The “indefinite present” moment that we are currently experiencing during this pandemic has certainly given us more time and space to read, and ponder, think, and plan. It is often during these times of paused reflection that we can analyze some of the best ideas emerging from the great thinkers in our world, and generate ideas and plans for the future. This is true for individuals as well as for organizations.
A recent lengthy report in the newsletter from the World Gifted Organization has given us much to think about. The article, entitled Delegate Discourse, contains a brief synopsis of current issues, plans, and best future thinking of 23 countries in the realm of gifted education. These countries include Algeria, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
While all of these countries are in different places in the development of gifted and talented research and programming, all are committed to serving the needs of high end learners. Here are some of the highlights from some of the countries:
Algeria reported that “attention to research (about gifted and talented students) has increased...The Algerian Association for the Gifted and Talented has also been advocating for the gifted by preparing a guide for the association, conducting radio and television interviews, and using the written press.”
Along with reports from various gifted associations around their country, Australian delegates reported that “State and territory education ministers have recently agreed on a revised national declaration on education goals for young Australians (2019). These goals are (1) The Australian education system will promote excellence and equity (2) All young Australians will become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community.”
Canadian delegates reported these emerging and ongoing issues: “Historical underprovision for First Nations (indigenous) learners also includes gifted students in this population who are also much less likely to be identified than non-First Nations gifted students; this problem is receiving increased attention across the nation. Gifted learners are part of the Special Education array, but teacher pre- and post-certification courses tend strongly to focus on the other areas of special education such as autism, learning disabilities, and mental health/behavioral canada World Gifted newsletter May 2020 page 10 issues. As a result, new teachers receive very little preparation and develop little understanding of the needs of gifted learners. Therefore, they often fail to recognize gifted students in classrooms. If they do become aware of these learners, their repertoire of responses is very limited in comparison to the strategies for other special needs students. Increasingly, parents are raising issues of inappropriate responses from schools regarding their gifted children, and their interest in establishing parent advocacy groups is growing. Interest is also growing in advocating for giftedness as an area of increased emphasis in teacher education programs. Additionally, there are signs of growing interest and activity among researchers, teachers, and parents in two areas with respect to gifted learners: social emotional development, and effective responses to support complex twice-exceptional learners.”
Delegates from the Czech Republic shared some of the current frustration with programming for gifted students in their country with these words: “Of course, there are a number of public schools that are of high quality despite the current problems. However, the number of applicants for admission to these schools significantly exceeds their capacity. Therefore, many parents who want to provide quality education to their children create private schools. This situation is unfavorable for those gifted children who do not have the opportunity to attend a school capable of working with them.”
Though the delegate from Denmark spoke highly of many services for gifted students, he also expressed this concern, “Just before Christmas, the new Social Democratic government, elected in June 2019, sent a sad message for the gifted and talented in Denmark when it announced that the 65 million Danish Crowns allocated for talent projects and research in Denmark will be taken away from talent funding and instead used to lift the general educational system. Many students, professionals, and parents have expressed concern that gifted students will be lost in an egalitarian political system where we are perceived as all being the same. We will have to think creatively in the future.”
Germany’s delegate focused on many facets of the German educational system, but closed with these words, “ Some states (in Germany) have no figures at all on grade skipping, the most common form of acceleration, and have never had them, let alone on any other form of acceleration. There is very little teacher training on it, so few teachers and schools know how to select, prepare, and support children for whom this form of education is the best option. Therefore, it is no surprise that it sometimes goes wrong, leading teachers to assume that ‘acceleration is no good.’” Acceleration will be a focus in German gifted education.
Hong Kong highlighted their ongoing project entitled GIFT (Giftedness Into Flourishing Talents). According to the reporting delegate, “The project has had an impact on the Hong Kong community and the field of gifted education through building the capacity of educators to enhance the strengths of all students and, in particular, to identify and nurture students with giftedness and talents. The fundamental principles underpinning the project are to enable students to understand their own interests and strengths, develop their gifts and talents to actualize their potential, and empower parents to understand the characteristics and needs of their gifted children and provide appropriate support. The project also has a focus on developing evidence-based assessment and intervention programs and practices, together with curriculum and learning resources for school-based implementation.”
