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Education Times - TIMES OF INDIA
(Monday December 16, 2002 - Times News Network)
Gifted education is enrichment education for highly intelligent children, It is a new concept in India. Research has shown that 5% of all populations are gifted. Therefore, even though we are looking at very large numbers in India, gifted education, well established in developed countries, is yet to make a beginning here.
Giftedness lies in the quality of the mind and is manifest in certain behaviours of the child. It is seen in curiosity, creativity leadership and in originality. Gifted children operate at least two levels above the norm. They are highly imaginative infer consequences, display strong will, extraordinary compassion have a well developed sense of humour and an insatiable need to learn.
A Gifted child does not necessarily score the highest marks. Children who love tinkering, designing and making devices, writing poetry or have a way with words and numbers, or those who produce mature artwork may well be gifted. However, these characteristics and abilities are usually hidden or masked when environments are impoverished unchallenging or authoritarian.
Giftedness creates asynchronous development. When a 6-year old operates intellectually at a 9 year old level, and is still emotionally 6, there are problems. The child copes by either acting out, dumbing down, switching off, pining for approval or giving up. In regular classrooms, teachers teach to the average and use left over energy and time to deal with the remedial. The bright end of the spectrum is generally neglected or undernourished. These children are often bored with routine and repetition. Constantly waiting for everyone else to catch up, they often develop poor work habits and learn not to persevere.
Good catalysts in the form of mentors, teachers and enriched exposure are needed the child’s inherent ability to become manifested in performance areas of academics, social competence, leadership, sports or the arts. Conversely, neglect can cause them to feel isolated, insecure, frustrated and angry and push them towards underachievement and negative behaviour.
Gifted children need a programme that will stretch them beyond the confines of the classroom and allow them to spend a part of their time working at their own level and pace. They need a peer group of similar ability.
The REACH model, an innovative programme pioneered by New Zealand educator Rosemary Cathcart, has been adapted by Mmdsprings in India, to provide enrichment in the form of after school extension. It does not follow a limited course or curriculum. The programme operates on using the unexpected to engage the child’s interests. Children practice skills that will ensure autonomous learning and use advanced learning materials for extension. The child is nurtured as a social, emotional, ethical person. The accent is on originality, reflecting on issues, hands on experiences, lateral and critical thinking, discussion and consensus and making links and connections in learning and in life.
Children aged 6 to 14 could be put into three ability groups and evaluated on intellectual development, creativity, attitude to learning and social and emotional growth.
Indian Express
(Tuesday October 22, 2002)
In 1992, when Devyani mentioned to her colleague in the school staffroom that a certain student in Std VIB might be dyslexic, she was stunned by her response. “What’s that? Some kind mental retardation?” asked her colleague. Five years later when Devyani left the school, the entire staff room had woken up to a new reality that there was something more to repeated “careless spelling mistakes” that students were making that could not be rectified by writing the same word 25 times. When it comes to education for children with special needs, we in India seem to be just about recognising the hitherto unexplored area of education for the intellectually challenged. But what about students at the other end of the spectrum, the small percent of beautiful minds, who get by with a pat on the head and a double promotion sometimes?
Usha Pandit, gifted education teacher and with a daughter as a gifted child, knows the problems that gifted children encounter. Strangely slow learners are not the only ones with problems. As a teacher, Pandit taught in schools at Chennai, Jakarta and Auckland and even introduced the gifted education curriculum in Jakarta. “Most teaching happens within the box. There is not enough done to target the higher aims of learning like analysis, synthesis and evaluation,” says Pandit. Those of us with average intelligence who sat through the interminable droning delivery of Fundamental Rights and Duties on Pg 37, know what this means. And if this didn’t inspire us, imagine the child with superior intelligence for whom this would have been a mind- numbing experience.
Now settled in Bangalore, Usha Pandit is keen to explore ways of helping gifted children with learning experiences that are challenging and out of the box. Imagine teaching Std VI children about revolutions with George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and then getting them to compare revolutions that occurred in different parts of the world. Pandit took up this project at one of her schools and was surprised at the outcome. “The children’s esteem was sky high and the parents were surprised. Nothing was sacrificed in terms of key learning skills. The children learnt vocabulary, humanitarian values, forms of government, history and much more. This project was used by the Principal of the school as an example for the kind of learning experiences the school was providing,” recalls Pandit.
