A Bold Step in Broadly the Right Direction…But There’s a Big But!


 

I can no longer resist the temptation. It is time to enter the fray, so here is my substantive contribution to the US NAGC Bold Step debate on giftedness as a trait versus talent development through gifted education. My own bold step, if you will.

The title of this post rather gives the game away, telling you broadly what I think.

Some of the more vociferous advocates of trait-based giftedness may choose to abandon it at this point as a consequence. But I hope the vast majority of more open-minded readers will follow the argument to its conclusion before forming an opinion.

What is the Bold Step?

I want to begin by describing in some detail the nexus of ideas that has aroused so much debate within what I might call the gifted and talented community.

It is vital that we are all entirely clear what the Bold Step is, because there has been a tendency – for critics especially – to reinterpret the arguments and to respond in somewhat confrontational terms.

The debate I am joining was prompted by an article that appeared initially in Compass Points, the newsletter of the National Association for Gifted Children in the United States.

(Because of the potential confusion with the organisation of the same name here in the UK, I will refer to the US operation as US NAGC and the UK equivalent as UK NAGC. And, if you will allow me a momentary aside, isn’t it high time that these two entities formed a mutually beneficial alliance?)

The article in question was released under the name of Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, NAGC’s President. She was drawing on ideas set out in her Presidential Address, given at the NAGC’s 58th Annual Convention, held in New Orleans in November 2011.

It was also published on 18 November on the NAGC US Blog ‘Parenting for High Potential’ which, unlike Compass Points, is fully accessible to those who are not currently US NAGC members.

The article contains highlights from the Address (the original transcript of the Address does not seem to be available online) which I summarise as follows:

  • Gifted education has often been marginalised within wider education debate. This despite ‘important and significant research studies’ which have shown that gifted education ‘methods and practices have value…for a broader range of students’. Work on closing achievement gaps is highlighted, but gifted education also provides solutions relevant to:

‘Raising the international standing of our students’ achievement, educating students for creativity and 21st Century skills, and preparing the next generation of innovators, creators and entrepreneurs.’

  • A significant cause of this marginalisation is disagreement within the gifted community:

‘Because of conflicts within our field regarding our basic core – ie ‘who are gifted children?’ and ‘what is the goal of gifted education?’’

  • There is ‘a huge gulf’ between theory and thinking on one hand and practice in schools on the other (the emphases that follow are mine):

‘Research and theory has been focused on the concept of talent development for almost 30 years, with an emphasis on giftedness as a state one grows into and acquires as a result of learning and achievement; as a domain specific process that occurs differently within areas such as music and mathematics; and as an activity that requires different supports and programs for children at different points in their development. Practice within our field, however, is largely focused on giftedness as a stable trait of the individual that can be identified through testing and identification and is associated with unique personality and psychological characteristics directly as a result of giftedness. As a result, we have programs that are driven by identification methods rather than service models and rightly criticized for focusing on too narrow a group of learners.’

  • This gulf must be bridged if ‘gifted education, as a field, is to remain viable’ and impact on education as a whole. The recommended way forward is to  adopt talent development as ‘the unifying concept’ of gifted education and ‘the basis for our practice’:

‘To do so would put our field more in line with other areas of psychological research that support our field (e.g. expertise, positive psychology); allow us to engage with others in academic fields that are interested in knowing how to attract and educate talented individuals to their fields (e.g. chemistry, physics); attract more people from fields not currently well represented in NAGC such as the performing arts or even athletics; and most importantly, give us a platform from which to talk to educators about national education problems such as the achievement gap or reforming schools and to demonstrate that our key practices can address these problems because they are applicable to a broader range of students.’

Only this single option is proposed – no alternatives are entertained, or evaluated to determine their respective strengths and weaknesses. That was, on reflection, a significant tactical mistake.

To summarise still further, Olszewski-Kubilius is arguing that practice should follow (some) academic theory in placing talent development centre stage rather than giftedness.

This has created a perceived tension between the respective positions of some academics and some parents which has bedevilled the debate ever since.

It would mean distancing US NAGC from the idea of giftedness as ‘a stable trait…associated with unique personality and psychological characteristics’ and prioritising instead the development of giftedness through learning and achievement and regarding it as domain-specific.

That would be expected to shift emphasis away from identification towards provision – through effective challenge and support for the full range of gifted learners.

Fish Again courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Subsequent Amplification

These arguments were developed in a further undated statement by Olszewski-Kubilius published on US NAGC’s website called ‘Continuing the Conversation

She emphasises at the outset that the purpose of the Presidential Address and Compass Points article was to broadcast ‘a call to unity’.

This would suggest that she seriously misjudged the position, since those two interventions had  the exactly opposite effect!

Indeed her admission that there has been a mixture of ‘supportive and critical feedback’ rather suggests that it has instead highlighted differences within the gifted and talented community, signally failing to establish broad consensus on a way forward.

The new article begins by repeating the claim that talent development has long been the focus of research (though now the duration of this trend is slightly shorter at ‘over 25 years’).

It is also ‘embodied in [US NAGC’s] current Pre-K Grade 12 Gifted Education Programming Standards’ and ‘reflected in a variety of program models that exist within gifted centers and school districts all across the country’.

This is no doubt a response to the allegation that it is entirely a research construct, beloved of academics but with little practical relevance.

She gives as examples of practical talent development her own Project Excite  – supporting ‘talented under-represented minority students to qualify for honors classes in math and science when they enter high school’ – and ‘programs for highly gifted children…who are in the top 1% in terms of their math and/or verbal ability’:

‘Talent development, either as a concept or a practice, does not exclude nor diminish services for gifted children. Rather, talent development expands our services and programming to support a range of high ability learners with different needs.’

This makes the additional point that a talent development approach can serve highly gifted learners as well as those from poor backgrounds with unfulfilled potential. It tackles the argument that a talent development approach deflects attention away from the former to focus predominantly on the latter. We shall return to this question of the relative inclusiveness of a talent development approach.

The second article concludes with reflection on the political realities while continuing to develop the themes already introduced:

  • As Javits funding disappears, talent development strategies ‘offer a productive framework for continued support’ in the future. There is a cross-reference to US NAGC’s 2010-2015 Vision and Strategic Framework with the following gloss:

‘NAGC seeks to share programme and service models that will serve all high-potential students who can benefit from our best practices. The goal is achieving an optimal match between the gifted students, their needs and characteristics, and the program and services provided’.

  • Such talent development strategies and research studies provide evidence with wider-ranging impact ‘regarding what works to raise achievement and how to better identify hidden talents and potential amongst children’.
  • A  second cross-reference to NAGC’s own mission statement emphasises that the new positioning is intended as a response to marginalisation:

‘in part, to support and engage in research and development, professional development, advocacy, and collaboration with other organizations and agencies that strive to improve the quality of education for all students’.

  • Given the evidence that gifted education research and practice is under-funded and teachers are ill-prepared to support gifted learners, there is a pressing need to strengthen advocacy for gifted education:

‘Talent development conversations give us a bridge to general education that will yield more advocates and supporters in schools and ultimately improve education for gifted learners. With a focus on identifying and nurturing a range of gifted students, including traditionally under-served gifted students, it resonates with policy makers whose support we need to fund gifted programs and services.’

 

A Third Effort at Clarification

The Olszewski-Kubilius position is further refined in a third contribution, again undated, called ‘Clarifying the Conversation’.

This is framed as a response to

‘The thoughtful conversations taking place in our online communities and on gifted support blogs. We appreciate the spirited discussion that will, invariably, lead to a positive future for our community and the high-ability children we all seek to support.’

The choice of the word ‘invariably’ is curious. It is not immediately obvious why the ‘spirited discussion’ should result in a positive outcome for US NAGC or for the wider gifted education community.

This third piece is oddly drafted throughout. It argues that three different publications ‘have been conflated in what is otherwise a very valuable conversation for our community’.

One of these is the Olszewski-Kubilius Presidential Address and subsequent article.

There is a peculiarly defensive statement of her academic pedigree which seems rather incongruous:

‘NAGC’s President Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, a Professor of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, has been the Director of the Center for Talent Development for 25 years. Paula has published more than 80 articles and book chapters on talent development issues, particularly the effects of accelerated educational programs and the needs of special populations of gifted children. Each year the presidential address is crafted to challenge viewpoints, expand our thinking, and provide a perspective on the field of gifted education, and Paula’s address achieved this.’

It as if the writer feels it necessary to respond to allegations that these opinions emanate from an upstart ‘Johnny-come-lately’ who doesn’t have the first idea of the realities of giftedness and gifted education.

The final sentence might be interpreted as a degree of rowing back, establishing clear blue water between the Bold Step and US NAGC’s official policy. The adoption of the past tense ‘achieved this’ appears to want to put a line under the debate and move on.

The two publications on the other side of the stretch of clear blue water are:

‘It reflects content, language, and format that customary [sic] for academics who achieve full professor positions at top universities.  While the authors’ are active members of NAGC, the article does not reflect the position of the organization.’

The second part of this is admirably clear, but what does the first part mean? Is it suggesting that full professors at top universities write material that is irrelevant or, alternatively, that lesser NAGC members are incapable of understanding such material, which is simply beyond them? It seems rather insulting to one group or the other and serves no useful purpose.

Redefining Giftedness for a New Century

The NAGC position paper defines gifted learners as:

  • the top 10% of achievers and
  • those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude

in one or more domains.

The exact text is:

‘Those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).’

It advocates a lifelong talent development model, but doesn’t develop the adult component of this. It also suggests that younger gifted learners may be identified through achievement or aptitude, but that achievement becomes the more prevalent identifier as learners reach adolescence:

‘The development of ability or talent is a lifelong process. It can be evident in young children as exceptional performance on tests and/or other measures of ability or as a rapid rate of learning, compared to other students of the same age, or in actual achievement in a domain. As individuals mature through childhood to adolescence, however, achievement and high levels of motivation in the domain become the primary characteristics of their giftedness. Various factors can either enhance or inhibit the development and expression of abilities.’

Educators must provide gifted learners with:

‘Differentiated educational experiences, both of a general nature and, increasingly over time, targeting those domains in which they demonstrate the capacity for high levels of performance. Such differentiated educational experiences consist of adjustments in the level, depth, and pacing of curriculum and outside-of-school programs to match their current levels of achievement and learning rates. Marked differences among gifted learners sometimes require additional and unusual interventions. Additional support services include more comprehensive assessment, counseling, parent education, and specially designed programs, including those typically afforded older students.’

Some learners may underachieve for a variety of reasons:

‘due to environmental circumstances such as limited opportunities to learn as a result of poverty, discrimination, or cultural barriers; due to physical or learning disabilities; or due to motivational or emotional problems. Identification of these students will need to emphasize aptitude rather than relying only on demonstrated achievement. Such students will need challenging programs and additional support services if they are to develop their ability and realize optimal levels of performance.’

It is implied – though not stated explicitly – that gifted learners of school age can become gifted adults with the right support and the right personal skills and capabilities:

‘As individuals transition to appropriate higher education and specialized training, and eventually to independence, they will profit from targeted guidance and support. Continuing high levels of exceptional adult performance will require, in addition to advanced knowledge and skills, high levels of motivation, perseverance, and creative problem-solving. Exceptionally capable adults are among those most likely to contribute to the advancement of a society and its scientific, humanistic, and social goals’.

The position paper culminates with a warning to education policy-makers that:

‘The gifted persons described here will comprise a large proportion of the leadership of the next generation in the arts, sciences, letters, politics, etc. If we provide this group with a mediocre education we doom ourselves to a mediocre society a generation forward. Educators know how to provide an excellent education for these students, but it will not happen by accident or benign neglect…A moral society must care for and enhance the development of all of its citizens. Specific investment in the gifted is an important way to build a society that can help solve the society’s needs with creative innovations and organizations.’

From a personal perspective, I find it hard to object to any of this statement, which seems to me to explain, rather clearly and succinctly, what gifted education is all about. I might quibble about the 10% figure, but it is a minor concern.

But the statement certainly does not satisfy all those who would prefer a trait theory of giftedness to be foregrounded – and one even complains bitterly about its prolixity, as we shall see later.

 

Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education

It would not be appropriate – nor is there space in this post – to give a full treatment of the paper by Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik and Worrell, so I will draw solely on the core definitions.

The paper proposes the following definition of giftedness, which is broadly in line with the NAGC’s, but not entirely so (my emphases are designed to highlight the subtle distinctions):

‘Giftedness is the manifestation of performance or production that is clearly at the upper end of the distribution in a talent domain even relative to that of other high-functioning individuals in that domain. Further, giftedness can be viewed as developmental, in that in the beginning stages, potential is the key variable; in later stages, achievement is the measure of giftedness; and in fully developed talents, eminence is the basis on which this label is granted. Psychosocial variables play an essential role in the manifestation of giftedness at every developmental stage. Both cognitive and psychosocial variables are malleable and need to be deliberately cultivated.’

There is no explicit reference here to 10% per domain and the relationship between potential and achievement (and ultimately eminence) is seen in sequential and developmental terms.

The authors comment:

‘Our goal here is to provide a definition that is useful across all domains of endeavor and acknowledges several perspectives about giftedness on which there is a fairly broad scientific consensus: Giftedness (a) reflects the values of society; (b) is typically manifested in actual outcomes, especially in adulthood; (c) is domain specific; (d) is the result of the coalescing of biological, pedagogical, psychological, and psychosocial factors; and (e) is relative not just to the ordinary (e.g., a child with above-average art ability compared to peers) but to the extraordinary (e.g., an artist who revolutionizes a field of art).’

The paper defines the two different perspectives – trait-based giftedness and talent development through gifted education – in terms of their expected outcomes.

It argues that, for proponents of giftedness, the expected outcome must be self-actualisation, whereas for supporters of talent development it must be eminence (though the structure of the final sentence contains a beguiling hint that there may be other alternative formulations):

‘If one accepts the view of giftedness as a hereditary characteristic, it follows that the field simply needs to learn how to reliably identify it. A contrasting view associates giftedness with accomplishment…From this perspective, what determines whether individuals are gifted or not is not who they are but what they do. From this point of view, it really does not matter how high an individual’s IQ is if that person never makes a substantive and substantial contribution to some field of endeavor. Given that most contributions are made by adults and there is a growing literature on the importance of talent development, one can argue that giftedness in children is probably best described as potential. This suggests that to maintain the label of “gifted” in adolescence and adulthood requires turning potential into outstanding accomplishments…This debate can be formulated in terms of at least two rival views of what gifted education should lead to: self-actualization versus eminence.’

Whereas the NAGC paper allows for the possibility that pre-adolescent and post-adolescent gifted learners may demonstrate either achievement or potential, albeit with one more dominant and then the other, here pre-adolescent learners are assumed only to demonstrate potential, while achievement is associated exclusively with adolescents and adults and, in the latter case at least, this is characterised as  ‘eminence’.

The ‘self-actualisation’ outcome is associated with the idea that the gifted child is emotionally different:

‘Success, from this perspective, is based on gifted children maximizing the development of this emotionally different psyche. Although this view of giftedness is still prevalent in many quarters, there is little empirical support for viewing gifted people as qualitatively different.

Contrastingly, eminence is described in the following terms:

‘Gifted children need to become eminent producers to be labeled gifted as adults, and…society has a right to expect outcomes from its investment in developing children’s gifts. To accomplish the goal of producing eminent adults, society will actually have to invest in developing children’s gifts by studying talent in various domains, assessing the benefits and costs of early specialization, ensuring apprenticeships and mentorships, and supporting psychosocial-skill development. The premise here is that gifted education should have a specific goal. In this case, the goal is to develop the talents of children and youth at the upper ends of the distribution in all fields of endeavor to maximize those individuals’ lifetime contributions to society. The talent-development goal does not mean that self-actualization is not important; rather, the suggestion is that self-actualization should not be the explicit goal of gifted-education programs. In any case, longitudinal studies… make it clear that outstanding accomplishment in the domain of their talent is an important part of the self-actualization of gifted adults.

So this paper is clearly supportive of talent development – and rather dismissive of some of the principles of trait-based giftedness – on the basis of the limited empirical evidence there is for some of those principles – but it also tethers talent development exclusively to the achievement of adult eminence (and trait-based giftedness exclusively to ‘self-actualisation’.

Now I’m Getting Fed Up with Fish courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

 

Opposition to the Bold Step

Several critiques of the Bold Step position have appeared in the six months or so since it was published, some of them rather dismissive, others contributing thoughtful reflections to a complex debate.

I include in the latter category, posts by my colleagues Lisa Conrad on the Gifted Parenting Support blog, as well as these on the Gas Station Without Pumps and Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund blogs.

But I want to single out two more recent contributions, each offering a developed argument for the counter-positions they advocate.

