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School system does not cater for gifted pupils

By | August 12th 2009

By Wachira Kigotho

Do you think your child’s intelligence is so high he or she is just wasting time in lower school but should be studying higher mathematics and physics at the university?

Then, you are not alone. Most parents believe their children are either talented, gifted or both. Educational psychologists classify gifted pupils as those that have abilities in one or more subjects of the curriculum other than creative arts and physical education.

All rounder

However, talented pupils are those that have abilities and skills in art, design, music, sports and games and in performing arts, such as drama and dance. Subsequently, all rounder pupils are described as gifted and talented.

But quite erroneously most parents just assume that their children’s intelligence is fixed from birth and will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. But the truth of the matter is that intelligence quotient can either decrease or increase, largely due to environmental factors and it is not fixed at any time.

In recent times, parents have faulted the Ministry of Education for not allowing bright pupils to skip grades and even get admitted to universities without sitting for the KCSE on strength of their innate intelligence. Secondary school principals have also rooted for talented students being admitted to universities without the mandatory C+ in the KCSE.

Mr Cleophas Tirop, the chairman of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, says the current education system does not cater for the interests of students who have talents in co-curricular activities.

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But no matter how novel the idea of skipping grades, joining universities without sitting public examinations, or attending academies for talented children sounds, the underlying factors do not make it so easy.

The issue is that gifted or talented children have the potential for unusually performance in a single subject. But to succeed in education, one has to work hard in various subjects. For instance, a pupil gifted in mathematics would have to work hard in languages to succeed. Even those talented in mechanical skills would have to work hard in maths.

Special ability

Consequently, it had been hard to identify unusually gifted children beyond the traditional categorisation of 5- 10 per cent of pupils in a school.

But for a pupil to be classified as having special intellectual ability, experts have noted the child should have verbal, numerical, spatial, memory and reasoning abilities.

Similarly, especially talented children are expected to have general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability, psychomotor ability, visual and performing arts. Unfortunately, most pupils generally regarded as gifted or talented are only endowed with only one domain.

However, parents should realise that tests used in school that categorise children as gifted or talented are often flawed.

According to Prof Richard Pring, the Director of the Nuffield Review 14-19 Educational Studies in Britain, environment influences pupils’ learning behaviour.


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