But while Pandit looks for an opportunity to start a centre for gifted children, she says identifying a gifted child is of utmost importance. And before determining if a child is gifted or not, Pandit will get inputs from parents, teachers, peers and evaluate the child’s work. “I Q tests are not sufficient. They don’t evaluate qualities like leadership and are not culture sensitive,” she says. Pandit is also strongly against double promotions and ruling out exams entirely. “Double promotions cause more damage than good. When children reach teenage and a child who has been double- promoted is a year younger, the differences between him and the
children with rest of the class become too wide. As for doing away with exams, that is not the answer. We must change the assessment tools, but not do anything drastic like scrap exams.” Another thing she’s against is quizzing. “We must move on from memory to higher learning aims,” she says.
Mark of a genius
Thinks differently
Has a questioning mind
Fantasises, has a fertile imagination
Good with abstract & complex ideas
Is a self learner
Is intuitive
Shows leadership qualities
Deccan Herald
(September 15, 2002 - Bangalore)
If we are to fulfill the promise of equal rights and opportunities to all our children, we need to know what gifted education is, who the gifted children are, and why we cannot afford to ignore their needs, writes USHA PANDIT
LIZZIE who attended a “programme for gifted children” at the George Parkyn Centre in Auckland was an active 6-year-old girl child who tested at a reading age of 14. Her parents had to keep her away from the daily newspaper as it contained material inappropriate for her age. She had problems making friends because the other kids said, “she talks strange.” Her advanced vocabulary made her unpopular. Her intensity frightened them off. Her mother wondered if there is no end to what she could absorb and found her incessant questioning tiring. She was completely bored in the reception class (U.Kg) where the children were coming to terms with the alphabet and she had begun to be very disruptive. She refused to read the alphabet and her teacher concluded that she could be a slow learner!
Children like Lizzie are considered “gifted” and their needs are quite different from those of the average children. The intelligence bell curve marks gifted children like Lizzie at one end of the graded ability spectrum, the average learner in the middle and intellectually challenged at the other end. Joseph Renzulli, one of the world’s foremost researchers in the field of gifted education, uses a three-ringed model to define “giftedness”. It comprises three interlinked abilities namely above average intelligence, creativity and task commitment. He argues that all three are required to be deemed “gifted and talented” but warns that all three qualities may not be immediately apparent for selection of children to a gifted programme as some children may not exhibit behaviours until motivated.
Need of the hour
Research tells us that 5 per cent of all populations are gifted by which India should have a gifted population of 50 million people. That number is astonishing, as it equals several times the populations of some countries. By the same reckoning then, Bangalore could have a share of roughly 250,000 gifted people, represented in a cross section of the population, in a range from an octogenarian scholar to a creative beggar child. A significant number of the gifted must be children in our local schools. While these numbers are startling, most people in India have not even heard of the term “gifted children”. There is widespread misunderstanding even among the well educated and the better aware people that gifted education is the same as education for children with learning disabilities or the intellectually challenged.
If we are to fulfill the promise of equal rights and opportunities to all our children, we need to understand what gifted education is, who the gifted children are, what we can do for them and why we cannot afford to ignore their needs.
There is a lot of resistance to gifted education because many school Principals believe that their teachers are well equipped to handle the needs of the gifted children in their classroom without the aid of a specialist programme. They would not profess the same expertise with the intellectually challenged and most schools will ask to be excused for their inability to take in learning disabled children for want of specialists. Hence, gifted children whose needs are not met and who have not developed survival strategies, merely get designated to the rolls of underachievers, mischief-makers and dropouts. Failure on the part of the society to meet their needs often goes unnoticed and unrectified.
Several schools depend on traditional IQ tests for identification. However, these IQ tests are not always adequate, as they are unable to measure creativity and leadership qualities and are not culture sensitive. Therefore, a holistic profile approach is required where the observations of parents, teachers and specialists are recorded.
Even if a gifted child was identified in the classroom most teachers would be unable to provide appropriate extension as Teacher training courses do not spend adequate time on the issue of gifted education. Besides, traditional teachers who work towards examinations will find it hard to understand a) that academic achievement and talent does not mean that a child is gifted or b) that a child who is identified as gifted need not be an academic high achiever.
Commonly schools adopt a method of linear acceleration which is either “more of the same thing” or the “double promotion” concept of skipping to higher- grade work. A gifted child requires holistic and horizontal acceleration - a broader canvas - a larger and diverse number of interesting inputs and opportunities that can stimulate his/her thinking and enhance his/her skills. What a gifted child needs is the extension of a specialist gifted programme.
Many schools in developed countries have introduced gifted education, as part of the services and facilities offered for special needs in their institutions. For instance, the George Parkyn Centre in New Zealand, where I worked, used the idea of the One Day School, where identified gifted children from all schools in Auckland spent one day a week at a gifted programme centre and the other four days at regular school. That single day they got an opportunity to work with their ability peers. There was freedom to explore, experiment, and ask questions, to discuss, argue and research. A segment of the programme called make/do/create, was the most popular and was run in a three-way partnership between the specialist, the classroom teacher and the parents.
