Countries like Singapore have had a formal “gifted education programme(GEP)” since 1984 and school children are screened for eligibility when they reach the age of 8 or 9 (Primary 3). The screening and selection process consists of 2 tests (English and Mathematics) followed by a selection test for shortlisted students. Upon successfully clearing the second test, students get placed into the programme. Since the GEP has been a part of the formal education in Singapore since 1984, one can safely assume that it has been successful in identifying children with high intellectual potential at an early age.
Nonetheless, the programme’s selection methodology in a way would seem to limit the type of gifted students that could get in:
- The screening and selection processes happen when the child is between 8 to 10 years of age. What if the child blooms later and only displays his/her gifted abilities a few years later?
- What if the child is extremely gifted in English, but not so in Mathematics?
- What if the child is extremely gifted in Art or some other subject?
Obviously, any GEP selection method designed to screen large numbers of children cannot be expected to recognise gifted abilities in every aspect of development and learning. Even if it did, the GEP programme itself would become unsustainable in the long run, since tremendous resources would be required to keep domain experts in every subject teaching in GEP schools over long periods of time.
The point we are trying to make it, is that there are no globally accepted standard ways to measure whether a child is gifted or not. Even if your child is genuinely and obviously gifted in some subject or field, the gifted education programme in your country may not be designed to support it or at least not until the child reaches a much later age.
Therefore, parents should actually be asking two related questions about their child’s gifted abilities:
- Is my child gifted according to the gift education programme (or similar programme) in the country he/she is studying in?
- Is my child gifted in any other way?
Let’s look at the easier question first: Is my child gifted according how it is defined in school?
Obviously, parents can wait for teachers in school to make their recommendations – but this is not always reliable because:
- Not all teachers in a school may have received the training required to identify gifted abilities in children.
- Even if they did receive the training, not all teachers may be experienced enough to recognise gifted abilities.
- There is also the possibility that your child may be extremely gifted but extremely mischievous at the same time, resulting in him/her falling out of selection eligibility because his/her discipline problems cloud the teacher’s judgement and
- The activities in school may not provide your child with a suitable opportunity to display his/her gifted abilities.
So, if parents have noticed that their children tend to pick up certain subjects faster – they should highlight this to teachers during parent-teacher meet ups. Parents can ask teachers about their child’s eligibility for gifted programmes and ask for updates on a regular basis. This provides the teacher with the opportunity to make notes about the child’s progress specific to gifted programme eligibility and share them with the parent during meet-ups. There are absolutely no benefits to parents, children or teachers if the question is sprung a few weeks or days before gifted programme selection begins (or ends).
On that note – parents should never try to game the system and prepare their children to clear gifted education selection. They may succeed by reverse engineering the selection process but they are setting up their children for failure. The rest of the children in the gifted cohort would be naturally gifted in certain areas and the course curriculum would be planned around this mastery or competency. This means that the child’s academic mastery would have to present itself every day in day to day activities and projects. If the child’s entrance to the programme was based on gaming the system and not on actual mastery – he/she will struggle tremendously and lag way behind his/her peers, only to eventually be removed from the programme and re-join main stream school.
So what if you suspect your child is gifted, but not in the way that schools define what “gifted” is?
When parents think that their children may be gifted in other areas – they could:
- Have their children professionally assessed
- Seek the opinion of a subject domain expert in the related area
- Make an assessment in comparison to their child’s peers
Any assessment made should be done over a reasonable period of time, and not rely on singular displays of competency that may have arisen from chance. However, in practical reality there is actual limited value in having any such assessment done in the first place.
We think that whether or not the child is verified to be gifted in any area – parents should allow their children to develop in any area where they show promise or interest (ideally both).
For example, your child may have an amazing singing voice, drawing ability or dexterity in specific sports. Although the formal education system may not recognise exceptional abilities in these areas and subject domain experts may not all agree that the child’s abilities are exceptional – it is no reason for parents not to ensure these develop to their full potential.
Gifted abilities can be further developed by giving children enough opportunities to develop more efficient, stronger or denser neural connections in the brain in the areas related to that particular activity. In simpler terms, this means that children should be given the opportunity to develop their abilities in as many ways as possible so that their brains can develop to support these abilities better. Parents may never know that they may actually be raising the next world renowned artist, sports person or inventor.
By allowing children to develop in the areas that they are gifted in, these abilities will also spill over into other aspects of their lives. For example, by allowing a child to develop mastery in the rendition of complex musical scores, they may also develop the ability to maintain extremely stable and strong levels of focus and attention to detail in other tasks.
Lastly, hidden talents do not appear at any specific age or in any specific way. Even if your child initially shows no promise in a certain field, he or she may grow into an expert in that very domain over time. So if the child has strong interest in a certain area, parents should encourage development in that area, instead of trying to divert the child’s attention and energy to something else that parents may perceive to be a more main stream or safer long term activity.
In case anything comes to mind, please leave your thoughts in the comments section down below.
- This post is brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team
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