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Friday, 5 August 2016

It's not just about IQ and EQ; 21st century kids need CQ

Although it's not cool to admit it, most parents care deeply about their kids' IQ or Intelligence Quotient. I've heard parents of toddlers boast about how "smart" their kids are. (For the record, I think that IQ is a very narrow concept, which doesn't adequately reflect the many different ways in which our children can be intelligent; it does not, for example, measure a child's musical ability or imagination.)

In the last decade, we've also started to care about EQ or Emotional Quotient. Of course, we all want emotionally stable and sensitive kids who get along with others. Without a doubt, our ability to foster and maintain good relationships is key to our happiness and success, personally and professionally.

We're all trying to raise kids who enjoy learning, study hard, relate well to others, and manage their emotions effectively. We know that IQ and EQ matter for professional success, and perhaps (particularly with EQ) for long-term happiness.

Well, guess what? In a global age, we've got a new quotient that is equally important. We've got CQ or Cultural Quotient, a measure of someone's cross-cultural competence, or in other words, their sensitivity to different cultural viewpoints and their ability to work effectively in different cultural contexts.

Consider how global the workplace is these days -- companies are global and workforces are diverse. And opportunities are global too. An Indian graphics designer based in Chennai might do freelance work for a client in France, for example. Our kids need to be equipped to cross cultural borders and navigate a global, intercultural world.

And in addition to the practical implications, CQ can help us create a less prejudiced, kinder and more humane world. And that's very important.

As a global educator who has taught in the US, Singapore, and India, I think that parents can and should consider ways to help a child develop their CQ.
We can help our kids empathize with others from different contexts.
We can help our kids view an issue or story through different cultural lenses and from different perspectives.
We can help our kids understand beliefs, values, norms and conventions of different cultures.
And we can help our kids judge others less and empathize with them more. Ultimately, we want to foster open-mindedness and empathy.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Read multicultural books to your kids when they are young. Here are some options to start with.

2. Buy multicultural books for your kids to read independently as they grow older. Here's a great list to start with.

3. Encourage kids to learn more about other cultures through food -- take them to different kinds of restaurants or try cooking different cuisines at home.

4. Encourage kids to learn about the stories and beliefs behind different religions; these foundational stories will help your kids understand other people's world views, and it will help your child develop a respect for other people's beliefs. Here is a post on the impact of foundational stories from around the world.

5. Teach your child a foreign language.

6. Travel -- if you can afford to take your children on trips to different places, this is a great way to help them develop their CQ. If you can't travel to another city or country, then find opportunities within your own city -- perhaps there's a Chinese New Year celebration in your city's Chinatown neighborhood, or perhaps there's a Korean play that your kids can watch in a neighborhood theatre. Seek out these opportunities.

7. Remember that it's important to cross borders and shed prejudices within your own city or country -- for example, Hindu kids in India could learn more about Islam and get to know their Muslim neighbors better. CQ is about crossing borders -- of race, religion, language, culture, and socio-economic status. It's about relating to someone whose context and life is a little different from your own. You don't have to fly across the world to develop CQ -- sometimes, the most difficult borders to cross are the ones right around us.

So parents, don't just focus on IQ and EQ; consider ways to help your child develop his/her CQ as well.

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