Why are gifted children being misunderstood in the school system?

In every classroom of 20-30 students there lies a few gifted minds, they lie in the top 5-10% of ability level within the population. Creative, curious and innovative, these select few young, out-of-the-box learners possess the innate skills and abilities to be the leaders, innovators, and change-makers of the future. Unfortunately, rather than grow their abilities and enable them to reach their full potential, the abilities of these bright young minds are often suppressed by the education system.

Why is supporting gifted children important?

There are many misconceptions about gifted children in the school system. Some believe that, because of their innate talents, they do not need to be supported. Others refuse to support them, convinced that they possess an unfair competitive advantage.

But the truth is as plain and simple as this: a gifted child, just like any other child, deserves the right to be supported to grow, learn and reach their full potential. To deprive them of this right is to suppress their innate human curiosity.

Why are gifted children ignored?

There are numerous reasons why this select group of children are ignored:

1. Lack of expertise

Most elementary classroom teachers undertake an education degree that focuses on teaching based on a syllabus. This syllabus, as we all know, is created to cater for most students and not for the gifted few. Although differentiated learning is often a topic taught within education degrees, the focus is on conceptual understanding of differentiated learning, rather than providing practical tools for teachers to alter their teaching methods and materials for gifted students. As a result, it is unreasonable to expect teachers to possess the expertise and materials to cater for gifted students in their classes.

2. Lack of time

From class preparation, classroom teaching, attending meetings, organizing school activities and performing their administrative duties, a typical teacher’s workload is significant. In addition, teachers are required to make their own lesson plans and to teach all subjects in their classes. With such a hectic schedule, it is unrealistic to expect teachers to have time to develop materials for gifted students.

3. Lack of school support

But if teachers struggle to find time to cater for gifted students, shouldn’t they be able to turn to their schools for support? Unfortunately, not. Most schools are constrained by limited funding and hence prioritize investing into resources which target the majority of students, rather than those which target the gifted few. Moreover, even if any extra funding does remain, schools prioritize providing additional support to students with disabilities, behavioral or family issues. In any case, gifted students are unlikely to be the priority.

Gifted students are often left unsupported and forgotten by the elementary education system. For this reason, it is important that we change our attitudes towards these gifted children and develop tools and mechanisms which enable these students to reach their full potential.

Giftedness is not elitist, it is not gender-specific, nor is it over-represented in any one cultural group or socio-economic class. Giftedness, innate in its linguistic expression, is a gift, a gift given to be used, grown and nurtured. Giftedness is a superpower and gifted children, superheroes, who have the potential to be the Einstein’s, Shakespeare’s and Da-Vinci’s of the future.

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