A new Pediatric Research study finds definitive links between curiosity and academic achievement. The study involved direct assessments given to 6,200 kindergarten students along with parent-reported questionnaires. The results showed a strong a correlation between curiosity and higher academic achievement in reading and math.
The key question, of course, is that if curiosity is a major component to educational success, can it be fostered or is it an innate trait?
Lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah told Healthline that it’s a little bit of both:
It’s tricky because, to my knowledge, there haven’t been any longitudinal studies of a child’s curiosity. So, we don’t know how curiosity changes or grows with age or experiences. However, I think we can align experiences with a child’s innate passions, and in that way, we can cultivate their interests and their engagement in topics that can help foster early learning.
It’s a sentiment with which pediatrician Susan Buttross agrees:
There is no doubt that curiosity can be fostered. It can go both ways — curiosity can also be hindered. Parents who are intent on raising a child who is perfect in every way may become overly involved in directing play. And when that happens, the child is less likely to try things on their own.
The irony is that well-meaning parents may actually be preventing their child’s natural curiosity from developing.
Also important is that the new research also showed that curious children yielded similar educational performance regardless of their socioeconomic status.
This is perhaps one of the most important discoveries from the study. Previous research has found the socioeconomic background of a child to have a strong impact on school performance. This research would seem to suggest otherwise, as that performance gap disappears for the more curious kids.
Shah said this is one of the most exciting findings behind her research:
The literature talks about the achievement gap associated with poverty, but according to our findings, if you are from a low socioeconomic environment and have higher curiosity, your academic achievement is the same as if you are from a higher socioeconomic status and have higher curiosity.