Bold Steps: Best Taken on New Paths

The first ‘Bold Steps: Best Taken on New Paths’ is by Wenda Sheard, who sits on the Board of UK NAGC. It was published in an edition of the Newsletter produced by US NAGC’s Conceptual Foundations Network.

She begins by questioning whether she and Olszewski-Kubilius share a common understanding of the field that NAGC inhabits.

She highlights the distinction between the academics prayed in aid of the Olszewski-Kubilius position and:

‘the psychologists, counselors, therapists, parents, teachers, and administrators who together comprise the bulk of NAGC membership in the United States. Bold Step proponents think NAGC is one field, and that field is their field. NAGC is neither one field, nor their field.

The NAGC I know and appreciate has a long history of involvement by teachers, parents, psychologists, counselors, and school administrators directly involved in meeting the social, emotional, and academic needs of gifted children. Consider for a moment our name—National Association of Gifted Children. In my opinion, our primary “field” should be gifted children, not their education, not their talent development, and not their future worth to society.’

The argument that the one uniting focus of all US NAGC members has to be the children who are referenced in the organisation’s title is well-made, but the logic is strained with the suggestion that certain categories of gifted children may be excluded under the Bold Step approach.

Sheard argues that:

  • Many members have joined US NAGC to help children ‘exhibiting traits of giftedness’, so insistence on a definition that assumes giftedness is ‘a state one grows into and acquires as a result of learning and achievement’ will likely cause many to leave.
  • An unremitting focus on talent development will replace one form of elitism with another since there is a risk that if NAGC chooses to ‘value achievement in lieu of ability and potential’ it might ‘ignore groups of children who most need our help’, because those who have not achieved their potential ‘need even greater levels of support’. These include twice-exceptional learners who cannot reach the ‘achievement standards’ proposed by US NAGC.
  • UK NAGC in the UK uses the term ‘high learning potential’ to:

‘Challenge common misconceptions surrounding giftedness. Since I joined the UK’s NAGC board in 2010, I have heard no controversy over the use of the term in publications and conversations.’

She refers to a recent UK publication on gifted young offenders in which

‘We reaffirmed our belief that not all gifted children who need our support are high achievers’.

Sheard concedes that perfect implementation of the Bold Step proposal would overcome the concerns she has already expressed (though she doesn’t explain why that would be the case). This serves rather to undermine her previous arguments than support them.

She suggests that the Bold Step ‘lacks implementation reality’, but this is essentially the same argument packaged in a slightly different manner:

‘How many of us — especially those of us who spend many hours each day raising, teaching, and counseling gifted children – have energy to devote to a cause so removed from the one we thought NAGC to be? How many of us will realize that if NAGC takes the Bold Step towards non-marginalization, NAGC will no longer adequately represent our children in the margins?’

The proposed approach will compromise US NAGC’s core mission to ‘serve the diverse needs of gifted children’.

Sheard expresses support for much of the content of the longer article ‘Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education’ but hopes that:

‘They proceed in a venue other than NAGC, and… without destroying what many have worked so hard to achieve within NAGC…. Provided they don’t hijack the term “gifted children” and don’t deny the reality that some children are born with higher ranges of intelligence that [sic] other children.

In my opinion, the proposed Bold Step will be most successful if taken elsewhere than inside NAGC. If taken inside NAGC, the Bold Step will result in a fractured organization unable to meet its mission.’

There is consistent evidence of a confusion between favouring particular conceptions of giftedness and excluding some kinds of gifted children which permeates the whole article. Whereas the former may be perfectly justified as a criticism, I am not sure that the latter bears close scrutiny. I will return to this below.

A Defining Moment

The second article is by Jim Delisle, recently Professor of Special Education at Kent State University. Published on Hoagies Gifted Education Page, it was called ‘A Defining Moment’.

Delisle takes a somewhat different tack, though he begins by nailing his colours firmly to the mast, referring to:

‘The situation of gifted children seeking outlets for their innate abilities to see more vivid hues, to hear more subtle sounds, and to experience life in a higher key than others.  These inborn traits of gifted children—as natural to them as their eye color—are what make a gifted child…well, gifted.’

But then he conflates the Bold Step article with the US NAGC position paper, criticising the definition within the latter.

He complains that the definition is too long, but it also has practical limitations because:

‘It is her [Paula O-K’s] contention—and the underpinning of this new definition—that giftedness is not a set of personal, innate traits but rather, the expression of particular talents in music, math or any other ‘structured area of activity’ referred to in the definition.

I find this approach to giftedness both utilitarian and selfish. By making the main job of gifted child educators to be talent developers, we are likely to put ourselves out of business—after all, aren’t all teachers developers of their students’ talents?  Our field’s uniqueness lies not in the curriculum we offer our students nor the educational methods we use to develop their talents; rather, our field’s focus since it began a century ago has been to recognize the unique cognitive and affective facets of a gifted child’s life and then finesse school experiences to enhance these traits.  By removing these cognitive and psychological aspects from the core of our definition, we are neglecting the very reasons our field of study came to exist initially.  That is both shortsighted and rude.’

Well yes, all teachers are the developers of their students’ talents – and, in a context where gifted learners are integrated into mainstream schools, all teachers must be equipped to support gifted learners.

This objection can only come from an old-school advocate of separate ‘pull-out’ provision for gifted learners provided entirely by trained specialist teachers.

The decision to build a definition around talent development rather than traits seems to me a reasonable and  defensible choice that does not deserve to be bad-mouthed as ‘utilitarian’, ‘selfish’, ‘shortsighted’ or ‘rude’. It is only a definition, after all.

Somewhat inconsistently, he quotes some other earlier definitions of giftedness,  then admits that one’s choice of definition is irrelevant, then says what matters is that NAGC’s approach ignores the ‘entire body of literature’ that defines gifted learners from a psychological rather than an educational perspective.

But then he moves on to attack the domain-specific nature of NAGC’s definition:

‘An overall ability to think in deeper or more complex ways apart from a specific domain does not constitute giftedness.  Using this new NAGC view, giftedness lies in something you do as opposed to being someone you are. In this new world of domain-specific giftedness, then, people are gifted only part of the time—the times when they are “acting” that way.’

This is rather convoluted but it is a fair point that, under US NAGC’s definition, giftedness is not a universally applicable state of being, but depends entirely on potential or achievement in specific domains. It is conceivable that some will be able to demonstrate this across many domains; perhaps unlikely that they can do so across all.

To take a crude example, a chess prodigy need not also be an elite athlete, or vice versa. But the chess prodigy is still a chess prodigy, even when competing in an athletic event – and vice-versa of course!

Delisle continues:

‘A child with a measured IQ of 145 is qualitatively different from his or her classmates whose IQs hover near 100. For NAGC to adopt a definition of giftedness that dismisses and ignores the reality of innate intellectual differences in deference to a performance-based definition shows me that the Association itself—The National Association for Gifted Children– has become an anachronism.  Let’s just rename the Organization for what it truly is: “The National Association for Talent Development” and dismiss giftedness altogether.’

This takes us back to a narrow conception of giftedness based exclusively on IQ scores which many in the field would regard as antediluvian. But I don’t think it is necessarily the case that NAGC’s definition ‘ignores the reality of innate intellectual differences’ – it chooses to reflect them through the lens of domain-specific ability.

The second part of this quotation is also logically shaky. After all, US NAGC is not the National Association of Trait-Based Giftedness. It is simply offering a somewhat broader definition of gifted children than Delisle would prefer.

The article concludes with an expression of concern that there has been no consultation over this change of tack – by which he means the NAGC’s definition (which is two years old) rather than the Bold Step.

Hey, Those Aren’t Fish! Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

 

What Are We to Make of All This?

Though these two critiques are very different in some respects, they are alike in one particular – they both see schism as the logical outcome of the Bold Step proposition.

They both want to return to a world in which trait-based giftedness is the defining feature of the US NAGC approach, replacing the new emphasis on talent development. For they see the two as fundamentally irreconcilable positions.

But it is too late to stuff the talent development geni back into its bottle, and they are wrong not to contemplate a negotiated way forward that reflects their views alongside those advocated in the entirely separate documents produced by Olzsewski-Kubilius and the NAGC Board of Directors.

That is both disappointing and a failure of imagination. I am not sure that US NAGC or Olszewski-Kubilius herself see these distinctions in such sharp terms. They believe they are being inclusive of all gifted learners, though they too have been remiss in failing to explore the definitional middle ground.

 

A Broad Church

The nature of this disagreement between advocates of very different positions on giftedness and gifted education is the perfect illustration of how broad a church there is within the field – and how little real effort has been devoted to building consensus up to now.

I drew attention to this fact in my very first post on this blog, in May 2010, almost exactly two years ago. Little has changed since.

The post is called ‘What are the Key Issues in Global Gifted Education?’

The basic premiss is that one can categorise members of the gifted community according to where they sit on each of three related polarities:

  • Nature versus Nurture: where one extreme is represented by those who believe that giftedness is predominantly inherited (a trait); the other by those who maintain that it is predominantly achieved through effort (typically exerted in a specific domain and an educational setting).
  • Excellence versus Equity: with one pole representing those who see gifted education as a meritocratic business concerned with achieving the highest possible standards – the other representing those who highlight the identification and fulfilment of untapped potential and the overcoming of barriers to do so.
  • Special Needs versus Personalisation: the former focused on the idea of giftedness as a special need and gifted learners as being different, with unique social and emotional needs; the latter regarding gifted education as one wing of universal personalisation to meet individual learning needs, with  gifted learners regarded as no different to their peers.

These are of course the extreme positions – individual beliefs will tend towards one or the other but may be more or less pronounced.

My post argues that members of the gifted community typically favour one side or the other across all three sets of polarities. So nature, excellence and special needs tend to go together, as do nurture, equity and personalisation. It is comparatively rare to find people with a ‘spiky profile’.

It notes that:

  • There has been a shift in recent years, away from the first of these sets and towards the second, as our conceptions of giftedness have grown relatively broader (or as more members of the community have broadened their conceptions).
  • The higher the level of giftedness being addressed (or, more accurately, the more rarified one’s definition of a gifted learner), the more likely one is to favour the nature, excellence and special needs perspective.

It concludes:

‘Any community of G&T educators needs to understand these tensions, so as to accommodate the very different perspectives that may be held by its members.’

In my view, the US NAGC working paper and the subsequent Bold Step proposal mark a desire to shift the organisation further across towards the nurture, equity and personalisation agenda and – as such – are consistent with a broader shift in that direction across the gifted community.

The opposition to this shift is primarily amongst those who favour the nature, excellence and special needs polarities, either because of their beliefs about the nature of giftedness or because they are focused primarily on the needs of highly and profoundly gifted individuals, or both.

 

An Aside about Elitism

Wenda Sheard makes an effort to embrace the equity position, arguing that US NAGC – in its efforts to avoid one kind of elitism – is guilty of another. But her argument rests on the idea that US NAGC is dismissive of unfulfilled potential.

As we have seen, in ‘Continuing the Conversation’ Olszewski-Kubilius is explicit that her formulation includes support for disadvantaged minority ethnic – and therefore underachieving – gifted learners. The same logic extends it to the disadvantaged populations that Sheard mentions.

We have also seen – from Deslisle’s counterblast – that the US NAGC working paper is at pains to include potential in its definition (though this is expressed in terms of ‘aptitude’ and ‘ability’) alongside high achievement:

‘Those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement.’

And, thirdly, we have seen that the longer academic paper goes so far as to appropriate the concept of ‘potential’ to cover the entirety of pre-adolescent gifted education:

‘Given that most contributions are made by adults and there is a growing literature on the importance of talent development, one can argue that giftedness in children is probably best described as potential. This suggests that to maintain the label of “gifted” in adolescence and adulthood requires turning potential into outstanding accomplishments…’

There are no firm grounds for assuming that US NAGC is setting to one side the needs of any group of disadvantaged gifted learners – indeed their definition is much more accommodating to these groups than a narrower definition of trait-based giftedness would be.

Both Sheard and Deslisle risk the charge of elitism being levelled at their own positions. It could reasonably be supposed that they represent the interests of highly and profoundly gifted children who may be more likely to be seen as having a generic gifted ‘trait’ that identifies as a special need.

They take care to avoid this trap, but such a position is more overt in the wider criticism fielded by US NAGC. One gets the distinct sense that some advocates for this relatively small group are unhappy that NAGC is now focused on over 10% of learners in each domain.

No doubt they worry that their specific concerns – which are often about the sheer inability of the education system to cope with their children’s needs – will be set aside in the pursuit of improved achievement at the top end, much of it focused on narrowing the gap between attainers from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

Where Do I Stand?

It will come as no surprise that I am largely sympathetic towards the position advanced by Olzsewski-Kubilius and I have already admitted that I have few difficulties with the US NAGC Position Paper that has become associated with it.

I personally prefer an approach that

  • Focuses on gifted education rather than giftedness
  • Adopts a broad and catholic definition of gifted learners
  • Recognises high achievement and unfulfilled potential as equally within scope of that definition
  • Accepts that giftedness is domain-specific

I also understand the pragmatic advantages in focussing NAGC on a much wider range of learners and on the practicalities of personalisation in mainstream education settings. I can see that such positioning will enable it to engage more easily with and influence wider educational interests, so gaining significantly more traction and leverage.

For a big part of the problem with the gifted field has been its silo mentality and the associated unwillingness of the wider education lobby to engage with it – rightly diagnosed as marginalisation by Olszewski-Kubilius.

Perhaps perversely, the only element I have difficulty with has not been raised by Sheard or Delisle (though it does feature within the post on Gas Station Without Pumps).

That is the assumption – not within the Bold Step article, though possibly implicit within the NAGC Position Paper and certainly explicit in the longer academic paper – that the purpose of gifted education is adult eminence:

‘Gifted children need to become eminent producers to be labeled gifted as adults, and…society has a right to expect outcomes from its investment in developing children’s gifts. To accomplish the goal of producing eminent adults, society will actually have to invest in developing children’s… The premise [sic] here is that gifted education should have a specific goal. In this case, the goal is to develop the talents of children and youth at the upper ends of the distribution in all fields of endeavor to maximize those individuals’ lifetime contributions to society.’

And that the only alternative to this is ‘self-actualisation’:

‘Success, from this perspective, is based on gifted children maximizing the development of this emotionally different psyche. Although this view of giftedness is still prevalent in many quarters, there is little empirical support for viewing gifted people as qualitatively different.’

I have no argument with the notion that gifted education has an economic value and benefit, though that can be measured quite easily through the rate of return on the qualifications they achieve, so need not depend on achieving a position of eminence (which is itself rather hard to define in a meaningfully consistent manner).

I oppose the pursuit of eminence on two more fundamental grounds:

  • First, there is no reason whatsoever why the end of gifted education should not be to enable each gifted learner to achieve as highly as possible in areas of strength as well as areas of weakness while they remain in education and before they attain adulthood. This can be measured by success in end of school examinations or other performance assessments, or through progression on to higher education. There is no need to make a connection between gifted education and adult eminence – the outcomes of the education process are a valid end in themselves.
  • Second, the idea of adult eminence as the end of gifted education rests on a set of false assumptions about typical progression routes for gifted learners. We know that very few outstandingly gifted learners go on to demonstrate any kind of eminence as gifted adults. Moreover, it is rare for a learner to continue to develop his or her area of greatest strength in his or her career as an adult. That may be true of a few musicians perhaps, a few creative artists, maybe a few chess players. Just occasionally, an exceptional childhood mathematician continues to demonstrate the same outstanding ability as an adult. But most gifted learners move into higher education courses that do not match exactly their areas of greatest domain-specific strength – and few will pursue a career that relates directly to their domain(s) of giftedness. In a nutshell, the concept of gifted education as the pursuit of adult eminence is at odds with the reality of the adult lives of gifted learners.

 

The Way Forward

Leaving aside my personal opinions on these matters of detail, my fundamental point is the one expressed in my first blog post – that we must collectively aim for a consensual position that all can embrace.

Because there are such different positions within the field, we must recognise this diversity as a strength, or it will become a weakness. We must avoid if at all possible narrow definitions that alienate some parts of the gifted community.

If the Bold Step is to be criticised, it is on those grounds. For it is clear from the critical response that US NAGC has not yet hit on a formulation that all its members can support.

The main criticism to lay at Olszewski-Kubilius’s door is that she is forcing the very fragmentation that causes the marginalisation of which she complains.

That basic understanding – that diversity can be a strength – underpins the development of the GT Voice network in the UK. I believe US NAGC must move in a similar direction, taking care not to alienate those who appreciate and understand the broad direction of travel that Olszewski-Kubilius is advocating (quite rightly in my view).

The same debate is surfacing within UK NAGC – and exactly the same rule applies.

