What do you mean by Intellectual Development?


It is said that sound mind only exists in sound body. The word “intellect” means as rational power or power of mind to understand things. So an intellectual is one well-endowed with mental power or power to reason. In the literature of psychology all the mental processes by which knowledge is obtained about objects are known as “cognition”. This term refers to knowing reasoning and judging things.

So the word cognition has got the same meaning as “intellection”, the act of understanding and reasoning. And as such, Intellectual Development may mean the same thing as cognitive development. They are synonymous. Intellect like intelligence is an aspect of mind, but is different from intelligence.

A child’s intelligence enables him to adapt to the various environments. It is the capacity or ability of the individual to do the work of knowing, understanding and judging. It is the natural and native endowment from the every moment of conception. But intellect as a variable grows and develops. People continue to learn and develop with the power of intelligence.


Binet’s method of measuring intelligence is based in the fact that children become more capable mentally as they advance in age. The upper limit is reached in adolescence.

There cannot be much mental growth before birth. But there is a rapid rise in the first two years after birth. The two year -old establishes contact with the environment, both physical and social. In physical development there are striking changes at puberty.

A parallel spurt in mental ability also occurs in adolescence. With growth, young people develop in understanding their environment and its problems. To be intellectual, it is required to add to the stock of knowledge and information. But it should be accompanied by perfect understanding and wisdom.

Intelligence tests show that intellectual growth is rapid in infancy, moderate in childhood, and slows down in youth. Intellectual development deals with faculties other than intelligence, which is called ‘native endowment’.


As a child grows from infancy to maturity, there is an increase in his mental power; the common opinion is that mental ability increases up to middle age and then declines. Intelligence Test scores, however, show a decline starting as early as 25 or 30, though this decline is very, slow at first.

Intellectual development consists of better and greater use of language, the medium of communication. During first two years, through sense organs the child explores his environment. Then he slowly learns the use of language. After vocal grunts and babblings the child makes various types of sounds till he learns to speak out words.

Words are pegs on which ideas hang and the facility to use language is considered as a work of great mental development. Words acquire meanings and their use in the home, the school and the market is a part of daily living. Numbers of Tests have shown that children from higher socio-economic classes have better language equipment.

The child increases his vocabulary. In a bi-lingual environment, learning of two languages is slow in the beginning, but in the long run such environment is helpful to the language development of the child.


Maturation provides a state of readiness to understanding. Before understanding can take place, the child’s brain and nervous system must develop and the sense organs used for perceiving must become functionally mature. Understanding always parallels mental growth. When mental growth is rapid as in a very bright child, understanding is above the norm; where as in a dull child, understanding lags behind the norm.

Understanding is based on concepts. Concepts are not to memorise, but to understand by experiences. Concepts of children generally change and grow with experience. That is why the system of education for younger children like the Kindergarten, and Basic system emphasize experience with concrete things and visits to places.

The child’s concepts are important because they determine what the child actually knows. Concepts develop readily because of the child’s curiosity about the world in which he lives. It is required that before children enter school, they have a store of several hundred concepts. By adolescence, the child has to build up a store of several thousand concepts. This goes to make an individual, an intellectual.

All children of the same age and level of development will not have the same concepts. Children’s concepts differ from those of adults. Children’s concepts are often erroneous. The child often misinterprets what he hears or what he observes. He may see, hear, smell, taste and feel correctly, but associates faulty meanings with what he has observed.


A Swiss biologist Jean Piaget with his collaborators has done the most outstanding work in the development of cognitive processes in the children; Cognition primarily refers to knowing, reasoning, judging etc. It develops very rapidly in the early years of life.

Although cognitive development begins soon after, it is not so distinct at the time of birth. But as the child grows older, cognitive development becomes more and more distinct. A child’s intelligence enables him to adapt to the world around him.

Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development

J. Piaget conceived four stages of cognitive development as follows:-


(i) Period of sensori-motor activity (Birth 2 years)

(ii) The pre-operational stage (2-7 years)

(iii) The concrete-operational stage (7-12 years)

(iv) Formal operation period (12 years onwards).

The above periods are described as below:-

(i) Period of sensori motor activity

In this period infant exercises sensori motor capacities by sucking, handling or by manipulating objects in his environment. This period covers from birth to 2 years. He behaves as if objects that have disappeared from view have ceased to exist.

(ii) Pre-operational stage

This period lasts from 2 years to 7 years. The child begins to acquire vocabulary with which he represents objects and experiences. It is the preparatory period of concrete marked by Ego-centricism, Animism. Child can develop concepts of his own from direct experiences.

(iii) Concrete operational stage

In this period child understands principle of conservation and develops thinking logically and rationally to the problems which he faces. At this stage ego-centricism is diluted. Child campares and communicates with others and takes decision after thought.

(iv) Formal operations period

An adolescent can think analyze and reason beyond the realism of concrete experiences. The child form opinion about abstract concepts and develops ability of thinking and reasoning. Child is able to take his own decision.

According to Piaget, the child moves from one stage to the next in an established pattern, but subject to variation on the basis of individual differences in some cases.

Cognitive development, therefore, is the reorganization of mental structures. The reasoning of children is often vague and inconsistent. The first ideas of right or wrong are taken from the parents. The teacher can be much profited by knowledge of the mental development of the child. He can plan out the curriculum and methods of teaching and choose books suitable to the mental maturity of the child.

Educational Implications of Intellectual Development

Intellectual development during childhood period (Early-childhood and late-childhood) depends on different factors such as heredity, environment (school, home and society.) Role of teachers and guardians are highly important to give a permanent shape to the intellectual curiosity of the growing child.

Language and communication skill can be promoted through reading, writing, recitation, poetry, essay, composition and story relating creative imagination and rational thinking. Cramming must be replaced by creative practices.

Involvement of students in practical works, experiments to get first hand knowledge should be encouraged. Picnic, Study tour and fieldtrips are necessary for making learning pleasant and joyful.

Teachers are required to adopt appropriate methods and techniques of teaching with due consideration to students age and interest which will support intellectual development of the child.


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