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Becoming a Gifted Education Advocate

Becoming a Gifted Education Advocate


What is gifted education advocacy?

Gifted education advocacy is the process of urging the government, educational institutions, educational boards, and other educational agents to develop resources and curricula for gifted children.  Typically, gifted education advocacy is performed by civil society including pressure groups and special-interest groups.


Why we need gifted education advocacy?

India currently has no integrated gifted education programme accessible to all children.  A few schools across the country claim to cater to gifted children; as well, the Jawahar Navodaya chain of schools caters to rural children.  In order to identify and nurture the approximately 6 million gifted children in India, a vast comprehensive effort is needed.  This will involve developing identification measures; developing curricula and evaluating their effectiveness; establishing mentoring mechanisms; developing summer and weekend camps; developing links between schools, academia and industry to facilitate the career development of gifted children; and the education of the general public in giftedness issues.


A large-scale programme of this sort will need strong advocates to urge for the need for gifted education, to educate the public, and to create dialogue between policymakers and stakeholders.  Advocacy is needed to bring togrther experts in education, child development, psychometry, and field-experts in order to discuss effective ways to develop a national gifted education programme.  As well, practical and ethical questions will arise and strong advocates are needed to establish the legitimacy and effectiveness of a gifted education programme for India.


Why should parents be gifted education advocates?

In the absence of gifted education provisions in most schools, the burden of identifying and nurturing giftedness rests largely on parents.  Parents may be able to supplement their child’s mainstream education with out-of-school opportunities, but this cannot replace an integrated gifted education curriculum delivered by schools.  As well as trying to stop gaps in their child’s educational needs, parents are forced to deal with behavioral problems arising from under-stimulation at school.  Parents must recognise that, while they are important sources of support and resources, the primary burden of educating any child – including a gifted child – must rest with the school.  Parents must advocate strongly to bring about this state of things.


Levels of advocacy

Advocacy can be as immediate and local as persuading with your child’s teachers to offer him/her more stimulating problems in class, or as long-term and global as moderating a national parental advocacy group.  Parent-teacher associations serve as a useful platform to advocate for school-level change, e.g. the development of a challenging science course for students gifted in science.


Developing positive parent-school relationships

When parents and schools disagree on the responsibility of the school to meet your gifted child’s needs, conflicts frequently result.  Teachers may complain about the child’s behavioral issues including disrespect, while parents may insist that these issues only occur because the child is bored.  While the lack of a gifted education programme inevitably leads to frustration for many gifted children and their families, it is constructive for parents to view teachers and schools as potential partners with a common goal – the child’s optimal educational and socioemotional development.  Parents should recognise that while their perspectives on the child’s abilities and interests are important, teachers too have important information about the child.  Advocating for gifted education at schools requires perserveance, flexibility (presenting multiple enrichment options and asking the teacher if any of them can be accomodated), and the willingness to compromise.  Parents may find that volunteering their time or expert knowledge in school activities (e.g. supervising a school trip or offering a guest lecture) may make the school more open to considering curricular modifications for your child.  Concrete measures and outcomes may also help: e.g. if a parent can show the teacher a collection of the child’s advanced work, or an evaluation by a psychologist, and then suggest the provision of concrete modifications (e.g. “Can my child be allowed to bring a book of puzzles and work on it after he finishes classwork?”) – then they may find teachers more amenable.