We must shift the remit of both organisations in such a fashion that they accommodate talent development through gifted education, and position us more centre-stage as far as the wider education lobby is concerned.

But we must not do so at the expense of those who are, first and foremost, concerned with the social and emotional traits of giftedness (no matter how much some of us would like to do so).

We need to find a formulation that draws people together under a common cause. I can describe its broad nature though the words I use may not be quite right for some.

We must sidestep these arguments about the nature of giftedness, committing together to meet the full range of needs of all children and young people who fall – at any stage – within the upper end of the ability range, whether they are

  • high achieving or demonstrating untapped potential
  • demonstrating traits of generic giftedness or showing promise in a specific domain
  • advantaged or disadvantaged (through any number of causes) and so struggling to overcome those obstacles to achieve their potential.

Some might complain that this potentially extends the remit to include all children and young people.

While I do not personally subscribe to that view, I do believe that the gifted and talented community should be broad enough to accommodate those who do so, just as it should accommodate those who believe that none of us is truly gifted, and all points in between.

For we are a broad alliance of common interests – we are not required to worship at the same altar (or any altar for that matter) nor must we share exactly the same beliefs.

So if I were counselling Paula Olszewski-Kubilius I would suggest she begins a rapprochement on those terms, before positions become even more entrenched.

 

GP

May 2012

Advertisements

Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-Up: Volume 7


This is the Seventh Edition of my monthly review of @GiftedPhoenix Twitter activity, covering the period from 5 April to 9 May 2012 inclusive.

My Twitter feed is almost exclusively dedicated to gifted education, wider English education policy and associated topics. I am to make these posts a fairly comprehensive record, incorporating all those Tweets that carry a hyperlink to an online resource while discarding those that are merely badinage.

I haven’t rechecked all the hyperlinks, so apologies if any are broken.

The categorisation I’ve used on this occasion is slightly revised. There are three sections on:

  • Gifted Education Worldwide, with sub-sections for each of the five continents and, separately, for the UK;
  • Gifted Education: Thematic, with sub-sections for Twice-exceptional; Creativity and Innovation, Intelligence and Neuroscience; and, finally, Commentary and Research;
  • Related Educational Issues, which is focused predominantly on developments in England and is broken down into several thematic subsections – several more than I have used previously.

The final section covers some material of interest to gifted educators but also extends into wider areas of domestic education policy. It should provide a fairly comprehensive overview of most of the live topics in English education policy, though with a significant bias towards the schools sector

The vast majority of these are my own Tweets, but a few are modified tweets or retweets of originals sent by others. I have removed addresses and hashtags – except where these are integral to the tweet – and corrected a few typos. The Tweets in each section are broadly in chronological order, though I have grouped some together where that makes sense.

Otherwise this is largely an unadulterated record of proceedings, though with added fish! I hope you find it useful.

Gifted Education Worldwide

The 2012 Torrance Legacy Creative Writing Awards: http://t.co/fPTEqEL

The WCGTC 2013 Conference blog, including part of the speaker line-up: http://t.co/L9mE2jTv

Free webinar series: Supporting Gifted Students with 21st Century Strategies: https://t.co/jDuAsr81

Brief report of the APEC Future Scientist Conference in Java: 120 gifted learners from 16 (or 9?) countries involved: http://t.co/qfGVlXyw

Mother’s Day SENGinar on mother/daughter relationships of profoundly gifted girls http://t.co/oTgSbeDf  – early am 11/5

WCGTC marketing for 2013 conference in NZ: http://t.co/W9LYOPcB – I love the geographical optimism of slide 2!

Round-up of summer professional development in gifted education: http://t.co/TecHVufz  Mostly US but includes @Begabungs SL events

#gtchat transcript from last week on Adult Giftedness: http://t.co/h92aKlsK

The transcript for tonight’s chat on Role Models For Gifted Children: http://t.co/YMV6lR5B

Gifted Underachievement with @Josh_Shaine, transcript 18/4 has been chirpified! http://t.co/jhTGCSNj

Transcript for last Sunday’s #gtie, “Cyberbullying and Gifted Education”: http://t.co/eNFEA47L

Transcript from tonight’s #gtie: 5 Give-away Signs of Giftedness for Teachers http://t.co/PmnpvAqH

Africa

Kenyan pupils call for ‘a curriculum review to incorporate competences, skills and talent development at all levels’: http://t.co/Ls2B31Ye

Americas

FICOMUNDYT IX Congreso Iberoamericano de Superdotacion, Talento y Creatividad, October 2012: http://t.co/BsM9OahX

Puerto Rico Legislature Considers Laws to Boost Gifted Children http://t.co/WuOm2jaj

Gifted trivia: what’s the connection between Francoys Gagne and Star Wars? Answer: http://t.co/8eVC19Zv (I should do more of these!)

National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT) in US has College Board agreement to run SAT test in summer school: http://t.co/yKcLRwO3

Gifted Jobs: Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts needs a Director of Admissions and Outreach http://t.co/e2apKqQS

NYC gifted kindergarten entry articles: http://t.co/5YT1tVhx and http://t.co/dYaAomjx  and http://t.co/eJPyCEhj

More about gifted kindergarten admissions in NYC: http://t.co/zl2aR9On and http://t.co/AarrffVZ and http://t.co/Y4ZBbKLQ

Another one on NYC gifted kindergarten admissions: http://t.co/5NlwwCj2 – It’s not called Gotham City for nothing!

Coaching and private tuition strengthen their fiendish grip in NYC: http://t.co/p68hjs7f

Rundown of gifted and talented schools in NYC including hyperlinks to their websites: http://t.co/mGVxa2dT

Study calls for NYC to test all kindegarten pupils for giftedness since many poor families don’t use service: http://t.co/MerhSx9I

Yet more on the impenetrable mystery that is NYC gifted education policy: http://t.co/mbXaFAhG

Belin-Blank outlines its summer professional development programme: http://t.co/lGVSdem4

Online gifted education as an option in Minnesota: http://t.co/Z0Y7mIJH

A second US blogger posts on distance learning for gifted kids: ttp://t.co/dEeYwFQ2

Are gifted learners informationally fluent? CTD is aiming to ensure they are: http://t.co/xR9mYg3O

Updated links to test scores for all major talent searches http://t.co/JJI3OGkm – plus other test score percentiles

Valerie Bostwick, a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara, plans an economic evaluation of gifted + talented magnet schools: http://t.co/KTO4HmJK

Upcoming Duke Conference featuring Project Bright Idea, applying gifted education approaches for all learners http://t.co/zk1OKTWH

Carolyn Callahan appears for defence in US gifted lawsuit; contests Donna Ford’s testimony for prosecution http://t.co/vM1aVFWi

A second report on the Elgin gifted education lawsuit: http://t.co/8xP5eRFF

Gifted jobs: DC Public Schools (no less) is looking for a Director of Gifted Education: http://t.co/JnCQDcfp ($89-97K)

Petition to Vermont Commissioner of Education to provide adequate public education for gifted children: http://t.co/RA5yuxqu

Deb Delisle confirmed as nation’s new assistant secretary of education  http://t.co/TmQmBtLm

Education acceleration bill heads to Gov. Rick Scott FL  http://t.co/HtnpdPjP

Norwich (Connecticut) plans 40th anniversary reunion for participants of 1973 elementary gifted programme: http://t.co/p4nVGMZO

On Native American gifted education: http://t.co/cGX0y5UE

Whitworth University confirms who is sponsoring their $3m dollar endowed chair in gifted education: http://t.co/Ax7izgdA

Asia

Taiwan has reviewed its talent development policies and will produce a White Paper in the next year: http://t.co/u17N986A

Taiwan moves to improve quality of English, especially in rural schools: http://t.co/tzVqOXtX

Oman follows Taiwan in declaring need for a National Talent Development Plan http://t.co/ucH6ui8Y  Can we have one of those?

Philippines’ Department of Education increases SPED funding (including gifted education) by 56% http://t.co/0dn1J0Sz

On this otherwise quiet gifted news day I bring you the results of the aforementioned Philippines run for gifted kids! http://t.co/uoQotTXJ

Questions asked in Singapore Parliament today about the impact of their Gifted Education Programme (GEP): http://t.co/H786Y2ed

Malaysia’s worried about failure to progress to Harvard places: a target for the Permata Pintar gifted programme? http://t.co/rHfqqjjy

Upcoming HKAGE Professional Development Seminars by messrs Porath, van Tassel-Baska and Chandler: http://t.co/L1t8jkDz

Hong Kong’s 2012 Biennial Gifted Education Conference in May is another van Tassel-Baska/Chandler show: http://t.co/kBoK90mn

Who’s in the running to establish a new university campus on a premium Hong Kong site? http://t.co/l342XWyE

The pressure’s on to secure a place at one of Vietnam’s High Schools for the Gifted: http://t.co/ak9xFPAV

English medium teaching in Vietnam’s High Schools for the Gifted runs into difficulties: http://t.co/Wwbl0yx9

Vietnam is experiencing a brain drain of gifted students, but only from urban areas: http://t.co/uHjVVWqR

Wow! Israel’s Education Ministry has a ‘super gifted’ programme comprising 15-18 students a year: http://t.co/w77LopBX

Two reports on giftedness and gifted education from Bangalore India: http://t.co/EzrFd381 and http://t.co/0il0lQBG

Looks like ICIE is planning a January 2013 gifted education conference in Chennai India: http://t.co/4oRSilhQ

Arab News carries a short article highly critical of the Saudi gifted programme (Mawhiba): http://t.co/WiP6juTI  Brave!

Gifted jobs: teaching posts in trilingual (Kaz, Rus, Eng) Kazakhstani Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools: http://t.co/MfYO8u89

Australasia

More on Jill Bevan-Brown’s work on gifted Maori learners: http://t.co/tszNKy3k

Access the presentations from the recent giftEDnz conference in NZ: http://t.co/0Jrg8EUn

ERO Report on science in the NZ Curriculum: http://t.co/FqnxI7Zu – notes that gifted learners get favourable treatment in a few schools

Two Sydney Morning Herald pieces on giftedness and gifted education: http://t.co/CYSGF3JK and http://t.co/9qyqnmas

The line-up for Australia’s 13th National Conference on Gifted Education, July 2012: http://t.co/VvLvxHgr

Europe

A report (in sub-standard English) of recent developments in gifted education in Russia: http://t.co/2A4T70BQ

Russia’s Ivanovo Region is opening an orphanage for gifted children: http://t.co/GcTRSd7W with Medvedevian support

El bachillerato de excelencia: igualdad o equidad? http://t.co/6Xm3VfhH

8 razones por las que atender la Alta Capacidad y el Talento http://t.co/MZMmrWTH

Mi hijo tiene alta capacidad, se lo digo? http://t.co/mlYWGLHa

“Mama, no quiero ir al cole, me aburro!” http://t.co/rE7CY4qH

Desarrollar el talento, promover la excelencia: dos exigencias de un sistema educativo mejor http://t.co/ZixCLPZi

Gifted education in Spain – @Begabungs interviews @jtoufi http://t.co/hqinBtPF

The Netherlands Education Ministry on transport for gifted students (in Dutch): http://t.co/ITEzD3q6

The fissure within the Leonardo Foundation, supporting Netherlands gifted education, is made public http://t.co/yKlipbg3 (in Dutch)

Talent I Skolen: http://t.co/m4pn4cU2 – gifted education in Denmark

On gifted education in Norway (in Norwegian): http://t.co/r4vb3kaK

Stortingsmelding 22 og ‘De hoyt presterende elevene’ (in Norwegian): http://t.co/n6djbSze

PISA 2009 data on the proportion of high-achieving learners in Ireland: http://t.co/vZTu8WgF

Interview with Colm O’Reilly of Center For Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI): http://t.co/cc4kg0kb

The speaker line-up at yesterday’s MENSA Greece Conference on Gifted and Talented Children and their needs: http://t.co/jbUfK1xV

CBO is setting up a school for gifted children in Flanders: http://t.co/XTFK2Nij

UK

Pauline Dixon, a UK specialist in development education, including support for disadvantaged gifted learners: http://t.co/nqyrNctJ

More ‘genius children’ coverage from the BBC: http://t.co/iXNeOkO2

A superb Heroes and Heroines Comic produced by Southwark’s gifted kids: http://t.co/T1V2oHlb

Hoping to find out more this morning about IGGY’s future plans: http://t.co/tGPTVBOi

Michelle Obama as ambassador for gifted education: http://t.co/3rLoflIV

Shami Chakrabarti supports the gifted programme at her old school in Stanmore: http://t.co/F8ybmUfe  – a potential  GT Voice ambassador?

Gifted Jobs: IGGY Warwick requires a Sales and Marketing Manager: http://t.co/brJv7bv0 – Up to £45K, deadline 7 May

DfE want your summer schools top tips: http://t.co/pCqr9EPj – Mine is of course to run them for gifted learners

Competition to encourage more UK students to study in Hong Kong: prize is HK summer school: http://t.co/4ByLNO9g

Lampl says (at 53mins) Sutton Trust report on gifted education due out in June (Smithers qualifies): http://t.co/NhpqWnaz

Welsh Government’s launch of a new Training Pack for More Able and Talented equals a press notice but no pack: http://t.co/EmWgOoPO

Raising attainment of more able cited as area for improvement in 8 of sample of 30 primary inspection reports: http://t.co/hdXMxAzf

TES report on the School Games: http://t.co/Cn7YnyTR

London Zoo Fish 1 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix


Gifted Education Thematic

Twice Exceptional

Meet the Dugents: a twice-exceptional family: http://t.co/ldAI4R7j

Express article about a 2e learner in Wales: http://t.co/tB1wBdEX – unusually sympathetic for the Express!

NAGC chat transcript on the intricacies of 2e learners http://t.co/RleuxeIU

Twice-Exceptional Newsletter 16 April 2012: http://t.co/anr2RKKJ

Twice Exceptional Newsletter, 22 April edition: http://t.co/kBcU7QbK

SEN Support Staff Scholarships can presumably be used for 2e training, if suitable courses are available http://t.co/z8qztzcn

Free Asperger Syndrome and Giftedness Fact Sheet on our website http://t.co/e2VB9vE1 (direct link)

The Saudi version of 2e ‘The Koran Memorisation Competition for Disabled Children’: http://t.co/aztt60nD – Words fail me….

Creativity and Innovation

The Creative Thinking Myth: http://t.co/8p8Rs569

Douglas Eby on Jane Piirto: http://t.co/HhAY82gj

4 Steps Towards Enhancing Our Own and Students’ Creativity: http://t.co/z828PWrC

The Seelig Innovation Engine Model to unleash creativity: http://t.co/WuGQ4OlG

Guardian Review pulls no punches in demolishing Lehrer’s book ‘How Creativity Works’: http://t.co/WkCV7eyH

Adobe Report on the ‘creativity gap’ in 5 leading economies (including UK and US): http://t.co/43I55SI1

Who Creates the Innovator – A review of Wagner’s latest book (including intelligence/creativity relationship): http://t.co/8tWEn1WD

Helping A New Generation Nurture Creative Thinking and Innovation: The Creative Mind http://t.co/W4S2QoTe

Can Innovation Skills be Learned? http://t.co/7JB6MSAI

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Check out Cognitive Atlas: a work-in-progress knowledge base for cognitive science: http://t.co/vKFfRBwe

A post that rightly warns against the tendency of some gifted educators to misuse IQ stats: http://t.co/9oMn3jan

Brain injury data used to map intelligence in the brain: http://t.co/gyvKC7Pb

Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence: http://t.co/1aQr5YvO  (Complete with enlargeable photo of female person worrying)

Project ENIGMA ‘We found fairly unequivocal proof supporting a genetic link to brain function and intelligence http://t.co/4iswyilW

Heritability of IQ http://t.co/g8RJuITX

Can you make yourself smarter? (An extensive NYT article): http://t.co/pS73vPnc

@sbkaufman: “Brainy” is What “Brainy” Does (Psychology Today): http://t.co/DJKimFx8

Time to put on your thinking caps (aka ‘mini-transcranial direct current stimulation devices’): http://t.co/juOLB8oz

Willingham on Working Memory Training: http://t.co/9iQwOIwr

Shortcomings of the IQ-based construct of Underachievement http://t.co/oAYlNcpZ

New centre at Oxford aims to understand how intelligence arises from brain’s circuits. http://t.co/mQMFGuiA

Neurobonkers blog (great name) on how UK media misrepresent neuroscience research: http://t.co/q6VgjGO9

Eysenck (1916-1997) Bad ass of assessment? 50 blogs on learning theorists in 50 days) http://t.co/3DMt5L8h

Gardner Multiple Intelligences or school subjects mirrored? http://t.co/ftLileSX

The limitations of IQ: http://t.co/OwSLVDM7

How fluid is intelligence? Hambrick inthe NYT: http://t.co/YuYS9i5o

Why Are We So Obsessed With Improving IQ? Psychology Today http://t.co/BeNeFfAS

 

Commentary and Research

Pushing the gifted adult conversation forward : http://t.co/rJ0ZVR7l

Social Reactions to Overconfidence http://t.co/vDRJwTR3  – Peers tend to believe they have superior social skills!

