Workshops for school managements

If we define gifted children as the top 3% of the population – and many countries use more liberal cutoffs – there are an estimated 13 million gifted children in India. Unless we make a national, concerted effort, most of these children will never be identified. This represents the loss of a vast human resource for India.

Identifying and nurturing gifted children is a task in which the formal education system must play a crucial role. School management directs school policy, allocates resources, and decides what tasks teachers prioritise. In many schools, identifying gifted children is simply not a priority – teachers are already burdened finishing the curriculum and with managing children who lag behind. In other schools, the focus may be on preparing students to excel on standardised exams such as the boards or Olympiads. While the Olympiads and the NTSE are an important access-point to science/maths programmes, as a member of school management you recognise that not all gifted children are good test-takers, and vice versa. You recognise that giftedness comes in many forms, and that special efforts need to be made to recognise gifts in children from less-advantaged backgrounds – including first-generation learners whose struggles in the classroom may mask valuable abilities in other domains.

Why should schools invest in gifted education? We believe that doing so will in the long run benefit all parties concerned:

1.      Children – Gifted children have advanced learning needs. When the regular curriculum fails to meet these needs, gifted children often become bored and may engage in disruptive behaviours, under-achieve, or absent themselves frequently. Some may develop socio-emotional or adjustment problems. A disenchanted, disruptive gifted child presents challenges to the teacher – we have had cases of gifted children repeatedly misbehaving and disturbing the classroom. In other cases, parents may transfer the child to a school where his/her needs will be better met. Taking steps to meet the needs of gifted children may improve their academic performance as well as their school adjustment.

2.      Teachers – Gifted children who are bored often withdraw academically, producing incomplete work and shoddy notes and under-performing on exams. In the absence of suitable challenges, they may engage in negative behaviours. Teachers will benefit from a schoolwide mechanism to manage gifted children.

3.      Schools – A schoolwide gifted education programme allows gifted children to explore areas of interest in a hands-on, challenging environment. Often, this leads to renewed interest in school, a decreased frequency or intensity of behaviour problems stemming from boredom, and may even translate to better performance in subjects outside the child’s interest. As well, a school wise gifted education programme lets teachers identify gifts in children who may not excel on tests, but who have other important abilities. In short, a gifted education programme may lead to better-adjusted, better-performing students.

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.

Q. What is giftedness, then?

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.

Q. 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 NIAS-EGT 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

Role of schools in the education of a gifted child

Q. To start off, you need to recognise the difference between a gifted child and one who is a good test-taker. Doesn’t Gifted Just Mean Academically Bright?

A teacher training workshop is a two-day event that orients teachers to basic concepts in giftedness, trains them to identify potentially gifted children in your school, and equips them with skills to manage gifted children in the classroom.

Q.    What can you do to promote the identification and nurturance of gifted children in your school?

As a first step, you can send your teachers to a Gifted Education teacher training workshop. To find out about upcoming workshops in your area, go here. To request a teacher training workshop or a workshop for school management in your area, go here .

Our teacher training workshops equip teachers with basic knowledge about giftedness, train them to identify potentially gifted children, and give them the skills and resources to develop enriched lesson plans that can both satisfy the advanced learning needs children, and create the opportunity for children to demonstrate their abilities.