive to ascend. But we do not see society’s mountaintops overcrowded with high achievers and valleys unpopulated.

There are three types of people we meet along our journey up the mountain: Quitters, Campers and Climbers. Quitters abandon the ascent in favour of what they perceive as a flat and easier path. As life goes on, they usually suffer a far greater pain in attempting to avoid the climb. Campers climb half-way and say “this is as far as I can go,” find a smooth, comfortable plateau where they can hide from adversity and sit out their remaining years.

They are usually motivated by comfort and fear. Climbers do not allow age, gender, physical disability or any other obstacle to get in their way.

They are possibility thinkers, life-long learners and self-motivated. Unlike Quitters and Campers, Climbers embrace challenges and live with a sense of urgency.

They are highly driven and strive to get the utmost out of life. Unlike IQ, which is assumed to be something one is born with, EQ and AQ are characteristics one can acquire by using one’s IQ efficiently through the process of living.

Therefore, one should increase one’s awareness about the mountain one is planning to climb and then decide whether one wants to be a Quitter, a Camper or a Climber.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and can be contacted at [email protected]