In order to increase our physical capacities humans have invented mechanical tools. These tools e.g. spanners or cranes enable us to achieve much higher levels of physical attainment than were previously possible. In the same way we have also created mental tools or “tools of the mind” to extend our mental abilities.
Every child, no matter how intelligent, must acquire the basic cognitive functions in order to think logically, perceive the world in structured, orderly and reasonable ways, know how to learn, and apply his or her intelligence to new learning and problem solving situations without further need of mediation.
The cognitive curriculum stretches the mind, broadening children’s understanding and thinking processes, and thus increasing their educability.
A major focus of this curriculum is the ability to interpret the world and its sign systems. Mankind has invented many signs and the main difficulty lies not in the rules to be learned, but how to use these signs correctly, understanding what they mean, and the nature of the side of reality hidden behind them.
The acquisition of human culture depends not just on the learning of specific knowledge and skills, but in acquisition of the universal means of analysis of reality. The level of acquisition of such means determines the difference in children’s abilities.
Children’s abilities represent their methods of orientation in the surrounding environment and the capability to single out the most important aspects necessary in solving problems.
These methods are not inherited genetically, but are developed and preserved in human culture. A child can acquire these methods only with the assistance of an adult in the course of specifically structured educational sessions within the curriculum. Having acquired and mastered such techniques, children become able to make good progress while dealing with different material and solving a wide range of problems.
The specific feature of the ‘cultural’ methods is that they are applied not as much in relation to real objects as with their symbolic representation: symbols, diagrams, models, plans.
With the help of signs children learn to analyse the reality independently, work out ways of solving problems, notice and understand the structure of different objects, and express their own attitude towards the world around them.
The development of abilities leads to significant changes in children’s personalities. They begin to plan and organise their own activities, openly express their point of view, provide non-standard solutions for various problems, interact freely with other people and what is most important, believe in themselves and their abilities.