Stoeger and Ziegler: Deficits in Fine Motor Skills and their Influence on Persistence in Gifted Elementary Pupils: http://t.co/UJIeMdMW

Text anxiety in gifted learners: http://t.co/hmJImZoY

Gifted education advocates should be more focused on equity issues says this blogger: http://t.co/D3YRyTR1

Check out this presentation : Raising Gifted Children http://t.co/8HlwBDHa

Belle Wallace: Who Are The Gifted? Where Are They? 1st of 6 articles: http://t.co/LvhBpcRi

Can ‘Genius’ be Detected in Infancy? http://t.co/3pDlqWzx – a helpful counterbalance to the wilder press coverage

New blogspot http://t.co/lwUehazW Goal Increased advocacy for culturally and linguistically diverse gifted learners

Read about teaching innovation through the arts in the Spring issue of CTD’s Talent Newsletter: http://t.co/R2OJ3SMG

Evidence on Ability Peer Effects in (English) Schools: Lavy, Silva and Weinhardt: http://t.co/CeN8aqfl

Fascinating gender differences in impact of having many fellow pupils in top and bottom 5% by KS2 attainment: http://t.co/CeN8aqfl

Don Ambrose markets two forthcoming co-publications, one with Sternberg: http://t.co/YYR63iYX

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth have produced a retrospective 5-year Report: http://t.co/qnp76Qk3

Unwrapping Gifted: Differentiation LiveBinders http://t.co/HH4zeIok

Final part of Borland’s ‘Problematising Gifted Education’: http://t.co/QYFwAONB  Restatement of a position rather than anything new

The importance of increasing AP entry and success amongst minority student populations: http://t.co/HWXf6WYv

Busting one of the silliest but most common myths:you only use 10 percent of brain http://t.co/ESXN2dMU

More about the benefits of online learning for gifted learners: http://t.co/17nky5N1

First in a new series on Misdiagnosis and Giftedness: http://t.co/P99hemKy

Why Kenyans Make Such Great Runners: A Story of Genes and Cultures http://t.co/qmkshiJo

Can you instil mental toughness (aka resilience)?: http://t.co/sUO5aJPA

Serving Gifted Students from Poverty, Part 3 of 3: http://t.co/T4BXURZ1

The value and impact of praise on [gifted] school achievement: http://t.co/8VP9Qj0r

Stephanie Tolan: Who or What? http://t.co/U0tWyvMl

Gifted Parenting Support: Gifted Learners in Rural Areas: http://t.co/FOjWzVOD

An Evolutionary Perspective on Giftedness: http://t.co/PAyPEEJK

Going with the Flow: Student Engagement and Beyond: http://t.co/wO4FxgJ1

Lots of excitement being generated about the potential of TED-Ed videos for gifted education: http://t.co/q3589aLh

The evolution of the geek infographic: http://t.co/wrmT6GOf

Elite Soccer Players’ Brains Excel At Planning And Problem Solving http://t.co/lflybLqa

How Geniuses Think – The Creativity Post http://t.co/2zPoSee6

Being Black and Gifted is Nothing New: http://t.co/fSZfEMD1 – on the work of Martin D Jenkins

Thanks to @MaryStGeorge for her thoughtful contribution to gtchat via her blog post “The Gifted Label” http://t.co/GvxlLYT2

Not All Highly Intelligent People Are Arrogant Pricks http://t.co/rcn48jGn

Giftedness and liking…history from Innreach’s Blog: http://t.co/sZ9WBmBz

Wise words on Creating Online Community for Gifted Advocacy: http://t.co/x9RYbwVr

“Eat it, Mills” – or how talent development adds to the underachievement problem http://t.co/OZzAViOR

Excellent blog post on the gifted label: What’s in a Name? http://t.co/Y1IfCorR

@GingerLewman: Wanted to share my livebinder – iPad Apps for Gifted & High-Ability Learners http://t.co/smw1h7ZD

Red herring du jour: defining giftedness: http://t.co/f9FZX5iE  Broadly sympathetic with that position

Gifted Resources May Newsletter can be read online at http://t.co/DF5euX4r

Gifted Exchange on incentives for early high school completion/college start: http://t.co/AqKAu7Me

Worried about identification for early-years gifted programmes? You will be after reading this! http://t.co/vKMZCC7j

US NAGC Conceptual Foundations Newsletter featuring article by Wenda Sheard, expat and UK NAGC trustee: http://t.co/VU2Qt9Hm

“It is not about intelligence. It’s not about talent, but the motivation to learn.” http://t.co/OvmgDCax

Research questions Bell Curve: a few top performers typically carry the rest: http://t.co/os4lyAr3  and http://t.co/E8Y6FE1k

Post questioning long-held assumptions about the link between early US gifted education and the space race: http://t.co/XuRFGC7p

Coincidentally, a post on historical development of US gifted education that cites the influence of Sputnik: http://t.co/r7PKyMai

Grit: http://t.co/Bau3tzbN

The rapid expansion of AP courses isn’t entirely a good thing: http://t.co/X6p42t68

Delisle opposes Olszewski-Kubilius positioning of US NAGC http://t.co/7KfPYF87  They must hold giftedness AND talent development in balance

Still a Square Peg and a Round Hole: http://t.co/QkACHEmC

Moving Beyond Achievement: Nurturing Skills Necessary for Success in a Global Environment: http://t.co/xpYPviPX

New blog post on acceleration for gifted http://t.co/HckYJcD0

Just what is gifted and talented: http://t.co/0b8gaJ8I  – Curate’s egg

London Zoo Fish 2 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Related Education Issues

Fair Access to HE

GiftedPhoenix: HEFCE boss Langlands continues to highlight threat of AAB policy to social mobility despite BIS pressure: http://t.co/8KRLo9Bn

DfE has published details of the Dux events at RG universities: http://t.co/uWXoLc8n  – schools have only until 27 April to register

OK I’ve been on my Dux Tour: http://t.co/uWXoLc8n Wish I could say all 20 RG universities had really pulled out all the stops…

Are your students thinking? How can I choose my “Dux” from Year 9? http://t.co/YZcMi2Ca  – Thanks for the mention!

Revealing post by @xtophercook on relative chances of rich/poor admission to Oxbridge http://t.co/trLFB3vC

New research on elite college admissions in the US: http://t.co/oAQSu3I1

Steven Schwarz says fair access is all about schools: http://t.co/VlN7vbsr Disagree. It’s a cross-sectoral issue

The Economist on Teach First HEAPS provision supporting HE progression for disadvantaged gifted learners: http://t.co/wfJ1hcp3

Announcement on AAB cap in 2013-14 due by 30 April: http://t.co/dGHL9C9s

Apropos AAB cap, Willetts must catch up with Gove’s plans to make A level grades more demanding http://t.co/hhA4OadS

Willets defines fair access as meritocracy, admitting ‘those who can perform best at any given university’ http://t.co/hhA4OadS

National Scholarship Programme guidance for 2013-14 to be released by HEFCE tomorrow (19 April): http://t.co/hhA4OadS

BIS writing to HEFCE and OFFA seeking ‘a shared strategy for widening access’ to secure VFM: http://t.co/hhA4OadS – some co-ordination then!

Overall, the Willetts treatment of the fair access issue manages to beg more questions than it answers: http://t.co/hhA4OadS

RussellGroup: Our view on David Willetts’ HEFCE speech: liberated (AAB) places must go further next year http://t.co/IteLaRca

Mail continues to deride the Willetts line on fair access: http://t.co/iuVwz0LQ probing at the fault line between DfE and BIS

Oxford’s UNIQ scheme: http://t.co/Qte5xodV

HEFCE’s Provisional Allocations and Guidance for the 2013-14 National Scholarship Programme: http://t.co/MoxNySs4

OFFA’s guidance on producing Access Agreements for 2013-14: http://t.co/gq7qHKyF

Anti-Willetts piece opposes his support of potential-driven fair access: http://t.co/4saG7yjA  Worse, it was institution-specific potential!

Article on Cambridge University SU support for fair access: http://t.co/AB7aMt5l

When I found this website in development I thought PL might be developing a separate existence to the ST: http://t.co/sgnNIP1H

Become part of the Russell Group by recruiting lots more AAB students from independent schools: http://t.co/qcTD1mlu

Treasury fears have delayed announcement extending AAB market to ABB from 2013: http://t.co/DmZLMF4d

SecEd/ASCL guide for schools on meeting new ‘impartial and independent’ careers advice and guidance’ duty: http://t.co/Acu9jdye

Sutton Trust release on Oxbridge advice: http://t.co/WPYpkSrR – Why are schools less likely to advise Oxbridge than 5 years ago? Mmm

Sutton Trust research begs question (again) whether staff should ‘advise’ or ‘discuss’ Oxbridge application http://t.co/WPYpkSrR

A whole gamut of non-educational reasons why children from poor backgrounds may never make it to Oxbridge: http://t.co/FyJ7Bu0o

Rather unedifying that schools blame HE and HE blames schools over Oxbridge applications issue. WORK TOGETHER! http://t.co/FtyI3Nyl

Today is deadline for Dux awards registration: http://t.co/KtPMTUt7 If you have reservations, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Stanford psychologist explains why meritocracy and diversity can be reconciled in HE admissions: http://t.co/ydsfIMRj

BIS on expanding uncapped recruitment to ABB http://t.co/ob31UMIe HEFCE on same  http://t.co/DzACneAW  NB ref to cautious estimates

What part should universities play in fostering academic talent? http://t.co/u32lftif   A big one, jointly with schools and colleges

There may be trouble ahead – @guildheceo on what the latest student number control policies might mean: http://t.co/32JRnpxQ

Looks as though Stirling as well as Keele has joined US Common Applications system: http://t.co/fLWp2OcU and http://t.co/0hI2LZsw

Target Oxbridge to mentor African/Afro-Caribbean students in Years 11 and 12. Will poor benefit?: http://t.co/yssOyoYE

Teach First HEAPS programme continues – though somewhat under the radar: http://t.co/Io6j4LE5

Are state schools biased against Oxbridge? http://t.co/Qg3k9kqu

Social Mobility

British Sociological Association conference papers on social mobility: http://t.co/wpEMmLmM (pp37-38) All resoundingly negative

A new social mobility strategy from Clegg? http://t.co/XEUtGMKT – Don’t we already have one of those?

Interview with Alan Milburn on social mobility ahead of his Spring Report: http://t.co/BrrkmYML

Milburn’s interview on social mobility in HE in the GMT e-newsletter: http://t.co/U5s6cuef – with commentary by @tessa_stone

Preview of cross-party social mobility committee’s interim report out Tuesday: http://t.co/yJVcn48d Doubt there’s anything new

So this interim report from the All-Party Parly Group on Social Mobility: http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn – My verdict? Distinctly iffy

All-Party Social Mobility Group chaired by Hinds but members include the sainted Estelle, Field and Hodge http://t.co/Gx9hCzec

All-party Social Mobility Group has called expert witnesses including Barber, Lampl, Milburn, Woolf: http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn (p3)

All Party Soc Mob Group convinced of importance of pre-HE attainment; dares not utter ‘contexualised’:  http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn

All Party Social Mobility Group sees nurturing outstanding talent as distinct area of focus (hooray!) http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn (p9)

All Party SocMob Group priorities for nurturing talent : a. ‘needs blind/assisted places/selective’ http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn (p32)

…and b.  ‘internships/HE exposure, Top Programmes (D of E etc)’ http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn (p32) Latter is especially impenetrable

Before its final report, the All Party Social Mobility group should call on the #bridgegroup and #gtvoice for evidence: http://t.co/Fe3Y9YYn

Blears on the cross-party social mobility report: http://t.co/MqHQAUb4

More on the all-party social mobility report: http://t.co/gbQ5li1O

And a third treatment of the all-party social mobility report: http://t.co/eWdoyDh7

CYPN coverage of the interim report from the All Party Social Mobility Group on which I opined yesterday: http://t.co/88EXmMBb

The Higher picks up on Lampl’s negativity re Government’s social mobility strategy: http://t.co/NmGT8ZS4  Clegg won’t be happy

Narrowing Achievement Gaps

US post contemplating the case for ‘middle class studies’: http://t.co/KjWAj6Ax – A topic in which England can lead the world!

DfE wants EoIs in the evaluation of the Summer Schools Programme for Disadvantaged Pupils: http://t.co/7C2DmXkT – deadline 17 April

Impact of the reduced subsidy for AP and IB exams on US disadvantaged gifted students: http://t.co/6BkZOQGy

Why does family wealth affect learning? Willingham: http://t.co/6SbFc79T

DFE has published the technical spec for 2013 Schools Census: http://t.co/WFVvSKNf – the ‘ever-FSM’ Pupil Premium means increased complexity

Narrowing the gap targetry is needed in my view, but weren’t Coalition supposed to be anti-target? Dangerous precedent: http://t.co/XEUtGMKT

But effective Narrowing the Gap targetry must be differentiated by attainment, not just national benchmarks: http://t.co/XEUtGMKT

Children’s Society costing of FSM eligibility for all on Universal Credit omits cost of extra Pupil Premium funding: http://t.co/pAMCWyxf

Slightly worrying growth in attainment gap at Level 3 between FSM / non-FSM students http://t.co/9q7Bxpo3

DfE SFR reports increase of 0.8% in FSM gap for 2+ A levels from 2010 to 2011: http://t.co/9jlrXFGU – Increasing A level demand will compound

Future First gets funding: http://t.co/nAcDtSDd

DfE to pilot Virtual Heads (a la looked after children) for Gypsy, Roma, Traveller children: http://t.co/p69W04Ds

Academies Enterprise Trust will be spending Pupil Premium funding on online tutors http://t.co/Jcnae77m – these in fact http://t.co/CP5PWr8M

Direct link to the SSAC Report on Universal Credit in which son-of-FSM options are explored: http://t.co/f7lqlfMi – Which is the least worst?

The Mayor London’s Mentoring Scheme for black boys seems to be in big trouble: http://t.co/TmJCm5vT

DfE Research: PISA 2009 How does England’s Social Attainment Gap compare with other countries http://t.co/4IVGI2bF and http://t.co/B111RuB0

JRF Review: ‘Widespread emphasis on raising aspirations…does not seem to be a good foundation for policy or practice’ http://t.co/YfYB9Iat

JRF Aspirations report ultimately frustrates: more promising ‘area-based multi-strand interventions’ excluded: http://t.co/YfYB9Iat

JRF Aspirations-raising report raises important questions about the efficacy of interventions like Dux: http://t.co/YfYB9Iat

LKMCo blog post on the JRF Aspirations-raising report: http://t.co/UHbLEcrf

Performance-Based Scholarships: Emerging Findings from a National Demonstration (US): http://t.co/7W8ckM8J

Telegraph on the PISA social attainment gap: http://t.co/caOeY9U2  – Data’s familiar but Telegraph accentuating the negative less so perhaps

The 80% of heads saying the Pupil Premium is being used to plug cuts will have to fabricate their published statements: http://t.co/g8B3SdiH

Twigg calls for clearer Pupil Premium accountability measures linking funding with achievement of specific pupils: http://t.co/9BTXlHoK

Evaluating the Pupil Premium – SecEd p9: http://t.co/EjOgMXps

Australia is investing in pre-school tutors to tackle disadvantage: http://t.co/Bk2Fkn2P

Selection

Pupil selection and curriculum content: http://t.co/5vp4c9cs – Ultimately the issue was and remains progression to HE and beyond

On the beta of  https://t.co/BQgzmSXO “Academies … can select pupils based on academic ability”

Bucks admits Truth that Must not be Spoken re 11+ bias: http://t.co/cj9x0XGo – Editor magics this into pro-academy spin http://t.co/xABpN0ZM

Love this grumpy report on a meeting of the Friends of Grammar Schools: http://t.co/8McGiYEb – I see Mr Gove dropped in again…

Grammar schools help poor children to succeed? Hmmmm http://t.co/MXZbYY5A

Is it entirely a bad thing that Kent’s state GS are seen as a better option than any independent alternative? http://t.co/0gTUGpni

That said, I still maintain that all GS should give priority to FSM-eligible candidates: http://t.co/0gTUGpni

This answer on the criteria governing split site/satellite schools is as clear as mud: http://t.co/g7AwPKJf (Col WA427)

At last! The Great Expectations publication from David Jesson for the Schools Network via @dylanwiliam http://t.co/L4tlS1Gx

‘Further work is in progress to extend these frameworks to more able pupils in all schools’ (Jesson): http://t.co/L4tlS1Gx

Grammar schools vary considerably in quality. Some are outstanding, and some really rather mediocre: http://t.co/mmFIRXeH

Admissions and School Places

BHA Press Notice about its legal action against Richmond over that new RC secondary school: http://t.co/O9OKrYaO

Here’s the projections data I’ve found: http://t.co/LiMlxMRy (p16) Looks like births peak in 2014, then decline to 2030.

