IT is not unusual when teaching pupils who are preparing for public examinations to be asked the question: “What do I need to know for the exam?”

This question is the product of a results-driven academic culture and is one with which many secondary school teachers may well be all too familiar.

A consequence of the recent exam reforms has meant that candidates are to be awarded for independence of thought and extending themselves beyond the confines of the prescribed examination material.

The top grades are reserved for pupils who are comfortable responding to novel scenarios and offer a degree of flair in their examination answers.

This has left many teachers asking how they can teach what cannot be taught.

I am a firm believer that the key to success in education and beyond is curiosity.

Curiosity is broadly defined as a strong desire to further knowledge and it is inherently part of our human nature. Fostering curiosity is the key to learning, because pupils who want to learn, generally will.

How do we instil intellectual curiosity into a generation of pupils who are chasing the top grades?

Pupils should be encouraged to keep an open mind, not to accept anything at face value, to ask questions relentlessly and not to label anything as irrelevant.

Embedding curiosity should ideally start at an early age with children being questioned, challenged and exposed to experiences that excite and provide awe.

Reading widely throughout life will fill gaps in knowledge that our innate curiosity is desperate to fill and permeates success and creativity in all aspects of education and beyond.

Teachers who move away from providing the answers for their pupils and instead focus on asking them questions and encouraging pupils in turn to question the nature of the knowledge they are acquiring, are likely to provide the most stimulating learning environments.

Arguably true curiosity does come from within, but when a pupil has the right combination of curiosity and ambition, research suggests that they will be more open to new ideas and possibilities, be active in education and find greater fulfilment in their professional lives.

Put simply curiosity is a catalyst for success and should be central to any educational ethos.