Saudi Arabia – National Research Centre for Giftedness and Creativity (NRCGC)

The National Research Centre for Giftedness and Creativity (NRCGC) is based at King Faisal University (KFU) in Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia.

The website has pages in Arabic, English and French. There is relatively more information on the Arabic pages.

The foreword on the English pages says that NRCGC was:

‘established by royal approval as an expression from the university of its determination to keep pace with and to support the vision of the country’s political leadership; a vision which is based upon long-term investment in the special abilities of its gifted and creative citizens…the NRCGC will endeavour to strengthen and support research initiatives and to develop programmes and practices related to nurturing talent and creativity in Saudi Arabian society’

so, from the outset, it is explicitly aligned with King Abdullah’s parallel Mawhiba programme, which featured in an earlier extended two-part post – links here and here.

Elsewhere, NRCGC is described as a ‘national consultative research institution’, established in 2009.

The website draws heavily on the contents of the Centre’s five-year Strategic Plan.

There is a vision statement:

‘To be a leading international centre for research and programs on giftedness and creativity and to provide high quality services to the gifted and talented and to those who serve them.’

a mission statement:

‘To offer high quality research, consultation, training opportunities and academic services in the field of gifted and talented education, and to provide technical support for carrying out related research projects. This mission will be translated into action by the centre’s working team, and through partnerships and collaboration with renowned national, regional, and international centres on giftedness and creativity.’

a comprehensive set of values (the third in particular reading oddly to Western ears):

  • Creativity: providing new and up-to-date knowledge and instructional materials for the gifted and talented; problem solving and satisfying the needs of stakeholders.
  • Cooperation:teamwork based approach; communicate with parties concerned with giftedness and creativity locally, regionally and internationally.
  • Loyalty and Civic Attachment: love for our profession in dealing with giftedness and creativity, and doing our best to cater to the gifted and talented; love for our country and feeling proud of being attached to it through taking care of the gifted and talented.
  • Quality: accomplish our work with a high degree of effectiveness and efficiency; mastering our work assignments; focusing on the aspirations and needs of stakeholders;continually improving our performance.

and an admirably concise set of strategic goals:

  1.  Design and development of academic programmes on gifted education
  2. Contribution to the body of research in the field of gifted and talented education
  3. Development of regulations and by-laws to cater to gifted and creative students in higher education institutions
  4. Development of quality assurance systems and accreditation criteria for gifted education programmes in educational institutions.
  5. Increased literacy about gifted education and integration of thinking skills in public schools and universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

which somewhat contradict the heavy emphasis placed on research in the vision, mission and title of the organisation.

Organisation, Staffing and Partners

An organogram is provided, suggesting an organisation of significant size:

The website lists 21 staff (as well as 20 consultants). The staff include:

  • Professor Yusuf M. Al-Jandan, Head of the Board of Consultants and President of King Faisal University;

  • Professor Abed Alazez A. Al Melhem, Member of the Board of Consultants; and

  • Dr. Abdullah M. Aljughaiman, Director of the Centre.

The consultants include several of the ‘leading lights’ of gifted education research, including: Tracy Cross, Francoys Gagne, Elena Grigorenko, Jiannong Shi, Del Siegle, Robert Sternberg, Heidrun Stoeger, Rena Subotnik, Joyce Van Tassel-Baska and Albert Ziegler. The terms on which they have been engaged and their role within the organisation is not explained.

A list of external partners cites all the key players in Saudi gifted education and research:

Several organisations elsewhere in the world are also mentioned, though the nature of these partnerships is not explained.

These include:

  •  organisations elsewhere in Asia: the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award For Distinguished Academic Performance, UAE; Kuwait Science Club; the Chinese Academy of Psychological Research; MINDS, Malaysia; the Asian Council for the Gifted; and
  • USA-based providers: National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT), University of Connecticut; the Child Study Center at Yale University; the College of William & Mary Center for Gifted Education; and the National Association for Gifted Children; plus
  • the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and the International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE).

Activities

Eight discrete projects are listed:

  1. Evaluating gifted students’ programmes in public schools in Saudi Arabia.

  2. Educating the gifted in the Arab states: teachers’ preparation programmes.

  3. National scientific consultant for the Nasser Al-Rasheed Chair for Future Pioneers at King Saud University.

  4. Training those responsible for summer enrichment programmes at King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for the Gifted.