I’m posting this Fraser Nelson piece on school places because I’m genuinely unsure what to make of it: http://t.co/9GWKaEVI

Have you seen the full version of the GLA Projections Methodology they mention in the summary here (p1)? http://t.co/2v99NWbK

I’m interested what happens when the numbers drop off again. I’ve been playing with this tool: http://t.co/f4UmRSFY

Academies

Welcome to the Academies ‘speed commission’: http://t.co/I4uiF6Zp   though the commissioners are a bit usual suspectish and speed = 9 months!

This article on Left Foot Forward says the Commission will be independent: http://t.co/gNP14h9u That should be in the remit

For me the biggest risk inherent in mass ‘academisation’ lies in wholesale disapplication of the National Curriculum: http://t.co/b6wXyEYr

Machin: ‘We do not yet have robust, academically rigorous evidence on [the impact of] coalition academies’: http://t.co/LB96bv45

Looks as though the enforced primary school battleground is shifting to Lambeth: http://t.co/lqDKLlv9

Not quite sure why the Government wouldn’t welcome the C of E as an academy sponsor with open arms? Indeed cherish it! http://t.co/Lqu2xyVf

Ben Bradshaw questions due diligence processes for academy conversion citing West Exe Technology College: http://t.co/5d8TGVYG (Col 8)

More about due diligence over West Exe Technology College’s conversion to academy status in written PQ form: http://t.co/D05FCriS (Col 92W)

30 PFI schools have converted to academies – the list is here: http://t.co/Ls4CZqlr  (Col 80W)

A fair amount of Downhills correspondence has been released in response to this FoI request: http://t.co/6rAdjTvP

A FoI has gone in requesting the Funding Agency report on financial management of the Lincoln Priory Federation: http://t.co/OO01upZl

Luton may or may not have three enforced primary academies: http://t.co/npCPeldY – The LA is denying it

In which @toadmeister ignores Machin’s plea – http://t.co/LB96bv45 – and applies old research evidence to new contexts: http://t.co/hQXgnAdW

Blog on Academies Commission: http://t.co/heMDrEX8 – Wondering if proof’s in the pudding or the pie: http://t.co/1fPYsf9t

I must do my bit to advertise the reliance of Durand Academy on PR worth £200K: http://t.co/R3wpxBvw – Never believe the hype

More on the Seldon/O’Shaugnessy academies partnership http://t.co/QWp0KxB5  Positive Psychology’s worth £5m investment but SEAL is ‘ghastly’?

Dunford on middle tier http://t.co/KmDy8Z6v For me the ideal model combines inclusive network and market elements; excludes new field force

EFA Framework Document para 1.4: ‘The EFA is not responsible for managing the performance of schools’: http://t.co/fdA3I8Rv

A ‘failure to distinguish between the autonomy of school leaders as expert educationalists and organisational autonomy’ http://t.co/AufyN73L

A Dover Academy HT has been appointed by DfE as a ‘short term intervention troubleshooter….superhead’: http://t.co/CJj6y49R

Guardian coverage of News International’s aspirations to establish an academy: http://t.co/1kSWcHyv – they weren’t welcomed with open arms

Leveson has published the emails concerning News International’s interest in academies and free schools: http://t.co/VIr7KZhg (KRM21 + 22)

Will we see the emergence of more academy chains specialising in AP institutions, or will they join existing chains? http://t.co/tWCxIeUY

Cawley’s appointment as Secford Exec HT after chairing consultation raises questions for Seckford: http://t.co/slsP9fCo

DfE has issued details and a statement of the financial investigation into the Priory Federation: http://t.co/UxuFGy8s

SOLACE Report: the Championing Role of English Councils in Education: http://t.co/66XFqGKI

Director of Policy Exchange says phase two of the Govian revolution is all about chains http://t.co/xFRQCISA

Michael Rosen twists the knife over accountability and transparency in relation to failing/problem academies: http://t.co/Qqeju3cI

DfE’s FAQs on academy chains with helpful powerpoint slides: http://t.co/UlqJBJuL

Have I read correctly? Seems to be no body overseeing complaints about academies? http://t.co/TfV4u75B

128 academies will have to pay back an average £118K LACSEG by July: http://t.co/gcL2VGV4 (TES)

Christine Gilbert thinks school collaboration can fulfil the missing middle tier role: http://t.co/g7t0QxtQ – devil’s in the detail

NAHT has agreed a match-funded pilot with Government to support schools at risk of forced academisation: http://t.co/mCPYJLM7 (at end)

More from NAHT about their planned role in school improvement: http://t.co/qLQo4fNW – conference has to agree first

More Downhills papers released by Haringey in response to FoI: http://t.co/eLcRaa0c  – interesting

Free Schools

The NUT’s free schools dossier: http://t.co/pzt0Xtlg – presumably release of impact assessments is to inform potential judicial reviews?

Direct link to NUT’s analysis of free school costs: http://t.co/eXHWZekz – which they will no doubt revisit quarterly

DfE Q and A: ‘The S/S would not automatically turn down a [free school] proposal simply to protect other local schools’ http://t.co/xC2uylZS

It’s the ubiquitous Rob Cawley again: http://t.co/2k30vQaM – Will he soar to great things or, Icarus-like, plunge down in flames?

Do you have to be pregnant to get into Field’s free school? http://t.co/1oex0f35 – Isn’t that selective?

Lisa Nandy: my response to Andrew Adonis on free schools in NewStatesman http://t.co/bAJXPpBo

Gibb say that data on FSM eligibility in free schools now in Commons Library http://t.co/iGf0t9Iq (Col 805W) but not yet in deposited papers

Leveson has probably asked DfE for full access to papers on the proposed Murdoch Free School in Newham: http://t.co/8i568nMF

Rupert Murdoch reveals meetings with Michael Gove over free schools http://t.co/ObHLLo1F

NUT take umbrage at the idea of a News International-sponsored free schools – they want an enquiry: http://t.co/bPbonYdm

More on the London Academy of Excellence: http://t.co/7mcKBN4F – Insufficient excellence; insufficient focus on disadvantage. Fail

Kerry McCarthy on FSM in free schools data now in Commons Library: http://t.co/g4tY8snv It’s STILL not online however: http://t.co/ovW93Fk1

Seckford Foundation plan one manager for every 12 children. One Senior Leader per 30 children. http://t.co/z5fYokUY

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector 2012: http://t.co/M3pASMt3

In case you haven’t seen – Shanker blog on the test-based evidence on New Orleans Charter Schools: http://t.co/yGFsTEiz

More on New Orleans charter schools: http://t.co/OKzKrDpQ

NEPC study of US charter school spending compared with public schools: http://t.co/kHKHLpYc

he influence and impact of founders on US charter schools’ performance: http://t.co/lNJkCoBZ – Food for thought for free schools?

We should keep an eye on this combination of vouchers and charter schools in Louisiana: http://t.co/q7B7rUqx – it will surface here soon

Here’s the charter schools paper from the NZ Education Policy Response Group mentioned in the article: http://t.co/ePQJm5Fs

The intro gives context. ACT (tiny minority party) has agreement with National to introduce charter schools: http://t.co/hdmH9KGz

For me Ch4 is more important than Ch6. The former’s criticisms could be extended to the latter: http://t.co/ePQJm5Fs

The NZ Charter Schools working group has its own website here: http://t.co/AsycMkUM

London Zoo Fish 3 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Independent Schools

Not sure what to make of this interview with Head of St Paul’s for Girls: http://t.co/DEyb7fKy  Is it a trifle smug and complacent?

Worthwhile (and much-needed?) HMC initiative to share schools’ pedagogical expertise with HE: http://t.co/aB6YgLF8

Martin Stephen says independent schools must evolve or face extinction: http://t.co/fXEIxGC2

Highlights of Independent Schools Council 2012 Census http://t.co/AXzdwRIK  As of now only 2011 census is on ISC’s site http://t.co/LSwe4Jv6

Private sector being squeezed: poor schools close; better ones become enclaves of overseas students, or academies!: http://t.co/ufXRKI2P

Curriculum and Pedagogy

GiftedPhoenix: Willingham-style FAQs on learning styles: http://t.co/wB5K1YrR

OFSTED notes ‘increasing autonomy’ over curricular decisions ‘may present some contradictions’: http://t.co/kK4I6uPW (para 70)

RSA worries whether teachers are equipped to exploit their new-found curricular freedoms: http://t.co/1oYYBR3G

A necessary focus on support for gifted learners is still missing from debate on computer science in schools: http://t.co/1XP8ljTa

Isn’t Williams responsible for RE not being in the EBacc, since he failed to organise a Bishops’ ambush in the Lords? http://t.co/hOUYtAcM

A broadly pro ability grouping presentation on Slideshare: http://t.co/dqHaayIA

Unusually sharp words from DFE on the decline in MFL GCSE numbers: ‘a national scandal’: http://t.co/h5sBU8Oz National strategy forthcoming?

Is there a particular emphasis on local issues? http://t.co/iCPYM0fU – If you’re right, are we looking at early May announcement?

Why no answers on detail of the NC review process? http://t.co/XVfSByVA

Paganism makes it on to the Cornish Agreed Syllabus for RE: http://t.co/t6XxmQfJ – and why not indeed?

Flexible ability grouping: http://t.co/6Zl2KiK8

NUT Guidance on the EYFS Statutory Framework: http://t.co/4mAOb6L1

Music education jobs under threat as announcement awaited on successful music hub bids, due early May: http://t.co/b6q40laF

Reaction to ICT disapplication exemplifies the downside of excessive curricular autonomy http://t.co/wCUp8tXj We need a ‘flexible framework’

Looks like the President of the ALL wants ICT-type curricular freedoms for MFL http://t.co/Zrq6eCPl – Interestingly the ICT lobby is less sure

DfE is commissioning research on the effects of the EBacc: http://t.co/9QDShPvU – EoIs to be submitted by Friday 27 April

A reminder of the weaknesses inherent in Chapter 8 of the Expert Panel report on mastery and NC levels: http://t.co/NCRgvTUQ

The problem of preparing teachers to implement the Common Core State Standards: http://t.co/6FQXmXGD – Prophetic of upcoming issues here?

Sentamu returns to the charge over RE in the EBacc: http://t.co/M5gIbVnu  – High time the developed an alternative REBacc?

Direct link to the Tombs report for Politiea on the history curriculum: http://t.co/9SJ5uZdJ – Do not read if of a nervous disposition!

Reaction to lazy newspaper coverage of the Politeia Report on History: http://t.co/Hkcy0G3Z

DfE next steps for EYFS http://t.co/A3zxDa8G

If there’s such a thing as ‘maths anxiety’ is there an equivalent anxiety for each other subject? http://t.co/DOaQud5U Unconvinced

John Holman says the Government won’t make post-16 maths compulsory http://t.co/7rvUZYIE – so what are the policy levers?

Interesting @theschoolsnet article showing they had an inside track on NC consultation: http://t.co/m4KaNpF6 – Should publish full evidence

NC Review must reconcile contradiction between dumping primary NC levels + rectifying ‘lack of pace and ambition at KS2 http://t.co/vucHB3rV

Music education hubs due for announcement today. I’m assuming the details will appear here: http://t.co/HM3hUkcu

Music Hub announcement reaction in West Sussex: http://t.co/DTtlwJ4Z and Brighton: http://t.co/AYMAhtJS

Some of the new music hubs are more hubby than others: http://t.co/Dq6TfBzj

Willingham on why learning to read English is hard (with map to prove the point): http://t.co/PERYjjR0

Assessment and Qualifications

A conservative defence of A level reform built upon Robert Coe’s research: http://t.co/5lwpGWKK

EoIs for the administration of PISA 2015: http://t.co/xrFLDdhi – deadline 27 April

OFQUAL has published undertakings by the different exam boards to improve exam paper quality and reduce errors: http://t.co/2TzapqEi

Harris Federation postpones IB for a year because of high cost and low take-up: http://t.co/8BiJajs7 – worrying sign

@mikebakeredhack asks the awkward practical questions about HE-led A level reform: http://t.co/9iAT0LhY

DfE’s Standards and Testing Agency seeks a ‘maladministration advisor’ http://t.co/8vm7hsNP ‘registrations by sole traders may be rejected’!

Julius Weinberg, VC of Kingston University, appointed to OFQUAL Board, along with Barnaby Lenon: http://t.co/CMoZTP1h

A whole mass of data showing the prevalence of qualifications equivalent to GCSEs in academies: http://t.co/jNZWIrTV (Col 535ff)

Background on the new KS2 Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Test for introduction in 2013: http://t.co/8ZCz47aV

FAQs on the 2013 Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Test: http://t.co/d8AF6U3z – includes provision for Level 6 (last Answer)

KS2 grammar, spelling and punctuation test under threat of NAHT boycott: http://t.co/CZiU5FeI

OFQUAL to impose partial ban on exam board seminars for teachers: http://t.co/KBm0g8Mv – will that eradicate the content tips? Not sure

OFQUAL has published its report on Exam Board seminars but, mysteriously, it’s password-protected Why? http://t.co/2oUET9Bx

Direct link to Nuffield Foundation study of maths content in A levels: http://t.co/YGLjaZHU  – SCORE report not up yet: http://t.co/EE5hQjEy

@emoorse01: My take on Mr Gove at the Education Select Committee: http://t.co/1xfnRbQx Didn’t he imply ditching levels wholesale?

Glenys Stacey refers explicitly to A level grade inflation http://t.co/4trGlr1n The Emperor’s now officially naked – there’s no turning back

The Stacey A level interview http://t.co/NGcbmxF7 – Raises the question whether changing too much at once brings diminishing returns

KS2 English writing – moderation: Level 6 exemplification guidance: http://t.co/tRzluRDd

@RealGeoffBarton: thoughts on the grammatical/stylistic characteristics of A* English students http://t.co/tP9Na4DP

Gove to Select Committtee Q225 ‘one area where I am very strongly persuaded…moving away from levels at primary school’ http://t.co/kNUEjm0i

Ed Week report on US pilot of a PISA-based test for schools (using PISA 2009 instruments): http://t.co/pvInNjXO – Is there an English pilot?

Whereas NUT would boycott phonics test if results go in league tables, NAHT would boycott if pass rate set too high: http://t.co/opwGe3Ci

NAHT also voted to disrupt new KS2 SPAG test: http://t.co/MRoLWHC4 and (along with ASCL) oppose loss of of AS Levels: http://t.co/G0X0LpJz

Black & Wiliam: Formative feedback key to better learning (50 blogs, 50 days on learning theorists) http://t.co/fURr4j9d

Accountability

There’s no one correct way to rate schools: http://t.co/n2E4phv2

Campaign for Science and Engineering suggests STEM kitemark for schools http://t.co/SuGDRQEj With gifted education element I hope

How might OFSTED react to a flipped classroom? http://t.co/XRm7SkHt – Perhaps we should ask them…

New blog on some league table findings, including progress measures, intakes, GCSE entries http://t.co/P7KE5Zx4

The author of the US study exploring the possible import of OFSTED -style inspection responds to his critics: http://t.co/XR7mN23C

Interesting parallels between this Harvard work in the US and the development of Destination Indicators here: http://t.co/PJZeRfC8

Jay Greene on PISA-type comparisons and the dangers associated with selection on an unvarying dependent variable: http://t.co/flP2vIok

DfE confirms publication of Destination Measures in July: http://t.co/EyeYsHbZ so correcting what Gove said to Select Committee

DfE’s Destination Indicators brief fails to clarify if HE indicators will show RG/Oxbridge separately: http://t.co/EyeYsHbZ

I’ve little time for ‘what right have they to inspect us’ sentiment re OFSTED, but hands off left-handed ticks! http://t.co/mIoIjrPO

Pearson on unlocking the power of education data: http://t.co/tpA7QVwp – Big questions as critical variables like FSM and NC levels disappear

309 schools inspected under new Framework 6-20 Jan 2012: 45% primary + 58% secondary inadequate/satisfactory http://t.co/qT1K8Gbe (Col 1239W)

It’s not just GS that should be judged on A*/A GCSE grades as per Jesson http://t.co/wowMSseK Gibb told Sel Ctee DfE is considering

Pro-OFSTED leader in the Independent: http://t.co/sLNLqwdq – Not sure the system is right if it arouses this level of antipathy…

So, allowing for risk assessment, it’s clear new OFSTED inspection regime is tougher http://t.co/PumspDvH  – and set to become tougher still

HMCI Wilshaw continues his rehabilitation process with the profession by adopting a more emollient tone: http://t.co/Hyia6DXU

TES on the mysteriously invisible Jesson Schools Network Grammar Schools study: http://t.co/jKQE3pg7

Wow – TES editorial gets close to agreeing with what I just said about OFSTED: http://t.co/QhV53aTA – wonders will never cease

NAHT on OFSTED survey results and plan for School View: http://t.co/DYNeHJNF – NB 90% unhappy with tone /content of OFSTED announcements

Progress on US national assessment instruments linked with the Common Core: http://t.co/vwbi6Sn7

Strong government rides roughshod over opposition; becomes weaker, offers concessions: http://t.co/RT6Wdowp – opposition exacts revenge

China’s blocking publication of national PISA scores; Schleicher gives an over-simplified explanation of Asian success: http://t.co/1QEOmSoJ

Teachers and Teacher Education

The new-style NPQH will have all the in-vogue bells and whistles: http://t.co/9ZMDsBuh – but what about the CONTENT?

