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Doesn't Gifted Just Mean Academically Bright ?

Many, parents, teachers, and educators believe that giftedness is a monolithic category consisting of 'good students' - children who enjoy school, obey instructions, turn in neat work, and do well on exams. A good (if somewhat simplified) way to understand the issue is that the gifted constitute Set A, and the academically bright constitute Set B – and that the overlap between Set A and Set B is limited.

What is giftedness, then? We assume you’ve already read this introductory link [FAQ > What is Giftedness?] as well as this link that discusses a popular myth .

There are various reasons why gifted children may not do well academically. They may find the presentation of content impersonal and disjointed, they may be disenchanted with assessment systems that measure only a small subset of cognitive abilities – in other words, a gifted child may fail to do well academically because the school setup does not provide opportunities for her to demonstrate her abilities. Gifted children may have problems in class because of a coexisting learning disorder or other disability. Some gifted children deliberately mask their abilities and under-perform academically in order to fit in with peers. Others may fail to demonstrate their potential in school because their home backgrounds do not provide levels of stimulation comparable to those of their peers – a problem that is sure to appear in integrated classrooms under RTE, where teachers will inevitably but unfairly compare children from disadvantaged backgrounds with their more-advantaged peers.

Conversely, children who are academically able may excel at rote memory and reproduction, but may lack the synthetic thinking and originality necessary to create or produce something new – the hallmark of giftedness. Their success at school many not translate into the kind of innovative, transformational thinking in their fields that defines giftedness.

What does all of this mean? That we can’t use standardised educational tests or school exams to identify gifted children. What can we use then?

The measures we use to identify giftedness depend on the goal of the programme and the kind of giftedness we’re interested in. The NAGE-India programme emphasises mathematics and science – core areas in which research in India is woefully lagging behind. Our member institutes have developed and standardised instruments to identify giftedness in these areas. These instruments are appropriate to the Indian context and were developed based on extensive field research in the first phases of the projects.

One of these instruments is an observation-based checklist that teachers can use to identify potentially gifted children based on classroom behaviour. Teachers are trained how to use this form in the NIAS Gifted Education teacher training workshops. You can find out more about these workshops here , or find out about the next workshop in your area here .

To find out how the NIAS Gifted Education assessment process works, and what happens to the children afterwards, go here