  5. Designing a preparatory training programme for teachers of gifted students working in public schools.

  6. Training of those responsible for conducting programmes for gifted students at the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education.

  7. Developing the organizing charter for nurturing gifted students at the Ministry of Higher Education Institutions.

  8. National scientific consultant for the project of developing Mawhiba scales for identifying the gifted.

This suggests significant involvement in the business of Mawhiba and the Ministry of Education, implying that NRCGC is emerging as a distinct ‘third force’ in Saudi gifted education.

There is a separate list outlining research projects including:

  • Standardizing and developing the Aurora Battery Scales and international translation and adaptation of the Aurora Assessment Battery;

  • Conceptions of giftedness and creativity in different cultures (Saudi Arabia, China, Germany);

  • Designing a preparatory training programme for gifted students’ teachers;

  • General anxiety in gifted female pupils in Saudi Arabia;

  • National academies for those gifted in maths and science: international experiences and local vision.

The Centre also offers three separate postgraduate courses: a masters in gifted education incorporating a thesis, a masters without a thesis and a higher diploma. These are offered jointly with the host University’s Department of Special Education

The Arabic section of the website also lists a number of shorter training programmes, including modules on quality standards in gifted education programmes, e-learning packages for gifted learners and statistical analysis.

Also on the Arabic site there are details of a ‘UNESCO Chair for the study of talent and creativity and those with special needs’, a 5-year arrangement with a total budget of US$ 2,666,320.

Objectives (translated from Arabic) are:

  • To undertake research in the development of talent and creativity and creative education.

  • Develop technical standards in scientific talent and creativity for the Arab environment in general and Saudi Arabia in particular.

  • Develop the identification, teaching and support of talented and creative people with special needs,

  • Strengthen local expertise through scientific meetings in local universities and the Arab world and develop joint scientific research.

  • Secure knowledge transfer in gifted education through organisation of and participation in seminars, conferences and workshops regionally and internationally.

  • Publish books and journals in these fields.

This is followed by a table of activities that the Chair will undertake which mentions: a pilot project to develop a battery of identification tests (which may or may not be the Aurora Battery referred to above); the translation of gifted education studies into Arabic; and a series of national studies to determine the proportion of national intelligence, and compare global proportions’ (presumably a reference to recent work on smart fraction theory)

There is also an advisory group which includes several of the consultants listed above. For many this may be the full extent of their relationship with the Centre.

Effectiveness

The Strategic Plan includes lots of performance indicators, though there is some confusion with outputs and a tendency to emphasise the quantitative over tangible measures of quality and impact:

  • Increase the range of research undertaken and the quantity of research articles published annually.

  •  Increase the range of collaborative ventures locally, regionally and internationally;
  • Win regional and international prizes for the quality of research undertaken

  •  Increase by 30% annually the number of applicants to the Centre’s programmes.
  • Increase annually the number of training sessions on giftedness and creativity provided.

  •  Increase by 20% requests to the Centre for endorsement of their gifted education programmes
  • Increase the percentage of satisfied participants in the Centre’s academic programmes and stakeholders satisfied with endorsement processes.

  •  Introduce a PhD in giftedness and creativity.
  • Develop a charter to regulate the education of the gifted and talented learners in higher education institutions and develop an action plan to enact these regulations.

  •  Increase the number of requests from local, regional and international institutions ‘to develop regulations concerning the education of the gifted and talented’ and the number of institutions adopting these regulations.
  • Organise an annual seminar or conference on giftedness and creativity

  • Increase the number of published educational bulletins on giftedness and creativity

There is a hyperlink to an Annual Report (in Arabic) which presumably conveys strong progress to date against these indicators.

Now that there is a triumvirate of players in Saudi gifted education it will be interesting to monitor how effectively they work together since border disputes are certain to occur and there will inevitably be tensions underlying the relationships between the parties involved.

GP

September 2011

One thought on “Saudi Arabia – National Research Centre for Giftedness and Creativity (NRCGC)

  1. It will be interesting to follow the development of international relationships between the Saudis and elsewhere as well as resulting collaboration. It is time for the world to wake up and take note of “hot-spots” in the gifted community and the need to form a more perfect union. Global interests require global co-operation.

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