On August 1, 2017, I had the privilege of being a presenter at a teacher’s workshop in Chennai, India organized by Rotary Club of Guindy, India. My main goal for this workshop was to explain the procedures that teachers in the United States follow to identify students who are gifted in various fields. I explained the identification process, monthly assessments, and progress monitoring that we are required to do during the school year. It was an eye opening experience for me to learn that educators around the world are not as fortunate as the educators in the US because they don’t have the proper tools or protocols in place to meet the needs of all of their students, especially their gifted students.
While India is trying to set up centers of higher learning in the form of colleges, institutes and international schools, it is also privy to the poor quality of primary and secondary education, out of date teaching mechanisms and methodologies and poor infrastructure. According to a deputy Director of Delhi University, educational policies in India are more top down in nature rather than bottom up. Therefore, most students fail to realize their true potential in their school years and have livelihoods that are less productive and satisfying. Talented students do not find appropriate guidance and mentorship to develop and blossom to their full potential.
India is the seventh largest country in the world by area and has the second largest population, comprising of 1.21 billion people. In 2010-11, there were almost 72,000 higher secondary, 1,28,000 high, 4,48,000 upper primary and 749,000 primary schools in India, giving an overall total of almost 1.4 million schools (plus a further 68,000 pre-primary schools). There were almost 249 million learners in classes 1-12 in 2010-11. The total teacher workforce includes 1.26 million in higher secondary schools, 1.24 million in high schools, 1.89 million in upper primary schools and 2.1 million in primary schools. About 90% of them are trained. Unfortunately, none of them are either trained or given resources to meet the needs of all students.
During the group discussions, many teachers shared about the talents and gifts that their students exhibit in the classrooms. One 6th grade teacher mentioned that a student who did not do well in the classroom test was able to create an outstanding art project explaining a difficult concept that she taught in her class. Unfortunately, she didn’t know how to develop that student’s talent and give him credit for his work. Similarly, many teachers shared that their gifted students have already mastered the content that they were teaching but unfortunately there are no policies or procedures to advance them academically in their school.
According to a researcher, Amita Basu in India there are no culturally appropriate identification or educational protocols in India. The mainstream classroom focuses only on repetitive tasks and rote learning, and gifted children have few opportunities to display their abilities in reasoning, problem solving, and creativity. “In such a situation, they are prone to get bored, leave work incomplete, misbehave, and absent themselves frequently from school. Often, a child with high ability is noticed by teachers only because of his/her behavioral problems.”
Thank you to the Rotary Club of Guindy for identifying this need and giving me an opportunity to share my knowledge about gifted education in the US educational system. I am sure that this is only a beginning and that more workshops will be conducted to make a wonderful global education system. My hope is that educators from all over the world can share their knowledge and expertise with others, developing new skill sets and obtaining the right resources to meet the needs of all of their students.