Issue 68 / March - April 2009
The Education of Gifted Children
Humans are created with different levels of ability. A person who is talented in one specific field may not necessarily be as capable in other areas, and individuals who have natural ability in the same field do not necessarily have the same level of ability because some children are born with an outstanding natural talent. Therefore, the division of labor in the communities is shaped accordingly and opportunities are sought for the development of skills. Unfortunately, while some governments and nations recognize the varying abilities of humans and provide education and facilities accordingly, others show no concern for the educational requirements of gifted children. Discovering the giftedness of children in the early stages of education is very important. If they pass unnoticed, this can be a great loss, and may even result in harmful consequences for individuals and their communities. People with extraordinary talent can play a huge role in the development of communities, the course of history, and in the progress of technology, science, and the arts.
Who are gifted students?
Gifted students display distinctive qualities in many ways. They usually think differently than their friends; they can come up with extraordinary ideas and self-developed thoughts; details are important for them; they have the ability to learn quickly and progress in academic and intellectual fields; they display high performance in one or more type of art. However, these talented people only make up 2% of the society. These individuals do not like to overexert themselves to increase their grades in education, nor do they study in a systematic manner or do homework. They tend to choose practical solutions, produce new ideas, and try to develop these ideas. They analyze and question whatever they learn, but nevertheless they can still be disorganized. They are often the students who cause problems at school. Awkward and disruptive in the classroom, they can be argumentative or uninvolved in activities. Research into the lives of many people who throughout history have caused great change has discovered that the outstanding talent of these famous people usually passed unnoticed by their teachers, and they were actually problematic children in their early years as students. Edison, for example, was taught at home by his mother, an experienced teacher, because he could not conform to or thrive in school life.
To help teachers to recognize gifted students, various tests have been introduced into the education systems of schools in the West. One of these exams is the IQ test. Some consider IQ tests as the most efficient way of discovering the abilities of students, while some other educationalists say that the only â€śskillâ€ť an IQ test indicates is the ability to take IQ tests; in fact the more you take, the higher you score.
In general, gifted students are recognized by the following qualities:
1. They are quick to learn; they understand and learn the topics in which they have greater ability more easily than other pupils, and they comment on or question the information provided.
2. They try to improvise on whatever they learn; they ask questions that will assist them in progressing in the topics they learn and constantly try to develop on these subjects.
3. They enjoy speaking with older people and usually choose the company of friends older than themselves. They obtain pleasure from discussing with older people, usually teachers.
4. They have the ability to judge and transform information.
5. They have extraordinary desire for intellectual activity.
6. As well as being energetic or overactive, they can also be introverted individuals who prefer their own company.
7. They absorb even the tiniest detail in subjects in which they have an interest.
8. They study only to satisfy their overwhelming desire to learn, and not to please their families or teachers.
9. They are curious, continually asking why and how and other similar questions.
10. They have very good memories.
11. They easily figure out complex objects and events.
Gifted individuals may have many more qualities than those listed above. Another aspect to consider is that if a child has one or a few of these qualities we should not come to the conclusion right away that he is a gifted child. A child could be talented in one certain topic. An individual who shows outstanding performance in mathematics could be completely unsuccessful in social studies and even worse in art, and a student who is successful in art may be very poor at physics. The understanding that an intelligent student must be successful in every field of education is misleading because this is not the case with all individuals. Further, methods of discovering a studentâ€™s ability in one field may not be suitable for other subjects.
Types of education for gifted students
In different countries of the world there are various kinds of education for gifted students. These can be categorized as separate education, combined education, and individual education.
1. Separate education: Separate education is grouping students to be educated according to the subjects in which they show higher performance. This kind of education is usually regarded as unsuitable in present-day understandings of schooling on the grounds that if not well balanced separate education may encourage selfishness, a sense of arrogance and unsound personality.
2. Combined education: This is a form of education where talented individuals continue studies in their usual environment among their friends in the five different formats noted below:
a) Education in special classes: Students known to have a higher rate of ability are taught in special classes in their own schools.
b) Early education: This is enrolling gifted children in schools earlier than the normal school age, usually a year earlier but in some cases maybe even two years, depending on a childâ€™s general intellectual performance. This format is not advised because early education is said to have negative effects on the physical, emotional and psychological development of children.
c) Accelerated education: This is where children known to have outstanding intelligence are advanced to a higher class. This can be implemented two times at the most.
d) Groups of equal ability: This is a form of education where students with the same abilities in certain subjects are taught in specific, segregated classes and then encouraged to develop their skills in their topic of interest.
e) Enriched schedule: This is where a skilled individual is provided with special activities in his or her own classroom alongside the normal curriculum.
3. Individual education: A student with outstanding abilities is provided with a specific education in their own field of interest.
Recommended types of education
If we look at the various kinds of education, the most appropriate forms of learning seem to be groups of equal ability and the enriched schedule because separating children from their usual environment and friends can induce various problems.
Education of groups with equal ability
This is a method where students of equal ability are taught in one class. The ideal number of students per class is three, and a teacher is usually assigned to the class as a counselor.
After lessons the students research the topics relevant to their interests or abilities. This research begins with easier tasks, and while they are investigating the topic the students are actually learning and practicing different methods of learning. They learn in sequence how to research a topic and what to do when they are faced with a problem. The students learn study and learning methods without realizing that they are actually learning. This is a very effective method, and in this kind of education students gain the chance to learn and research, develop and innovate while remaining among their friends in their normal environment. Therefore, they are not subjected to the negative aspects of segregation, and gifted students in higher classes become an example for younger, outstandingly gifted students in lower classes.
Education with an enriched schedule
In the enriched schedule education program, the student continues his or her usual education in his or her own classroom guided by the teacher to perform research in the field in which he or she has greater ability. He or she then explains the research discoveries to classmates. Thus, while students are developing skills in explaining discoveries they are also teaching their friends and representing model students in the classroom. Teachers play a big role in this type of education. It is their duty to recognize the studentsâ€™ fields of interest or abilities and arrange a program suitable to the studentsâ€™ characters.
What the education of a gifted student entails
Gifted students should not be told of their superior capabilities because the word â€śsuperiorâ€ť or â€śoutstandingâ€ť could lead to arrogance in the student, which will cause problems with classmates. Students who think they are superior will begin to think that studying is unnecessary, which could lead to them abandoning their education completely. Nevertheless, their education can be customized according to their greater abilities.
Gifted students are individuals who need special education and trained, professional teachers, just like a student with hearing problems, a blind student or a student with a learning impairment.
The main differences between a student of normal learning capacity and one of outstanding abilities are that a gifted student can achieve what others think impossible. A ship being commanded from land, the discovery of electricity, the invention of motor vehicles, priceless classic paintings, music, literature and works of art are all the products of extraordinarily skilled people.
Outstanding talent is a gift from God, a great blessing. One who has a gift and the people responsible for discovering it and ensuring it develops, namely the mother, father, and teacher, must recognize it in the early stages and educate these children in a beneficial manner so that they will be able to do work which is of interest to them, work that ordinary people would not be able to do. In this way, they will be able to benefit others as well as themselves.
They must also develop in their character and spirituality. If a talented person does not have a good character, he or she could become more dangerous than a person of normal intelligence. Great responsibility lies with teachers and the education authorities.