Israel reported focusing on these things: Teachers’ Professional Development Program, learning about the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom, meeting students’ social needs, and promoting teachers’ pedagogical skills. Additionally, Israel is focusing on musically gifted students. (About 224 musically gifted students were identified with a new tool developed especially for gifted students in music. Their school curriculum will be adjusted, and they will be entitled to enrichment hours tailored to their unique talents). Finally, Israel showcased their Online Parents Assist Center. The Division opened an online help and guidance center for parents.
Jamaica shared that, “We continue to expand and maintain our existing regular and pilot programs to promote and advance the cause of giftedness in Jamaica and this region of the world. These programs include: (i) Deokoro Magnet Schools for the Gifted and Talented elementary and high schools; (ii) the Caribbean Centre for Giftedness and Creativity (CCGC) POPIN Gifted Clubs in schools and PEP-A-STEM resource centres; (iii) the Gifted Education Consultancy for universities, colleges, schools, and teacher-associations (government and private); (iv) psycho-metric and psychoeducational screening and assessment of gifted children; (v) counseling services for parents and teachers of gifted and other exceptional students; and (vi) conference presentations and professional development workshops.”
Jordan showcased a number of their activities that centered around international competitions, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.
Lebanon reported that, “Three Lebanese universities are offering new courses at the undergraduate and the graduate levels on gifted education. There is also an increase in the number of in-service training workshops for school teachers and practitioners. At the research level, Lebanon has witnessed a growth in the amount of research conducted in the field of giftedness, especially by university graduate students. There has also been an increased interest in developing enrichment activities for gifted students, prompting a few educators to participate at Confratute during the summer.”
Mexico’s delegate shared that new schools are opening for gifted students, especially in Mexico City. At the writing of the report, a major conference was planned to showcase many of the projects of talented students. Additionally, “2019 ended the first stage of professional attention to gifted programs in Mexico. Our work expanded the development of scientific events and increased the number of success stories of talented students while also setting the stage in Mexico for the arrival of a new generation of gifted students in the next decade.”
New Zealand reported lofty goals for 2020. They include: “Implementing an extended package of support for gifted children and young people, establishing study awards to allow gifted learners to undertake extension study and projects, establishing study awards to build teacher capability in gifted education, extending current supports to early childhood education services (including the transition into primary school), increasing access to One Day Schools or similar and mentored online learning opportunities where One Day Schools cannot be accessed, and continuing to work with the gifted education expert group to monitor and evaluate the gifted learner package of supports.”
Saudi Arabia shared an emerging promising program at their University of Jeddah. It focuses on talent development over time. Here is a synopsis: “Policies, research, and pedagogical models in gifted education have mostly focused on serving and nurturing gifted students while they are in grade school. However, less attention has been paid to the persistence and sustainability of gifted education programs in higher education and beyond. The gap between how we nurture giftedness and talents in primary education and how we do so in higher education is becoming a critical issue in the gifted education system around the globe. Two questions frequently posed are, “Do students identified as gifted in schools become extraordinarily accomplished when they are adults in society? Why do we lose many bright, gifted students in adulthood?” Emerging work will center on researching and strategizing to answer these questions.
In Slovenia, though there is some support for gifted education, the model is not nationally cohesive. The delegate from Slovenia expressed this hope: “It is expected that with the new version of the White Paper on Education in the Republic of Slovenia, planned for the next couple of years, gifted education will get the opportunity to develop further in accordance with contemporary professional guidelines and empirical findings from recent CRSN (Center for Research and Promotion of Giftedness) research projects.”
The delegate from Spain reported on the work of a group from Catalonia that has been doing countless informational conferences to different Catalan schools for teachers, administrative staff, and parents, as well as round tables about Creativity and High Intellectual Abilities and Clinical Pathologies, Double Exceptionality, etc. Additionally, special commissions have been formed to deal with specific tasks. A Research Commission is going to create a resource guide for different communities to use as a reference, and to help them put pressure on their institutions. A Secondary Commission is studying reasons for a possible drop in secondary performance of students. The Expertise Committee is creating a new accreditation process for psychological experts. The Creativity Commission is working to collaborate with several schools,. Plans are being made to bring together representative professionals from various groups (gifted, AACC, dyslexia, ADHD, transgender people, etc.) to ensure that viable and practical protocols are designed and implemented for each group.