Don Foster asks if about evidence that graduates with 1st class degrees make better teachers: http://t.co/5d8TGVYG (Col 11) – Answer No-ish

National Scholarship Fund for Teachers Round 2 Handbook: http://t.co/EX0Bf106 – same priorities (why not let schools decide?) Apply by 17/5.

Regional breakdown of funded training places for the national SENCO award, Sept 2009- March 2012: http://t.co/rf9lXWIo (Col WA371)

NUT Survey of SENCOs: http://t.co/9uuGo6Co

Today’s School Workforce SFR has a really handy table (12) giving headcount of secondary teachers by subject and KS: http://t.co/KM3H3BtJ

Given the state of graduate unemployment, it would be seriously worrying if teacher training places weren’t filled: http://t.co/SQJUNTcd

Useful account of current US debate on performance related pay for teachers http://t.co/xvR51M9p

Interesting re Teach First costs, which I hadn’t seen before, via @jpjsavage http://t.co/kgwh5XIF

Interestingly Lampl’s just said a. teacher effectiveness is a priority and b. TF isn’t scaleable http://t.co/NhpqWnaz

Education Select Committee calls for more research into qualities that support effective teaching: http://t.co/ZpzcCrMP (Para 42)

Education Select Committee misses a trick in not connecting prospective teacher spotting to social mobility http://t.co/oYgpQ3H3  (para 46ff)

Education Select Committee parrots the universal but rather uncritical endorsement of Teach First: http://t.co/6pVCSu8E (paras 64-66)

Education Select Committee Report very supportive of universities’ role in ITE: http://t.co/DBEwiuV6  (Para 67ff)

Education Select Committee critical of CPD – much taken by what they saw in Singapore but few new ideas: http://t.co/Y55961MX (para 92ff)

Charlotte Leslie calls for a Royal College of Teachers: http://t.co/1F9jxitc – aka a new engine of bureaucracy to replace the GTC?

One comment only on teacher performance pay: it’s a blind alley and a bonanza only for economists of education: http://t.co/YsJxl4Ht

Teachers and Performance Pay – Big Practical Obstacles to Overcome http://t.co/AN8A11Wr

Sadly it was only a matter of time before payment by results made the Atlantic crossing: http://t.co/q4zKuUIR – I repeat, it’s a blind alley

OFSTED analysis of responses to its consultation on inspection of initial teacher education: http://t.co/d6PVtmiR

New blog post: @beckyallen and Simon Burgess argue that teacher selection is the wrong way round: http://t.co/xpn5qKse

Here: http://t.co/bLNUwx8W Impact of Teach First on recruitment not very clear.

Evaluation of US pilot incentivising effective teachers to transfer to low-achieving schools: http://t.co/AUO8ufvo

Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching – Darling-Hammond et al: http://t.co/tnl7wnGa

Funding

First e-bulletin from the Education Funding Agency: http://t.co/Au6MgPVK

Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools? http://t.co/unwOKm39 Michigan study says they spend relatively more on admin; less on teaching

Will Mitt Romney endorse vouchers as Republican education policy? http://t.co/msLyLbkx When will they resurface here?

I believe the capital constraints on free school expansion will help push school vouchers back on to the agenda: http://t.co/9WEHX4zE

Chapter and verse for DfE turning down the Truss idea of a funding premium for maths A level: http://t.co/5d8TGVYG (Col 16)

Various Year 5 Milwaukee voucher evaluations: http://t.co/xVVMFSS  and various NEPC critiques of same: http://t.co/RHWGqVHA

Yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on School Funding: http://t.co/sMcXeOOh (Col 189WH)

Education Funding Agency e-bulletin 2 – http://t.co/WwvNLaGF

Central Government

The YouGov survey for NUT highlights concern at limited consultation over – and evaluation of – Government initiatives: http://t.co/qXUVo4Sw

Wilby bemoans the loss of what used to be called the ‘checks and balances’ in the education system: http://t.co/M37hEkVo He may have a point

The post that says there will be no SEN White Paper (and what there will be instead): http://t.co/UZUeuep4

If you make it into Michael Gove’s office, you can enjoy a painting by one Bernard Cheese: http://t.co/lLoSzgWL (Col 329W)

Direct link to new NAO Cross Government Review on Implementing Transparency: http://t.co/wglZqbWK

Guido and his acolytes have got hold of the Gove balloon story: http://t.co/2HwGEGVn

So DCMS could go to BiS who could then had over universities to DfE? http://t.co/Qte5xodV

Back to the Future, or the nostalgic strand of Coalition education policy: http://t.co/u3VgiN6A

The conclusions and recommendations of the Public Admin Select Committee on Strategic Thinking in Government: http://t.co/XFFZDryy

HEFCE has given its website a makeover: http://t.co/rjqVRjLc

Lib Dem proposal that education policy should be devolved to a partially elected Educational Council: http://t.co/oZdNZdIn Bureaucracy-heavy

DfE has published an updated ‘Myths and Facts for Schools’ document: http://t.co/BIxtgCoW

The Economist calls Govian reforms ‘brave’, ‘novel’, ‘risky’ and ‘bold’ – http://t.co/fQGJdej7  – Yes Minister

This handy Dods supplement to The House magazine covers the No 10 operation in detail, even including contact numbers: http://t.co/PtB8Gb1v

Here’s the Teaching Agency Business Plan for 2012-13: http://t.co/yLkHziMl

The National College Business Plan for 2012/13: http://t.co/paKyy6t3

Here is the 2012-15 Business plan for the Education Funding Agency, just published by DfE: http://t.co/tJHXqr4U

DfE has published the 2012-13 Business Plan of the Standards and Testing Agency: http://t.co/kcBOPTYa

14 DfE Free Schools and Academies Education Advisers’ named contracts are now on Contracts Finder (search on DfE): http://t.co/mWQ9Ue6W

Prophetic piece in the Telegraph just ahead of today’s elections: http://t.co/aPHHv9Jq  – Interestingly omits Johnson from ‘the NI crowd’

Uncorrected evidence – Gove to Education Select Committee 24 April: http://t.co/kNUEjm0i

Other Reviews, Research and Reports

AERA’s 2012 Annual Meeting has an interesting theme: http://t.co/tghdWJ5M – You can search online for papers here: http://t.co/6mHVKMFe

Eurydice Report on Entrepreneurship Education in schools across Europe: http://t.co/GO4QPsRV

New McKinsey study on Mobile Education: http://t.co/Mk8onoCn

A range of new ADCS studies on the role of local authorities in school improvement: http://t.co/FgrtFioa

Twigg, Devolution and Schools http://t.co/ap2UTmUv and Labour’s consultation document: http://t.co/IHXCxjmf

Direct link to new OECD study on socio-economic stratification between public and private schools: http://t.co/dPqawIkX – covers vouchers

IEA Study: Policy, Practice and Readiness to Teach Primary and Secondary Mathematics in 17 Countries http://t.co/Hepvd4F2 (excludes England)

EU (EENEE) study on equity issues in the economics of education: http://t.co/ITsvtVER

This Schott Foundation Report of inequitable education in NYC should inform the London Mayor’s Education Inquiry: http://t.co/HF3TiJ5v

Social Research Unit series of cost-benefit reports for children’s services, Investing in Children: http://t.co/GBnEHD6f

London Zoo Fish 4 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Online and Social Media

Is blogging and tweeting about academic papers worth it? A UCL academic reports: http://t.co/cugXOjwM

How to set up and run a MOOC: http://t.co/axNTVzSe (Part 1 of 6)

A critique of the Minerva Project to create an elite online university from an unsurprising source: http://t.co/nGmxfRqh

Very useful list of 50 Best Sources of Free Education Online http://t.co/Mvot4fUW

Willetts speech today on open access research with support from Mr Wales: http://t.co/UIroFm8b – More power to their elbows on this

Willetts pe-empts his speech later on open access to research: http://t.co/AVBE9PWz

The full Willetts speech on open access to research: http://t.co/LQDyz5NL – Sound, but he’s clearly not a Twitter user!

Willetts Speech on Open Access: Analysis http://t.co/iiFHYFSq

Why academic publishers’ days are numbered: http://t.co/ucQjCZGu – How close are we to open access educational research?

The World Bank and the EU lend their weight to the drive for open access academic research: http://t.co/f1of3H5p

PA claims academic publishers earn their cut by ‘filtering’, ‘signalling’ and ‘amplifying’ research. No way Jose! http://t.co/Ro5rNNOz

Google search education – help your students become better searchers: http://t.co/7h66DKri

EdX – the Harvard/MIT partnership that will provide free online courses worldwide: http://t.co/CsT26lKA

The Virtues of Blogging as Scholarly Activity @mweller in The Chronicle – http://t.co/NLE9uww6

The Edublogger is conducting a survey of the educational use of blogs: http://t.co/un5g3HB6

A truly excellent and comprehensive guide to running a Twitter chat: http://t.co/gXdOzgDF

Miscellaneous

Progress on the RNCF’s Assisted Boarding Network: http://t.co/UMstzHyz – placing vulnerable children in boarding schools

I keep forgetting to commend Donald Clark’s Plan B Blog for his very useful series on educational thinkers: http://t.co/Z462JRO7

Done! 50 blogs in 50 days on learning theorists -Greeks to Marxists to present Psychologists http://t.co/h6g1QwTx

Deloitte offers to help HE provide a personalised student support service commensurate with higher fees: http://t.co/SCl9FQK9

Building excellence in education http://t.co/nhGjxowC For me not necessarily teacher-led but essentially collaborative, networked, inclusive

I’m having trouble deciding whether this US article on university dress codes is a parody: http://t.co/UGrsRRO3

What’s the average admin cost of a truancy fine recouped via courts or child benefit? Bet it’s more than value of fine: http://t.co/lEP3Zzzj

Academic repression of Emo subculture in Saudi Universities: http://t.co/Htd1yRbg  – Overly boyish female students thrown in for good measure

Shocked to see the great @DrPaulKelley has left Monkseaton http://t.co/3qHR5xaG – Parents unhappy new Exec HT wants to drop 2 GCSEs

At my school the be upstanding ritual was a superbly disruptive opportunity to scrape furniture across the floor: http://t.co/DNWk8izr

Goading the Stodgy Middle: http://t.co/cuSMkVfH  – Applying this to education would bring on apoplexy in many of my acquaintance

Catholic Education Service in trouble for pushing anti-gay marriage petition on pupils http://t.co/vVViUlR2

Brilliant Pink News editorial on the CES and anti-gay petitions including a telling ‘roles in reverse’ scenario: http://t.co/FV49RExW

Hope CES gay marriage investigations bring greater clarity on overlap between ‘religious’ and ‘political’ teaching: http://t.co/hmLkiATk

Stiff Brook/FPA letter about CES anti-gay marriage petition: http://t.co/l7ArfEvd  ‘this naked attempt…to induce bigotry and intolerance’

The Welsh verdict on the anti-gay marriage petition circulated by the CES: http://t.co/lB73NbRF  – schools not CES in the firing line

Educating Essex Deputy Head moves school…all the way to Brentwood: http://t.co/OL6h0JQs

BHA: no uncontested application for new school from a faith body rejected; just 6 of 39 non-faith applications approved http://t.co/fuc9mYhj

Direct link to NCB’s Beyond the Cuts report estimating children’s charities face cuts of £405m over 5 years: http://t.co/ZKmtRQbT

This report on public sector delivery is well worth a read if you can see through the symbolic merry-go-rounds: http://t.co/HKlKXkWP

Brief report and a topping photo marking the first meeting of Camden’s Partnership for Educational Excellence: http://t.co/hq6vkpO4

Government has offered Sandwell £1m if it will drop its legal challenge over BSF: http://t.co/b0TWQDJI

The official position on BSF judicial review out-of-court settlements: http://t.co/g7AwPKJf  (Col WA426)

Priority Schools Building Programme announcement due this month (May): http://t.co/qT1K8Gbe (Col 1239W)

Ever read a post and think – at last, a clear, succinct, balanced explanation? Try this on the economy by Colin Talbot: http://t.co/k03nrB76

US study on whether schools open too early: http://t.co/xKM7QjqJ – Ironically undertaken in Wake County (North Carolina)

Saudi Arabia is planning an ‘independent higher authority to evaluate school education’: http://t.co/u6Rm4JfL – A kind of OFSTED plus?

This makes an interesting read for Pearson watchers and education observers alike: http://t.co/GGrK6tvd

2011 CERP Literature Review on 1:1 Tuition online and offline: http://t.co/XpBLe7KU

Michael Rosen on schools for profit models: http://t.co/nPkdNa1r Asks questions re funding of Pearson School Model. Anyone have the answers?

Glatter reminds us of limited school effects and downside of a ‘no excuses’ culture: http://t.co/jViUXr6d – prescribes various panaceas

Estelle Morris rehashes the ‘standards not structures’ mantra (which I too hold dear): http://t.co/tu6hn7Q6

My alert system has only just picked up Twigg’s speech to the NASUWT: http://t.co/u53i9SzO

Q: What ‘s the correlation between shared ‘religious culture’ of a church school and its performance? http://t.co/IIeXemqz – A. Exaggerated

Q. Do students with water do better in exams because they’re hydrated? http://t.co/zgUZERiU  A. It’s probably a proxy for wider preparedness

Interesting argument for the rejection of evidence-based practice http://t.co/XXFB4AkD  which misunderstands the nature of national standards

GP

May 2012

Gifted Education in Singapore: Part 2


This is the second of a trilogy of posts about gifted education in Singapore.

Part 1 reviewed the historical background: the gradual expansion and refinement of provision for highly able learners in this small South-East Asian educational powerhouse. It also examined the Singapore Government’s rationale for investing so heavily in their development.

This second part explores how pupils are identified and selected into the primary Gifted Education Programme (GEP), and to what extent coaching plays a part in this process.

But the bulk of the post is dedicated to a blow-by-blow description of the various strands of gifted education available to learners in the country’s primary and secondary schools.

It concludes with a section about professional development for educators working with gifted learners in Singapore.

As with Part 1, my primary source has been the Ministry of Education’s gifted education pages, but I have supplemented this with all other material available online with a view to providing a thorough and objective assessment.

 

Selection for the Primary GEP

The Ministry’s website offers a broad definition of giftedness to explain how the GEP and subsequent school-based gifted education (SBGE) fits alongside other elements of provision:

‘The term “gifted” is used to include many kinds of strengths. However, there are a few broad areas in which giftedness can show itself. They are intellectual ability, leadership ability, talent in art and music, and psychomotor ability. The GEP, as well as School-Based Gifted Education programmes offered by Integrated Programmes (IP) schools at the secondary level, cater for the intellectually gifted.

There are concurrent programmes such as the Music Elective Programme and the Art Elective Programme which cater to the needs of the musically and artistically gifted respectively.’

So the GEP is exclusively for those deemed ‘intellectually gifted’, though there are presumably some students gifted in more than one field who must choose between the GEP and these other options – there is no scope to pursue two strengths simultaneously. And, as we shall see, there is now a wider range of other options, extending well beyond the Music and Art Electives.

The GEP cohort is officially 1% of the national pupil population – around 500 pupils are currently admitted annually, at the beginning of Primary 4, on the basis of tests taken at the end of the previous year. The testing process is designed to identify pupils with what the Ministry calls ‘high intellectual ability and potential’,  as opposed to high attainment.

There is an initial screening test comprising English language and maths papers. This is used to identify a field of around 4,000 pupils (so some 8% of the national population) who compete to join the GEP.

