Developing Country: Part Two*
Jeannette P. Maas
In developing countries, changes in social systems and the breakdown in
social structures, coupled with population growth and changing techno-
logy, create a large element of unpredictability. This requires the develop-
ment of creative potential in people who can adapt to the new, rather than
attempting to superimpose any predetermined system.
One of the capabilities of the divergent thinker is the ability to deal with
new, emergent situations in creative ways. A continuous supply of such
thinkers who can develop systems that are inclusive of change is required.
A study was performed in 23 secondary schools in Fiji. The Alternative
Uses Test and a Background Information Inventory, were administered to
2564 fifth formers (juniors in High School) of the two major ethnic groups
(Indian and indigenous Fijians), males and females.
Students were separated into divergent, convergent and neither as
categories. A larger percentage (31%) of divergent thinkers was identified
than convergent (22%) and a still larger number fell into the 'neither'
category (47%). Indigenous males produced the greatest number of diver-
gent responses, the difference being significant at the 0.01 level.
In response to the Background Information Inventory, subjects were
compared by groups. A one-way non-orthogonal analysis of variance was
carried out. Differences significant at the 0.01 level were found between
divergent and some other groups in both parents' occupation and
education. Various reasons for the differences between these findings and
those of other studies were hypothesized.
A full report of this research was made in Directions 16 (Maas 1986). !
* This research was supported by a grant from the University of the South
Pacific and was carried out, with permission from the Fiji Ministry of
Education, in April 1982.
It has been pointed out that tests of achievement are used as a measure of
success in school, and that these tests are devised so as to require one 'right'
answer. This means that the students' thinking has to 'converge' on this
already determined solution. Since the students' success is 'proven' by this
method, teachers favour convention, and conformity to text/fact. A
circularity is established in that the 'right' answers are required, and thus
must be taught. This system discourages students who come up with
different, but also possibly 'right', answers (divergent thinking).
On the other hand, those persons who have become creative scientists,
artists (including writers of literature), and leaders have become so
precisely because their thinking processes have diverged from the 'tried
and true' into the creative and original. The literature on this topic has
been thoroughly discussed (e.g., Vernon, Adamson and Vernon 1977) and
does not need to be reviewed here. What has come to light in recent years is
that this same phenomenon of limitation has an effect on the success or
failure of development efforts in developing countries. When the
uniformity of tradition is broken down through changes in social systems,
convergent 'experts' all too often assume that there is only one way to be
instituted, and frequently impose a system not really suited for a particular
area or group (Social Development Newsletter 1981).
Because the usual emphasis in education is upon factual learning,
information gathering, processing, recollection, and studying for high
examination performance, teachers and administrators frequently fail to
recognize the existence of students who have a high degree of creative
thinking ability, and who may be organizing their thinking along the lines
of internal control factors rather than through externally motivated
means. It is believed that a certain proportion of such individuals are in
regular classrooms, and are not identified. Yet those who are outstanding
in these areas of thinking require special provisions to meet their needs,
since they are a valuable natural resource. Until we can know certainly
that they do exist, and that they can be identified, we cannot plan to give
them the opportunities that we might be able to.
Since the teachers have the closest contact with the students, and come in
contact with their responses to both oral and written questions and
instructions, it is assumed that they would be in the position either to
identify or to be unable to identify students who think either divergently,
convergently, or in the main, do neither. For this reason, at the same time
that the Alternate Uses Test was given in the classroom, the teachers of that
class were asked to classify the students into the three categories. Follow-
ing are the instructions given to the teachers:
Instructions to Teachers
It is believed that in every classroom there are some students who have
a capacity for original, or creative, or divergent thinking. These
students are able to absorb abstract concepts and organize them
effectively. They give original, novel or unique responses, make many
associations, seek variety, and are able to be innovative. On the other
hand, there are some students who are considered very good students,
but who limit their responses to a single best one, tend to try to stay
with the strictly logical, and limit themselves to the "tried and true".
These students are convergent thinkers. In addition, in every
classroom there are a number of students who are not notable for
coming up with divergent responses, and at the same time are not good
convergent thinkers either. These students would probably fall into
the "average or below" category.
As teacher of this class, please group all students into the following
Those I would rate as the most divergent thinkers.
Those I would rate as the most convergent thinkers.
Those I would rate as neither Divergent nor Convergent.
These instructions were given to 47 teachers of form five students. There
were 85 form fives whose students were given the Alternate Uses Test in 23
The question to be answered was, of course, " D o the teachers' ratings
correlate with student performances on the objective measure of divergent
and convergent thinking?"
The students' responses to the Alternate Uses Test were divided into
Divergent, Convergent, and Neither. The students' responses were
compared with the teachers' ratings as elicited by the Instructions to
Teachers sheet. The students who were so categorized by the objective test
were used as the criterion group and the teachers' ratings were compared
with the students' responses using a a zed score for the variability of each
teacher from the actual performance of his/her students. This score was
then evaluated for significant difference at the 0.05 level.
Of the twenty-three schools tested, only five cases yielded no significant
difference between the students' placement as divergent thinkers according
to the Alternate Uses Test and the teachers' selections of students who
think divergently. In other words, the majority of teachers' seemed unable
to choose such students.
In only six of the twenty-three schools tested was there no significant
difference between students' performance on the Alternate Uses Test, and
the teachers' placement of students in response to the Instruction to
Teachers questionnaire, with respect to convergence. Again, we would
assume that most teachers are not able to place in the proper category
students who think convergently.
The results of the entire study are summarized in Table 1.
The Alternate Uses Test establishes that both divergent and convergent
thinkers are present in fifth form classes in the twenty-three schools tested.
The presence of slightly more divergent than convergent thinkers is slightly
different from findings by Hudson (1966), and this could be attributed to
the large number of bilingual students. It has been found that cultural and
linguistic diversity is a rich resource for divergent thinking (Holmes 1982).
An artifact that may have been present due to the inclusion of schools
number 22 and 23 was explained in Part 1 of this report (Maas 1986,106).
It is apparent that even though these students exist in rather large percent-
ages, the majority of teachers are not able to identify them according to the
Of the five schools in which there was not a significant difference between
students' and teachers' placements of divergent thinkers, all were
predominantly of Indo-Fijian descent. Of the six schools in which
there was no difference in students' and teachers' placements in convergent
thinking, one had a predominantly indigenous Fijian population, two had
approximately equal representation, and three were predominantly Indo-
The Fiji system of education was developed by the British, since Fiji was a
British Colony before obtaining independence in 1970. This system has, in
the main, continued. The classes are large, (generally 40 and sometimes
more students), and because of the examination system, teaching is test
and examination oriented. Convergent thinking is emphasized. The
general method of teaching is teacher and curricula centred. When
questions are asked of the students, they raise their hands and the teacher
selects a respondent. Students who respond by hand-raising are usually of
the convergent type. However, in spite of this, teachers do not seem to be
able to classify convergent thinkers. Teachers report that they do not get to
know their students very well, because they may be moving from
classroom to classroom, and may meet with as many as 200 students in one
day. This combination of events may be responsible for the findings of this
part of the study.
Holmes, J. (1982) Language for Learning: Education in the Multi-Cultural School.
Wellington: NZ Department of Education.
Hudson, L. (1966) Contrary Imaginations. London: Methuen.
Maas, J.P. (1986) 'Creative Thinkers: A Valuable Asset in a Developing Country.'
Directions 16 (v. 8), 96-108.
Social Development Newsletter (1981) July, 3.
Vernon, P.E., Adamson, G. and Vernon, D. (1977) The Psychology and Education
of Gifted Children. London: Methuen.