Family & Education

The rise of children joining high-IQ society Mensa

Jiya next to chessboard
Image caption Jiya attended her first Mensa social at the age of 11

The number of under-11s joining high-IQ society British Mensa has risen by more than half, from below 200 five years ago to 319 this year.

Overall, the number of children joining has risen from 1,344 to 1,956.

Mensa says they are assessed to see if their IQ is in the top 2% of the population.

And a number of British Asian children have made global headlines after the Indian media has picked up on their success.

Jiya, who got the maximum score aged 11, says: "When I went into the room to do the test... I looked around and everyone was so much older than me.

"When the test came, I did my best and it turned out I did pretty good.

"My friends were really happy for me and they encouraged me a lot and they were like, 'well done'.

"And it was really surprising when they asked for my autograph because I was like, 'I see you every day but oh well.'"

Her mother, Bijal, says: "It's a long two-and-a-half hour test but it is just a two-and-a-half-hour test and if the results come out fair, it'll give a huge boost to your child."

Jiya's father, Jignesh, says: "Education is not the only way to get to the top [in India], you've got a lot of start-ups, you've got sports personalities, like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, so times are changing but you could say Asians put a little more emphasis on academic excellence and Mensa is one of the feathers in the cap."

Image caption Jiya's parents, Jignesh and Bijal, say getting in to Mensa has given her a confidence boost

Mensa's gifted child consultant and psychologist, Lyn Kendall, says potential can be spotted when a child starts at their playgroup.

"These children are driven to learn," she says.

"Finding like-minds, meeting with other children as bright as them is absolutely essential for their social development.

"You've got to be able to get on with everyone but as individuals, we tend to get on with people who share our interests."

The Heathland School, in Hounslow, west London, is believed to hold the record for getting the most children into Mensa in one sitting - 56.

One of them, Nauman, 16, has been a member for more than four years.

He says: "My family are really proud. They mention it to almost everyone every chance they get. I had a doctor's appointment recently and my dad even told him. That's how proud he is.

"It could come in useful for my future."

Image caption Nauman, 16, says his family is proud of his membership

But some of the other Heathland pupils who passed the test at the same time as Nauman have left Mensa because they say it does not do enough for young people

A Mensa spokeswoman said: "We are very aware that the society could do more for its growing younger membership and we are trying to make progress.

"Our gifted child consultant, Lyn Kendall, runs a series of workshops for different age groups, which allow children to stretch their brains and socialise with other bright youngsters and parents.

"There are also many events under the Family Mensa banner, which help families get together for a range of activities.

"Over the past year this has included picnics, a ceilidh, geocaching, a science discovery centre, astronomy, an aerospace museum, castles, pottery and lots more."

The spokeswoman also responded to the former members' accusations Mensa was elitist.

"There are no academic achievements needed, no committee approval and no distinction on any other grounds," she said.

"We do not take into account age, gender, race, religion, social class or any other factor."

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