Sweden reported that, “During the second half of 2019, some important steps have been made in the progress of gifted education in Sweden. In June, the Swedish government gave the Swedish National Agency of Education (SNAE) an assignment to propose how schools can improve the support and stimulation of students of all ages who easily reach the curriculum benchmarks. The purpose is to improve realistic opportunities for enrichment and acceleration for these students, regardless of where they live in the country. In the assignment, the government specifically mentions opportunities to accelerate and to take courses and earn grades at the next level of the education system. For example, a primary school student could take mathematics at the secondary level, an upper secondary school student could take English at the university level, etc.”
The delegate from Switzerland shared that Switzerland has, for the last 15 years had, “a research and scientific-based and practical program for the continuous education of teachers to become specialists or experts in gifted education and talent development.” He also reported that, “The schools in Zurich restructured their programs in gifted education. The new model presents an arrangement of ongoing and gapless promotion activities and formats from inclusive gifted education to pull-out-programs within the schools to out-of-school activities, with a research center for high achievers and mentoring programs.” Additionally, “The Swiss Teacher Association presented a position paper to the Swiss Board of Education. This paper requested that the board provide schoolwide and nationwide gifted education programs in Switzerland. The paper is very important because Switzerland, as a federalist nation with 26 different cantons, each with its own school laws and policies, does not have any national policy or regulation in gifted education. The position paper asks for the implementation of talent promotion at every level of education, from toddler to tertiary level); specialized staff, targeted training and further education of teachers; school and teaching development processes for the design, implementation, and evaluation of talent promotion; capturing potential through multi-stage, pedagogical, and goal-oriented procedures; and composing talent promotion from different and individualized opportunities and activities.”
From the United Arab Emirates delegate comes this report, “Gifted and talented education is relatively new in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The country’s vision calls for a first-rate education. As a result, many organizations have introduced new initiatives to support and reach the country’s vision... For example, the Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance, based in Dubai, has introduced a national plan for gifted and talented education, the first of its kind in UAE. In 2015, in line with the 2015 year of innovation in UAE, the Hamdan Foundation established the “Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Giftedness and Creativity.” The delegate further described some of the work of this foundation.
News from the United Kingdom included these remarks, “Looking ahead, we are planning to host another Above and Beyond awards ceremony, celebrating those who go above and beyond with gifted education students and supporting their needs. Work will continue on DME (Dual and Multiple Exceptionality) and on raising awareness and training occupational therapists. We are also looking at an initiative on alternative forms of education for gifted and talented children, spearheaded by the Nisai Educational Trust, which has been established to explore how to support non-traditional education models, including home education.”
Finally, the delegates from the United States, Laurie Croft, Shelagh Gallager, and Ann Robinson reported on a national survey about practices in gifted education. The results present a snapshot of the patchwork quilt of approaches to gifted education used across the US, with a particular emphasis on issues related to equity. You can read more at this Education Week link, Gifted Education: Results of a National Survey. They then continued with this, “Few issues in US gifted education are more critical, or more challenging, than the underrepresentation of low income gifted students and gifted students of color. Across the nation, the education news is full of accounts of calls to dismantle gifted programs because of disparities in identification.” They detailed the work of the North Carolina Association for Gifted and Talented in presenting “a day of many voices that welcomed different perspectives on the problem of under-representation in gifted programs. A majority of invitees represented organizations invested in improving education for low-income students or students of color but uninvolved in gifted education, including early childhood educators, after school coordinators, school-to-college program directors, leaders in the faith community, education policy specialists, and civil rights advocates.” Calling this day an experiment in ‘outward facing advocacy,’ participants proved that this demonstrates that support for gifted may be more robust than detractors claim and that there are many organizations ready to engage in a broader advocacy coalition on behalf of low-income gifted students and gifted students of color.”
Additionally, the United States delegates posted the winners of the Jacob K. Javits 2019 awards and their focus. The list can also be found in the link above.
For those of you who have read this far into this article, BRAVI TUTTI! We hope that you’ve found this global thinking stimulating and provocative. Though we may be suspended in time for the near future, we must all think about the future of gifted education. As a state organization, we will be doing just that, as we move into strategic planning for our organization. What do you think should be our focus? How does this fit into a local perspective, a national perspective, or a global perspective? Most of all, how does it serve gifted students, their educators, and their families?
Please share your ideas with us; we look forward to your perspective.