The USA has some special schools exclusively for the gifted where enrollment procedures are strict and competitive. However, segregation of gifted children has not found favour in all sections of the society as it goes against the concept of inclusion. Inclusion calls for the participation of all children - irrespective of ability - to be part of the regular classroom. Those who have special needs - from the gifted to the learning disabled - are provided those needs in accordance with their requirements in temporary pull out programmes either inside or outside the classroom.
Other methods adopted are :
Acceleration, which is more and advanced learning of the same subject.
Telescoping, in which the subject for two years is condensed into one.
Compacting, in which the child can use the time the class generally uses for repetition or revision, to work on his own in other areas or on individual projects.
Independent study to pursue personal interest investigations.
Tiered assignments, where groups in classrooms work on the same assignment at different levels.
Learning centres within the classroom allow the child to extend the concept done or develop a new idea.
Mentoring on subjects is also done by an older schoolmate or a specialist adult.
In India we can make a start by using some of these techniques. As the numbers in the classroom and curriculum pressures often make it difficult to pay attention to the gifted child, after school enrichment programmes must be organised to meet the special needs. These after school programmes can be run by specialists or teachers trained in gifted education for children once a week for a period of two to three hours after school. It is important that our schools begin to acknowledge that these special children exist and they have needs that should be met. That would be one significant step towards creating more progressive facilities in our schools.
A lot of people are uncomfortable with the concept of “gifted” as for them the word spells privilege, elitism, distinction and discrimination. But on the contrary, gifted children must be cherished and nurtured or their gifts could just as easily be put to negative use. Besides they would unfairly be recognised as mere underachievers, mischief-makers and dropouts. Instead, a holistic development would mould them to be our best hope for the future. It is therefore necessary to avoid speculation and pay more attention to the gifted.
Parent awareness meeting Rajarshi Bhattacharjee, Gurgaon
(February 28, 2009)
Not just extra care, the Millennium City is now responding to its highly intelligent special children with enrichment education programmes and enhancement opportunities.
Gurgaon Plus Weekend explores
Given the right kind of environment and extra attention, even special children can make their mark in diverse creative and career avenues. Parents in Gurgaon have lately acknowledged that the same is more relevant with special kids who are highly intelligent. Schools and parents recently came together in the city to recognise and lend a hand to the ’highly intelligent gifted children’ who usually do not get their dues in a regular classroom.
Identifying interest areas of special children, parents agreed that opening up wider perspectives for materialisation of their passion has to be a journey of joy for both parents and special children. At a workshop for organised by Mindsprings, at Manav Rachna International School, Sector 46, educational consultant Usha Pandit, during her recent visit to Gurgaon emphasised on the need for identifying the highly intelligent special children as well the need for uphill task of awareness among parents and teachers.
"Gifted children are never the stereotype. To identify their extraordinary potential a fair sample should be available with parents to make such an evaluation. Some signs can be endless tiresome questioning or sustained interest in learning where the child puts in long hours on his own on general subjects (not as in homework but as in passion for something). They can also show unusual imagination, appetite for knowledge through any and all sources, or a preference for adults over children to talk and interact as signs of their extraordinary precocity," says Pandit.
In fact, enrichment education and enhancement opportunities became the catchword among parents and teachers, considering various factors that includes training a gifted child to cope with different situations, taking on social skills, overcoming short-term frustrations etc. "Parents and teachers should identify a special child’s interest areas, explore and show the child wider perspectives of it. This helps in developing the child’s interest in the subject," opines Sanyogita Sharma, Principal, Manav Rachna International School, Gurgaon.
Agrees DLF resident Anita Singh, mother of 13-yrs-old special child Arushi. "My daughter is hooked to technology. She is at her best surfing the net and looking for best options available in computers and mobile technology. Without any encouragement from us, she is updated about most gizmos available in the market. She even suggests her father which notebook’s the best and why choose one cell phone brand over the other," says Anita.
A gifted child is on a journey of expression, exploration and understanding wherein the parents can fruitfully pitch in showing different directions of his/ her interest together with other options. If not given the right kind of grooming, they may not be able to cope with peer and adolescence influences, external factors that affect an individual. Experts feel, every creative child need stimulation and opportunities that is more relevant for gifted children who are highly intelligent.
"Gurgaon has many parents who are keenly looking out for worthwhile educational opportunities for their children. I am expecting more such enrichment programmes in Gurgoan," says Pandit.