They are eligible to enter a selection test consisting of English language, maths and general ability papers. (The latter is described as ‘a locally developed test to assess the abstract reasoning ability of the pupil’.) There is no set pass-mark. Success depends on being amongst the top 500 in the appropriate competition.

One reliable online source  – presumably located within the Ministry’s Gifted Education Branch – adds the interesting detail that an age adjustment was introduced into the identification process in 1997 when it was discovered that, from 1991-1995 successful pupils were relatively more likely to be born in the first three months of the year and much less likely to be born at the year end.

This source also reveals that the take-up rate amongst successful candidates varied between 90% and 95% during the first 15 years of the GEP, from 1984 to 1998. Interestingly:

‘The 2 most commonly cited reasons given by parents for declining the invitation to join the programme were fear of heavy workload and stress in the GEP and reluctance to have their children leave the school where their children were doing well and happy to join a ‘new’ school – the GEP centre.’

Singapore Skyline at Night with Blue Sky courtesy of Merlion444

How Susceptible are These Tests to Coaching?

The Ministry advises parents (the emphasis is mine):

not to prepare their children for the Screening and the Selection Tests. No test/assessment books have been prepared by the MOE for such a purpose. The GEP Screening Test and Selection Test are based on what all pupils should have been taught by Primary 3 in our schools

We have no evidence that schools are preparing their pupils for the GEP Screening and Selection Tests. The questions for the selection of pupils for the GEP are not accessible to the schools. Also, the test items are not the same from year to year.’

This rather defensive statement appears directly to contradict the earlier statement that the tests are designed to locate high ability and potential rather than existing high attainment. If the tests are based on what pupils have been taught, they must relate to a defined range of knowledge, understanding and skills. As such, they must be coachable.

On the other hand, it is hard to understand how a test of ‘abstract reasoning ability’ can be ‘based on what all pupils should have been taught…’ There is a fundamental contradiction here..

It would appear that the tests are a mixed bag. Those based on what children have been taught (ie the entire screening test and two-thirds of the selection test) will be relatively more susceptible to revision and cramming that will help candidates to boost their scores. The abstract reasoning test will be harder to coach, though practice in answering similar questions may improve performance at the margins.

The Ministry seems at pains to convince parents that primary schools are not preparing pupils for these tests – presumably to dissuade them from putting pressure on their children’s teachers to do so. But, if the schools do not offer preparation, the private sector will be sure to exploit the opportunity this creates.

And  it doesn’t take much effort to uncover extensive online reference to GEP ‘training schools’ and ‘preparatory courses’. An article from the Straits Times of October 28 2007 illustrates the kind of provision available as well as the nature of the debate about its value.

At least three private learning centres and ‘a handful of private tutors’ are reported to be offering preparatory classes costing up to 1,500 Singapore dollars (about £750) for an eight-hour course.

‘Experts will say that giftedness cannot be taught and these centres are merely training kids to be ‘exam smart’ in preparing for the GEP tests.

Private tutor Kelvin Ong, who said that he was a former GEP teacher, is unapologetic about his coaching courses.

‘You expose them to the type of questions they’ll be tested on. Then they won’t freak out. It’s about being exam smart,’ said Mr Ong, who gives his pupils past papers to practise on. As a GEP teacher, he used to invigilate the screening tests.

He coaches his pupils – whom he charges between $250 and $400 per two-hour lesson – throughout the year in English Language and Mathematics and is ‘very focused in getting them through the tests’.

‘If you’re willing to pay, that’s the objective you’ll meet,’ he said, adding that he screened the children before deciding if he would accept them.

He claimed that all 10 pupils he coached this year got through the first round of the GEP screening….

Mr Morris Allen, who teaches a two-week GEP prep class every June, exposes the kids to all sorts of IQ puzzles – words, pictures, numbers – to prepare them for the General Ability paper, which tests their problem-solving aptitude.

He also teaches them about time management, so that they do not panic and stumble or waste too much time on questions they cannot answer.

Of the 22 pupils he had last June, almost all got through to the second round. Eleven of them returned three weeks ago for a revision course.

He charges $30 an hour for the 20-hour course.

‘It’s just familiarising them with the unfamiliar,’ said Mr Allen, who sources cognitive ability tests from other countries for his pupils to practise on. He has been running his centres for 15 years.’

The Ministry spokesman responds:

‘Giftedness cannot be trained and preparatory classes cannot enable a child to perform at a level beyond his capacity…By sending their children to these prep classes, parents may actually be doing more harm than good, since a child who gains admission into the GEP through intensive coaching may not be able to cope with the programme’s demands….

But the story (indeed the Ministry itself) rather contradicts this latter argument a little further on:

‘While there have been cases of children who have asked to leave the GEP for various reasons, those who do because they cannot cope with the enriched curriculum are ‘very few’, said the ministry.’

Educators suggest that pupils’ time would be better spent developing a wider range of abilities and interests, and a psychologist warns of the added pressure and stress generated by such courses.

The debate is heavily redolent of the positions taken by advocates and opponents of academic selection here in England.

Supporters of coaching are keen to buy their children every chance of success through extensive practice, which has at least a marginal effect on test performance even if the tests are not directly coachable.

They may argue that heavily-coached learners are demonstrating the drive and commitment to succeed in an academically competitive environment (and could, if they wished, draw on some research evidence that calls into question the Ministry’s assertion that ‘giftedness cannot be trained’.)

Opponents point out the limited impact of such practice on performance and may suggest that candidates who succeed through coaching are likely to struggle in the company of more naturally able peers. (But we know that few GEP participants drop out because they cannot manage the academic demands. The highly selective nature of the programme means that all successful candidates will be relatively high attaining.)

One can reasonably hypothesise that some relatively late developers will be overlooked at the expense of their more precocious peers; also that each successful candidate will depend on a slightly different blend of innate ability on one hand – and personal drive and commitment on the other. These two factors will to some extent compensate for each other.

But opponents will also argue that – to the extent that coaching does benefit candidates – those benefits are only accessible to families that can afford the cost. This further increases the probability that programmes will be disproportionately dominated by those from relatively advantaged backgrounds.

I have been unable to uncover any information about the socio-economic background of GEP participants, but it is highly likely that advantaged learners will be over-represented. There is apparently no effort made to counterbalance the impact of home background on success in the selection tests.

In short, there is clearly an extensive coaching industry in Singapore linked to GEP entry, which is likely to further advantage the higher socio-economic groups who will already be over-represented within the Programme.

It would be fascinating to see the data…

 

The Primary GEP Experience

There are nine schools offering the primary GEP:

Two are boys’ schools, one is a girls’ school and the remainder are co-educational. Part 3 of this post will take a closer look at how some of these schools implement the GEP.

Each school hosts 2-4 GEP classes in Primary 4, 5 and 6. In total there are 23 classes in Primary 4 and 5 and 22 in Primary 6. The average class size is 25 pupils (significantly lower than comparable mainstream classes).

Pupils admitted into the GEP may already attend the school in question, but can attend any school running the Programme provided there is a space. If GEP classes at a particular school are oversubscribed, additional criteria determine priority for admission, including the school’s proximity to home.

The Ministry says that the GEP is ‘essentially the same’ in all nine schools, because  Gifted Education Branch works with teachers on curriculum development and also ensures that comparable standards are applied. There are, however, differences in  ethos which will impact to some extent on the nature of the GEP.

GEP participants benefit from an ‘enriched curriculum’ which, while based on Singapore’s national curriculum, is ‘pitched to challenge and stretch’ them and offers ‘individualised…attention’. Enrichment is provided through four familiar dimensions:

  • Content enrichment developing the standard syllabus by incorporating a greater breadth of material, studying standard material in greater depth and ‘covering more advanced topics wherever necessary’. The course develops inter-disciplinary connections and supports real-life problem-solving.
  •  Process enrichment through the development of higher level thinking, research and study skills, opportunities for experiential learning and group activities and support for different learning styles through a variegated pedagogy.
  •  Product enrichment through presentation of outcomes and creative expression.
  •  A learning environment that is stimulating yet supportive, encouraging risk-taking, and encompasses a suite of out-of-school learning experiences.

One element is Individualised Study Options (formerly known as Individualised Research Study). GEP participants in Primary 4-5 typically complete an independent research project reflecting an area of personal interest. This tackles a ‘real-life’ problem and is designed to develop research, analysis and communication skills.

But other approved options are now available and some pupils pursue externally-provided opportunities such as Odyssey of the Mind and Future Problem Solving.

A teacher-mentor works with a small group of pupils. The work is not graded but entered instead for an annual exhibition.

The standard out-of-school activities are outlined on the Ministry website.

Primary 4 pupils analyse traffic statistics and plan a class party within a fixed budget. There is also a mandarin poetry-writing and recitation competition for GEP and non-GEP pupils alike.

In Primary 5, there is also a Mandarin language camp, again for GEP and non-GEP pupils, a creative writing and performing arts programme, a 3-day maths masterclass for those with exceptional ability and also a maths trail focused on solving real-life problems.

Primary 6 provides opportunities to attend a series of weekly advanced maths enrichment classes (also for those with exceptional ability), a maths exploration day and a physics session including demonstrations and hands-on activities.

Progress throughout the GEP is continually assessed. Common assessments are used across all nine participating schools and test content knowledge as well as critical and creative thinking abilities.

If a pupil cannot cope with the demands of the course, his parents are invited to discuss his progress with Gifted Education Branch staff to decide whether or not he should be withdrawn. (It is implicit therefore that other solutions may be possible, even desriable – we know that very few learners drop out of the GEP in practice.)

At the end of Primary 6, GEP participants enter the common PLSE examination. Progression on to School-Based Gifted Education in the secondary sector depends on their PLSE performance, their GEP performance, ‘including a pass in Social Studies’ and ‘attitude towards work and the enrichment programme’.

Some 99% successfully make this transfer however, suggesting that only a tiny minority move into an independent school outwith the GEP, or transfer to a school abroad.

Chinese Grden Pagoda Twins courtesy of Ajarina

Programmes for High Ability Learners

Gifted Education Branch also offers enrichment activities for primary pupils outside the GEP. These Programmes for High-Ability Learners, designed for the top 2-5% of the school population in each subject, but confined to English language, maths and science. One source suggests that participants are selected by schools on the basis of checklists rather than via a testing regime.

The offer seems fairly limited at present, by comparison with the intensive year-round GEP. The programmes in English include:

  • An inter-school debating competition for Primary 5-6 and

The maths and science programmes comprise:

  • A Primary Maths Project Competition to stimulate innovative and creative mathematics. There are separate elements for Primary 4 (submitting a poster or report) and Primary 5 (designing and submitting a game)
  • A Maths Exploration Day for Primary 6 pupils encouraging them to explore and apply their mathematical knowledge
  • A Science Carnival offering workshops and activities to Primary 4 pupils and
  • A Maths Trail – a team problem-solving competition for those in Primary 5

Perhaps this provision is scheduled for significant expansion in the years ahead, or perhaps it will remain relatively undeveloped. One might reasonably expect online options to be introduced before too long, so making it easier to offer a significantly wider range of learning experiences across a wider range of subjects, should this be deemed a priority by the Government.

Alumni

As for former students, there is a GEP Alumni Association although the website is now rather out of date, suggesting that it may not be thriving.

The Parliamentary Secretary (Education) spoke at its launch in 2004:

‘From what I hear, the response by alumni to the Association has been most heartening.  The GEP Alumni Association was registered as a society on 5 January this year.  Already, a few hundred alumni have signed on as members. Many more are expected to do so in the coming months.

The GEP Alumni Association has been set up to accomplish several aims.  One of them is to raise the public’s awareness of Gifted Education in Singapore.  Another aim is help the alumni stay in contact with one another.  Yet another, a noble one, is to explore opportunities for the alumni to contribute to the community.  According to a Chinese proverb, when one drinks water, one should look to its source in appreciative gratitude.  We should remember and keep in mind those who have helped to nurture us.  In the same way, the ex-GEP pupils desire to give something back to society, a society which has acknowledged the importance of catering to the needs of the intellectually gifted by providing programmes to support intellectual development in their crucial years of growth.’

The Secondary SBGE Experience

The Ministry’s gifted education pages suggest that School-Based Gifted Education (SBGE) is only available within the Integrated Programmes offered by seven schools. SBGE is partly devolved to institutional level, in that it is ‘designed and implemented by the schools with specialist advice from the Gifted Education Branch’.

The schools involved are:

As with primary GEP, we will take a closer look at provision in a sample of these school in part 3 of the post.

Four further schools offer the IP without SBGE and the Ministry says another seven schools ‘will offer the IP in the near future’ but does not give a date and does not specify whether they will also offer SBGE.

It is important not to exclude these other IP schools from consideration as they too fall under the purview of Gifted Education Branch. An article in a May 2011 Newsletter notes:

‘The Gifted Education Branch, MOE, will help the new IP schools build their capacity, through teacher training and consultancy, as well as advise on curricular framework, programming and student assessment. This is in line with the Branch’s mission to provide leadership in the education of the intellectually gifted, and to nurture gifted and talented individuals to their full potential.’

The core curriculum for SBGE is described as ‘rigorous and differentiated’. Schools typically offer additional optional subjects – electives – such as philosophy, research education, information and communication studies and integrated humanities.

The typical class size is given as 25-30.SBGE students are typically grouped together in a class with a minority of IP students who did not undertake the primary GEP.

The Ministry refers to support for gifted learners’ social and emotional needs. Counselling is provided by the schools and also by counsellors attached to Gifted Education Branch.

There is little further information about the structure and content of IP SGBE at a generic level – one must turn to the schools’ websites to find out more about the programme on offer in each institution, and these are significantly different as we shall see.

Singapore River Stamford Raffles Statue courtesy of Calvin Teo

Additional Enrichment at Secondary Level

SBGE within the IP is clearly a direct descendant of the GEP (apologies for the embarrassment of acronyms) in that it is designed for academic all-rounders. But the in-school provision is complemented by three centrally-organised and subject-specific out-of-school activities:

  • A maths enrichment workshop – a two-day non-residential activity for mathematically talented SBGE pupils in Secondary 2 covering areas of maths not normally addressed within the school syllabus;
  •  A maths seminar – a half-day event for SBGE participants comprising lectures on maths not normally encountered beforel higher education; and
  •  A literature seminar – the format varies but is designed for SGBE participants in Secondary 2-3 with an interest in – and aptitude for – literature and writing.

There is also an extensive range of what are called Special Programmes. These are subject-specific ‘extensions of the enriched curriculum’ designed to:

‘identify and reach out to motivated and high-ability pupils in a specific domain, and offer them opportunities to deepen their interest in the field and to learn from practising professionals and academics.’

Such programmes typically incorporate a mentoring relationship and are developed and run by Gifted Education Branch as collaborative ventures with higher education, business or community partners. The Ministry website lists nine options.

Science-based activities are typically open to participants who are not undertaking SBGE as well as those who are:

  • Creative and Heuristic Applications of Science (CHAOS) – a team-based online science competition for Secondary 1-4 to develop creative and critical thinking skills in problem-solving.
  • Science Mentorship Programmes in which Secondary 2-3 students undertake science-based projects with the guidance of a teacher or university-based mentor. Participants write a paper for presentation at an annual Youth Science Conference.
  • A Science Research Programme intended for students with an aptitude for scientific research in the first year of Junior College or Year 5 of an IP course. Participants undertake university-based research projects over an extended period. About 130 annually will pursue an initial Research Methods learning module and 100 of these will proceed on the basis of an approved research plan.
  • Science Focus – again for first year Junior College and Year 5 IP students  – a 4-day programme of lectures, demonstrations and workshops covering physical, biological and pharmaceutical science, as well as IT and engineering.

Humanities-based activities are more typically confined to SBGE participants:

  • A Creative Arts Programme for creative writers in Secondary 2-3, Year 5 of IP and the first year of Junior College. This comprises a seminar and – for selected participants – a 9-month mentorship.
  • A Humanities and Social Science Research Programme, for SBGE participants in Secondary 3-4, which involves a research project guided by a university-based mentor, a symposium at which selected findings are presented and subsequent publication of the best research papers.
  • A Moot Parliament, again for SBGE participants in Secondary 3-4. The first phase is built around attendance at a Parliamentary debate; the second gives teams of pupils an opportunity to draft and debate their own bills.
  • A Leadership Development Programme for SBGE participants in Secondary 3-4 who show leadership potential and have completed initial leadership training sessions. A half-day seminar is followed by an 8-month attachment to a mentor and a final symposium, in which participants present their experience to those considering the programme for the following year.

There is also a cross-phase Innovation Programme, open to pupils in Primary 5 and Secondary 2 ‘in selected schools who have an interest in innovation and invention’. This runs from January to October each year and involves developing an innovative idea or product, ending with a fair at which the most promising projects are presented. All projects are stored on a dedicated website.

