Cognitive assessment and health education in children from two different cultures

Malathi Sivaramakrishnan, José F. Arocha, Vimla L. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This paper presents research aimed at investigating high level comprehension and problem solving processes in children in two different countries, India and Colombia. To this end, we use a series of health-related cognitive tasks as assessment tools. In one study, we also examine children's performance on these cognitive tasks, in relation to their nutritional status and parasitic load. The ages of the children tested ranged from 2 through 14 years. The tasks were designed to assess comprehension of sequences, organization of concepts, understanding of health routines (hygiene practices) and evaluation of hypothesis and evidence. The results show that children approach the different tasks with a baggage of beliefs and local knowledge of the world which determines their reasoning process, their comprehension and their problems solving. The results are discussed in terms of cognitive assessment approaches, as applied to classroom instruction. Given that children construct their understanding of reality based on what they already know and that education does not take this into account, we recommend that assessment tools should be devised that can tap prior knowledge and understanding, such that this can be analyzed and understood in relation to knowledge taught in the classroom. Current educational assessment fails in such an endeavor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-712
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 16 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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