Finding the perfect school for a child is one of the most important decisions a parent will make. But when it comes to students who are gifted and talented in academics, finding a school that will challenge the student and foster their abilities is of the utmost importance. When GATE programs are typically offered only in high schools, the question must be asked, does GATE also have a rightful place in a primary school setting?
The negative behavioral effects seen in gifted children that have not been given an adequate environment to express their needs and challenge their intellect have been widely and universally noted. Dr Kate Burton from Edith Cowan University told the ABC, that an academic gift can quickly turn into a curse when not challenged. Burton notes that gifted students will begin to demonstrate behaviours like acting out, misbehaving and refusing to do their work in order to find other ways to keep themselves occupied, not because they are mischievous students, but because their gift is not being advanced.
Geraldine Nichols, President of the Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children, has warned that underachievement amongst gifted students is a significant issue which leads to the student stagnating their ‘yearn to learn’, ultimately causing the child to ‘switch off’ from schooling.
Educational Research published a report in 2003 that stated despite parents, school funding and curriculum being important factors in a child's schooling, it is in fact the teacher who was most influential in a student’s academic achievement. As such, as educators, is it not our job to recognise a gifted student and promote that gift at any age?
Nichols notes that keeping gifted children in environments that don't stimulate a child’s curiosity can have severe consequences. The Australian Department of Education notes that, “All students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning programs drawn from a challenging curriculum that addresses their individual learning needs.”
So why then aren’t we providing that rigorous environment for primary school students who have shown themselves to be capable? Gifted and talented children have diversely different learning needs from other children the same age. They tend to be extremely curious, quick learners, and they like more complex ideas than other children their age. Gifted children don’t need as much repetition to grasp a new concept as others do.
Diversifying education in primary school, not just in high school, can mean the difference between fostering gifted primary aged student’s abilities and letting it pass by unnoticed. Based on my experience as principal of ACC Darling Downs and past experience running a successful gifted and talented program, I can clearly see the benefits both mentally and socially for participating students. The program accelerates students’ learning by extending content knowledge, practicing skills development and minimising repetition. It is an exciting and fast paced learning environment that eliminates boredom.
Partnering your child with other exceptionally able students from the beginning of their schooling career will have significant benefits in improving all areas of their schooling experience, inspiring them to excel everyday. Choosing enriching and challenging educational programs for a gifted student at any age will not only help to keep them engaged, but will also allow them to realise, and harness, their God-given potential.
Image by Daniel Dionne under flicr cc attribution license