The Times of India
Spotting Calibre Sakshi Khattar, TNN
(September 22, 2008 - 0505 hrs IST)
Visualise this: A mathematics class in progress and the teacher explaining the concept of length and breadth. When it comes to describing a 'point,' which has neither, a student raises his hand from the last bench arguing that it has both, but just a miniscule of it. The entire class is in splits but the teacher is left with a big question, as the child made sense.
Similarly, a question is thrown to the class to measure the rate of evaporation of a swimming pool if everyday it evaporates at a constant rate. And there comes an unexpected question - what if it rains?
Most teachers encounter loads of such questions everyday and often ignore them, as their job is to finish the syllabi. As a result, these children are often neglected. Few teachers would also describe such students as those with 'behavioural problems.' This is the biggest myth, feels Usha Pandit, an educational consultant, Mindsprings. She explains: "These children are the gifted children, who are not easily identified in a class and hence, often get ignored."
Pandit, who specialises in curriculum development in gifted education, shares: "Under the learning curve, the two neglected ends in a classroom include students with learning difficulties (LD) and the other - the gifted ones. Those with LD are easily identified as their behaviours are frank whereas the gifted ones are mostly the quiet lot and hence, often get neglected."
Susan Baum, author, Multiple Intelligences in the Elementary Classroom: A Teachers Toolkit and director of International Center for Talent Development, US, suggests that it is important to nurture the needs of gifted students. She gives J S Renzulli's model for identifying giftedness in a child.
Renzulli, in his book, The Schoolwide Enrichment Model said: "Research has consistently shown that people who have achieved recognition because of their unique accomplishments and creative contributions possess a relatively well defined set of three interlocking clusters of traits. No single cluster "makes giftedness." Rather, it is the interaction among the three clusters that research has shown to be the necessary ingredient for creative or productive accomplishment. Other factors that seem to impact gifted behaviour are personality and environment."
According to Baum, it is not always that gifted students display their abilities. Teachers and schools need to continuously provide circumstances to get all these abilities together.
In a regular classroom, the teacher teaches to the average and uses left over energy and time to deal with the remedial. Therefore, the bright end of the spectrum is generally neglected or undernourished mainly because they are not as visible or volatile as the handicapped at the other end of the learning curve.
Most teachers and even counselors have a common perception that a gifted child is a one who is a 'genius.' So when it comes to sending students for a mathematics quiz, for instance, the names that come to a teacher's mind would be of the first three toppers in maths in a class. And the child who solves the question first and solves it right, even without following the steps that the teacher and class is following, is often ignored.
"This kind of a child (called an intuitive learner) might not even know as to how he arrived at the solution and yet have it answered right, but the teacher would never acknowledge or appreciate, rather ask him to follow the rote methods, so such an attitude might kill a child's creativity forever and hit his confidence badly, so much so, that he never raises his hand in the class again" says Pandit.
Veena Dhyani, counsellor, Cambridge School, Noida, says: "These children are usually labeled by teachers as the 'disturbing elements' of a class." Talking about some common traits, she says: "They are restless and want something creative every time. They would finish their work much ahead of their peers and when their work is over, they interrupt the class."
Says Shreshtha Madhwal, teacher, CRPF Public School: "These students have very high IQ levels and hence, they won't really listen to a teacher as they know most concepts already, in fact, they might even add to what is being taught." Also, most teachers are quite 'insensitive' towards these students because of time constraints, she adds.
Most teachers also feel that because of the high teacher student ratio in a classroom, it is difficult to pay attention to each and every child. As a result, these students get neglected. The need therefore is, as Pandit puts it, "to identify and nurture their talents."
Possible Solution
Giftedness is a special need, says Pandit. "If these children are neglected, many of them will become under achievers, anti-social or even self-destructive. More importantly, it is deprivation of the child's right to a happy and fulfilled childhood and future. Just as we cater to the lower end of the spectrum by differentiated programmes, we must respond to the need of the upper end by making sure that they do not lose their way."
She recommends: "First and foremost, identify the gifted child in your class, which is not easy. They may vary from mildly-gifted, moderately, exceptionally, profoundly to even dysfunctionally gifted."
Gifted children can be excellent peer-tutors, says Dhyani. In addition, she says: "Teachers can prepare worksheets to keep them involved." Similarly, Madhwal says: "If there are two or three such children in a class, they should be grouped together and given a task which is above average as these children are very restless and enjoy challenges."
Pandit sums up: "Accept children as what they are. A teacher has a major role to shape up the child, so the next time you come across such a child in your classroom, nurture his abilities."
Times of India, New Delhi - Education September 22, 2008,prtpage-1.cms
DNA newspaper Mumbai: August 23, 2008