The fast-track plan for high achievers is a good initiative but in doing so, the specific needs of ‘gifted’ children should also be given equal attention.
FOR THE past year, I have lobbied for educational acceleration, for gifted children, on behalf of and with, the National Association for Gifted Children, Malaysia (NAGCM).
Most recently, I spoke up for educational acceleration in a speech at the National Education Dialogue at Shah Alam, Selangor. I seemed to have “struck a chord”, because my short speech attracted rousing applause.
I was pleasantly surprised to find so many people in the audience, supportive of such a gifted education initiative.
Now, I learn that the government is going to implement an acceleration programme aimed at “high achievers”. This will involve one year of acceleration at the beginning of primary school and another year, in secondary school.
This will mean that “high achieving” school leavers might be just 16 years old, having had up to two years of acceleration.
This is a heartening initiative, since it goes some way to addressing the need for gifted children, to be given a suitably stimulating environment.
Yet, I must note an assumption that has been made. I understand that the initiative is aimed at the top 15% of students who are described as “high achievers”.
The material I have read suggests that this will address the needs of gifted children.
However, what has not been understood, is that gifted children are NOT necessarily high achievers. They are, quite often, in fact, underachievers.
A gifted child may be extraordinarily intelligent — but very ordinary in school performance, or, indeed, below average in school performance, if their needs are not being met.
A gifted child, who underachieves, may be doing so out of sheer boredom. An education that does not meet their intellectual needs, will tend to “switch them off”. Such a child will be overlooked by any system that deliberately selects the top 15% of “high achievers”.
What is needed, therefore, is a system that tests all children for evidence of giftedness, or at least, all children that a teacher, or parent, brings to the attention of the educational system, as a potentially gifted child. Once identified, such children could be offered suitable acceleration.
There is another potential pitfall with the proposed system of acceleration: two years of acceleration may be enough for the moderately gifted, or thereabouts (with IQs of 130 or more), but it may not be enough for the more gifted students of significantly greater intellectual endowment.
This scheme, therefore, is a step forward, but may not be enough of a step for a small subset of gifted children.
by Valentine Cawley.