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What marketers of after-school educational services and educators can learn from children’s perceptions of intelligence

Kara Chan (Department of Communication Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 10 November 2023

Issue publication date: 20 February 2024




The purpose of this paper is to explore the marketing opportunities for after-school educational services in the Chinese context by examining children’s perceptions of intelligence using visual methodology.


Altogether 30 Chinese children aged 9–12 studying in grades four to six were asked to draw what comes to mind for two statements: “This is an intelligent child” and “This is a child of average intelligence.” After doing the drawings, the children were interviewed face-to-face to answer questions about the personalities and social relationships of the children depicted in the two drawings that they had produced.


A child described as intelligent was imagined wearing glasses, studying hard and obtaining excellent academic results. A child described as of average intelligence was imagined as having many friends, playing a lot and experiencing tension with parents over studies. Participants had a restrictive view of intelligence and associated intelligence with academic success. They endorsed both a growth mindset and a fixed mindset of intelligence. On the one hand, they endorsed a growth mindset of intelligence as they associated intelligence with personal efforts and practices. On the other hand, participants endorsed a fixed mindset of intelligence as they tended to avoid challenges and appeared to be threatened by the success of others. Participants imagined that an intelligent child would experience poor relationships with friends.

Research limitations/implications

The findings were based on a nonprobability small sample. The study did not investigate the socialization process of such perceptions.

Practical implications

Educational services and nonschool activity service providers can position themselves as agents to help students develop meta-analytical skills in embracing challenging tasks. Marketers can develop courses and learning materials that teach children different learning strategies. They can use incentives to encourage persistence and resilience in meeting challenges. This study uncovered the emotional and social needs of intelligent children. A new market segment was identified that targets children with high intelligence. Educational service providers can design curricula and activities to support high-performing children in developing empathy and good communication skills. Educators can assist those who perform well academically to nurture genuine friendships and improve social relations with peers.

Social implications

The prevalence of the private tutoring industry in the Chinese context may introduce educational disparity, as families with low resources will not be able to afford these services. Nonprofit organizations can provide similar educational services at a low cost to bridge the gap. The narrow view of intelligence expressed by participants, and their lack of awareness of the wide range of types of intelligence, indicates that education service providers can develop the confidence of a child with average intelligence through appreciation of his or her unique talents beyond academic achievements.


This study explores attributes associated with intelligence among Chinese children using an innovative visual method. The marketing implications can apply to other societies where the after-school tuition market is prevalent.



The authors would like to acknowledge students from Hong Kong Baptist University taking the course “GDSS/GDBU1867 Children as Consumers” in the academic year of 2018/2019 for their participation in data collection.


Chan, K. (2024), "What marketers of after-school educational services and educators can learn from children’s perceptions of intelligence", Young Consumers, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 273-287.



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