Standing alongside this provision is a separate entity called NUS-MOE Humanities and Social Sciences Research, for A level students ‘with outstanding aptitude and ability’ in either Chinese language and literature, Malay language and literature, English literature, economics, geography or history.

Participants undertake independent study and research under the supervision of university staff. This provides the basis for an extended essay assessed as part of the A level examination. Interestingly, the 2012 offer excludes English, Malay and geography, suggesting that suitable university staff may be in short supply.

Whereas this additional enrichment provision is targeted primarily at those following SBGE, there are also several in-school opportunities for those in the mainstream with strength in a particular subject domain.

Secondary Electives in Art, Music and Languages

A Music Elective Programme was introduced as long ago as 1982, so predates the GEP. It is open to:

‘academically able students with talent in music at selected secondary schools with special and express courses and selected junior colleges’.

It is offered in a dozen institutions which, between them, offer a range of options including O level, 4-year and 6-year IP courses, and 2-year Junior College courses for IP and non-IP students alike. Non-IP participants typically take O level music at higher level. IP participants typically offer music as an A level or an IB subject.

Up to ten scholarships of 1,000 Singapore dollars are available annually. Participants have access to out-of school activities including a music camp, and composer-led workshops and masterclasses.

An Art Elective Programme was introduced two years later in 1984. The target group is similarly defined (except of course that talent must be in art). It is available at six institutions, offering higher level O level or A level. Scholarships of 1,000 Singapore dollars are available to those at junior college.

Participants have access to fully-equipped studios and the usual range of enrichment opportunities.

The declared aim of both these options is to:

‘Stretch these students’ talents…and to develop individuals who would be able to provide leadership favourable to the cultivation of the arts in Singapore.’

The Language Elective Programme is a slightly different animal, being a 2-year option offered only at selected Junior Colleges. It provides the opportunity for students to offer the LEP as a fourth A level subject and is available in Chinese, Malay, French, German and Japanese.

The Chinese LEP is offered at five institutions. Participants can write research papers and take undergraduate modules that attract credit at Singapore universities. They can also access additional enrichment activities, including an immersion course in China or Taiwan. Outstanding students can win scholarships worth 1,000 Singapore Dollars annually, plus exemption from school fees. The offer in other languages is broadly similar.

Rather confusingly, there is also separate provision for secondary students who score in the top 10% of the PLSE and ‘have a natural ability to learn a foreign language, in addition to English and Mother Tongue’ to study a third language from Secondary 1, culminating in O level French, German, Japanese, Malay, Bahasa Indonesia or Arabic. These courses are provided by a Language Centre which is part of the Ministry of Education.

Even more confusingly, some schools and junior colleges also offer additional electives in drama, languages and the humanities.

 

Provision for Exceptionally Gifted Learners

Although there is no distinct programme for exceptionally gifted learners, the Ministry’s website provides extensive coverage of how the system responds to their needs.

The definition offered is imprecise:

‘An exceptionally gifted child is one whose intellectual ability is significantly advanced’

but is supported by an extended checklist of ‘common characteristics’.

Provision and support is governed by an interesting set of core principles:

  • these children should be in the Singapore school system
  • they should receive a well-rounded education. (Cognitive development should not be achieved at the expense of development in the moral, social, physical and aesthetic domains)
  • the recommended interventions should be made within the constraints of existing resources.

The first may imply that the Government will not support home-educated pupils and/or that there is no necessity for them to be educated outside Singapore. The second is a fairly standard statement of opposition to ‘hothousing’.

The third’s reference to resource constraints is faintly ironic given the huge sums that Singapore must invest in gifted education more generally, but may be intended to lower parents’ expectations of what can be provided to meet individual needs. Since the text offers the estimate that perhaps three in every 100,000 children meet the criteria, such support is unlikely to break the bank!

However, the website lists a series of possible interventions for such learners including self-paced instruction, online courses, mentoring, subject acceleration, early admission to primary school, level skipping (up to a maximum of four levels) and dual enrolment.

It adds:

‘Once a child is identified as exceptionally gifted, a team comprising the child, teacher(s), school leader(s), parents and officers in GE Branch is formed. The team draws up a Personalised Education Plan (PEP) for the child. Each PEP will take into account the child’s readiness for faster academic progression, as well as his/her social emotional development. The PEP is reviewed at the end of every semester.’

Interestingly, while it is clear that the Branch will intervene to support dual enrolment, they are somewhat less supportive of early entry to public examinations:

‘Students are discouraged from taking these exams earlier if the sole purpose is to reduce the number of subjects they would have to do at a later date.’

Presumably early entry is deemed more acceptable if new, additional subjects are substituted for those completed, so exceptionally gifted learners are expected to accumulate a wider than usual range of O levels and/or A levels

A secondary source comments:

‘Traditionally, gifted education in Singapore has been based on enrichment, not acceleration. However, there is increasing recognition that the enriched GEP curriculum is not able to meet the needs of the few exceptionally gifted children who are years ahead of the moderately gifted. Hence, a framework was developed to help these exceptional children. While adhering to the general policy of non-acceleration, exceptions are made for the exceptionally gifted who are assessed to need, and can benefit from acceleration. Each child had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), developed by a team comprising the child’s “significant others”: parent, teacher, counsellor and gifted education specialist. A handful of these children are also given opportunities to learn with like-minded peers, and where appropriate, mentored by university professors. Local universities are open to early admission of these children, where appropriate.’

The GEP has received significant criticism of its provision for exceptionally gifted learners. In an extended series of blog posts narrating his encounters with Gifted Education Branch, Valentine Cawley, father of Aidan, gives the impression of an institution that is insufficiently flexible to respond to the individual needs of gifted learners and negotiate appropriate support with their parents.

In 2010, Aidan Cawley moved to Malaysia to continue his education ‘because Singapore was not supporting his education adequately’. The blog continues, however.

In April 2009 a Parliamentary Question was asked about provision for exceptionally gifted students. The answer revealed that since 2000, fewer than 20 students had been identified as exceptionally gifted.

This question is almost certain to have been prompted by the case of Aidan Cawley  since a follow-up question is about whether such students have gone overseas for their education.

Boat Quay Singapore courtesy of chensiyuan

 

Professional Development

There is surprisingly little information on the Ministry’s website about teacher development and support. The historical section contains a reference to the development of various courses for primary teachers, but there are few if any details provided.

A separate Gifted Education Branch presentation on the maths curriculum for primary GEP participants explains that teachers are still selected by the Branch on the basis of their qualifications, the quality of their classroom teaching – assessed through a lesson observation conducted by the Ministry’s Curriculum Officers – and an interview.

All GEP teachers complete a pre-entry foundation course in gifted education as well as modules on curriculum differentiation and affective education during their first two years within the Programme. All new teachers are mentored by curriculum specialists from Gifted Education Branch and during their first two years they are observed at least twice per year. All attend regular workshops on pedagogy, assessment and student motivation.

GEP teachers have relatively fewer teaching periods than their peers because they are expected to need more time for lesson preparation and pupil support.

Separate training is provided for teachers providing High Ability programmes.

Secondary schools recruit their own teaching staff for SBGE but the Branch provides an annual training programme on the theory and practice of gifted education, as well as subject-specific workshops for all IP teachers.

At least in 2004, there was also a degree of wider involvement as the Minister’s 20th anniversary speech reveals:

‘The GEP has also been actively involved in sharing its pedagogies with mainstream teachers.  In particular, two programmes, the Enriched Curriculum for Bright Pupils and Strategies to Optimise Learning, were conducted from 1998 to 2002 to share strategies suitable for the highly able with over 900 primary and secondary teachers from 45 schools.’

Award-Bearing Courses

An item in a 2007 World Council Newsletter mentions that Gifted Education Branch is working with Singapore’s National Institute of Education to introduce a range of professional development courses to equip teachers to undertake SBGE. It adds that the NIE introduced a Masters in Education (Med) degree with specialisation in gifted education in January 2007.

The NIE Website currently contains details of a Certificate in Teaching Pupils with High Ability, an Advanced Diploma and the MEd.

The Certificate is open to qualified teachers, whether or not they hold a degree. The course objective is to:

‘Equip in-service teachers (primary and secondary; in mainstream and in IP schools) with an understanding of the needs of High Ability learners and with practical knowledge of appropriate pedagogy and programming options that would meet these needs.’

It comprises four modules, each of which is equivalent to two Academic Units and involves 24 hours of study. It can be counted towards completion of the Advanced Diploma and specific modules of the MEd.

Candidates can claim exemption from modules within the Certificate if they have completed ‘courses in the teaching of high ability learners during their basic teacher education programme in the past 5 years’ or ‘the 3 foundational courses on gifted education conducted by Gifted Education Branch’.

The four modules together:

‘are designed to equip teachers with a good understanding of the needs of High Ability learners and a pedagogic repertoire for meeting those needs. The modules will aim to provide necessary theoretical and practical frameworks that will enable teachers, Heads of Departments and Subject Heads to make sound decisions for curricular and instructional differentiation in their classrooms and for enrichment programming in their schools.’

They are:

  • Understanding and providing for learners with high ability – covering the historical and philosophical background of gifted education;
  • Curriculum for highly able learners – enabling teachers to differentiate the curriculum to meet the needs of highly able learners;
  • Programming for talent development – providing guidance for designing talent development programmes;
  • A practicum – involving the design and delivery of differentiated lessons or a school-based enrichment programme.

The Advanced Diploma is accessible to qualified teachers with a Diploma in Education or equivalent. Partial exemptions are available on the same basis as within the Certificate programme.

Course objectives are to:

  • ‘Understand the major historical, philosophical and theoretical bases of gifted education.
  • Understand the nature and needs of highly able learners.
  • Develop a differentiated curriculum to meet the unique intellectual and social-emotional needs of highly able learners.
  • Select, develop and evaluate teaching materials and methods to differentiate instruction for highly able learners.
  • Conduct school-based action research in the area of educating the highly able.’

The course consists of five core courses (11 Academic Units) and a choice of elective courses equivalent to at least 9 Academic Units.

The courses include the four within the Certificate programme plus:

  • School-based Action Research – research methods and planning and implementing a research study or school-based project;
  • Language Arts and Social Studies for the Highly Able – curriculum development in these areas;
  • Science and Mathematics for the Highly Able – ditto;
  • Teaching Thinking Skills – including theories and research on cognition, metacognition and thinking process and development of associated teaching units;
  • Creativity and Problem-Solving – the dimensions of creativity and development of associated teaching units;

The MEd entry requirements are a first degree, a teaching qualification and at least one year’s teaching experience or at least three years’ teaching experience or other relevant educational work experience.

The MEd consists of:

Two core courses: Educational Enquiry 1 and 2

Two compulsory specialisation courses: Differentiated Pedagogies for High Ability Learners and Understanding High Ability Learners

Three elective specialisation courses, selected from:

  • Affective Needs and Moral Development of the Gifted;
  • Identification of Potential and Interventions for Talent Development;
  • Critical and Creative Thinking for High Ability Learners;
  • Issues, Policies and Trends in Gifted Education;
  • Administration and Evaluation of Programmes for High Ability Learners and Talent Development

One open elective course and either a dissertation or two further courses (Critical Enquiry and a second open elective). Open elective courses are generic modules offered for all Masters courses.

The website carries two editions of a Gifted Education Newsletter intended for staff in schools amongst others. One is dated May 2011, the other November 2011.  Presumably this will continue to be published twice a year, so the third edition is imminent.

That marks the end of the second leg of this trilogy. Part 3 will concentrate on how gifted education is provided within selected primary GEP, secondary SBGE and independent Specialised Schools. It will conclude with an overall assessment of gifted education in Singapore, including evidence of its impact and how it has been received by Singaporeans.

GP

May 2012

Gifted Education in Singapore: Part 1

 

This post on gifted education in Singapore is the next in an unofficial series featuring the Asian Tiger Economies that head the 2009 PISA rankings – and are amongst the ‘high-performing jurisdictions’ examined during England’s current National Curriculum Review.

It builds on a March 2011 post in my ‘Behind the Gifted News’ series which asked whether England would copy Singapore’s Integrated Programme. (More later about how the Integrated Programme fits within wider gifted education provision.)

Previous reviews have addressed gifted education in Hong Kong and South Korea. Now it is time to turn our attention to one of the educational powerhouses of South East Asia. For Singapore finished 5th in the PISA 2009 league table for reading, 4th for science and 2nd for mathematics.

My analysis of high achievers’ performance in PISA shows that, in 2009, the percentage of Singaporean students achieving levels 5 or 6 was 15.7% in reading, 19.9% in science and 35.6% in maths. (The percentages achieving level 6 were 2.6%, 4.6% and 15.6% respectively.)

Only Shanghai performed better (with the sole exception of New Zealand which just edged ahead of Singapore on reading). For comparison, the figures for level 5 and level 6 performance in England were 8%, 11.4% and 9.9% respectively.

Such exceptional achievement is testament to an education system that demonstrates all-round excellence, perfectly exemplified by a powerful gifted education programme that has gradually extended its reach over a 30-year lifespan.

But Singapore’s provision is far from perfect, as we shall see. Numbers are also very small in comparative terms, so there are big questions over scalability, but few other countries – if any – can rival the full richness and diversity of Singapore’s offer.

That diversity, as well as the longevity of Singapore’s investment in gifted education, results in an accretion of complexity, so this post is necessarily long and detailed. It is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1 covers the history, purpose and management of Singaporean gifted education;
  • Part 2 will look at selection for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), will set out in detail the full range of primary and secondary provision and examine professional development and support;
  • Part 3 includes more detail about provision in exemplar primary GEP schools, secondary schools offering School-Based Gifted Education (SBGE) and the various independent Specialised Schools. It also reviews evidence of the impact of the overall programme and how it has been received within Singapore.

Demography

Before we get on to gifted education, it is essential to sketch in as context a brief outline of Singapore’s demographics and a more thorough treatment of its school system.

Singapore, located at the Southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, has an area of just 710 km2 but its population in 2011 was 5.184m (3.257m of them Singapore citizens). This gives the third highest population density in the world. Singapore comprises 63 islands and there is significant land reclamation to create more space (the original land mass was only 581 km2).

Singapore was ruled by the British from 1824, having been established as an East India Company trading settlement a few years beforehand. It became self-governing in 1959 and independent in 1965. It operates as a parliamentary republic.

It is also wealthy. The average per capita GDP in 2011 is estimated at just under $60K. About three-quarters of residents are of Chinese descent but there are also significant Malay, Indian and Eurasian minorities. There are four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is the language of instruction in state-run schools.

courtesy of Jonnyblaze07

The 2011 Education Statistics Digest confirms that there are just 356 schools in Singapore – 173 primary and 155 secondary schools.

There are some 257,000 pupils in the primary sector and 196,000 in the secondary sector and the total pupil population is around 511,000. In the first 10 years within the system – from Primary 1 to Secondary 4 – the total size of each year group varies between 39,000 and 53,000.

Education System

It helps to begin with a diagram, for the Singaporean Education system is highly complex, especially given the small population it serves.

It comprises

  • A six-year course of primary education with a core of English, mother tongue language and maths plus science, social studies, civics and moral education, music, arts and crafts, health education and PE. There are also cross-curricular activities and a community involvement programme. The first four years are regarded as a foundation stage, while Primary 5-6 is described as an orientation stage.
  • During the latter, a system of subject-based banding means that pupils are taught English, mother tongue, maths and science at either ‘foundation’ or a higher ‘standard’ level. (Such setting has replaced the more rigidly streamed approach that preceded it.) This is supplemented by Learning Support for those needing extra help in English and maths and the Gifted Education Programme (GEP).
  • The latter consists of an advanced curriculum offered in designated primary schools from Primary 4 to Primary 6 inclusive. Additional enrichment activities are also offered to pupils with subject-specific strengths but outside the GEP. Primary education concludes with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PLSE).
  • In secondary education, from Secondary 1 to Secondary 4, pupils typically follow one of three different tracks or pathways: an Express Course leading to GCE O level examinations; a Normal (Academic) Course leading to GCE N level examinations – those who do well in the latter may opt to take O levels after one further year; or a Normal (Technical) Course leading to GCSE N level examinations, including subjects ‘with technical or practical emphases’.
  • The various options have different curricular components, but students will typically study English, mother tongue, maths, science and the humanities plus Knowledge Skills, Life Skills, Cross-Curricular Activities and a range of electives in languages, art and music, some of which are only accessible in particular institutions.
  • Some 10% of students pursue the Integrated Programme (IP). This spans secondary and subsequent junior college education (Years 5 and 6), but skips the national examinations at the end of Secondary 4. Time that would otherwise be spent on preparing for GCE O levels is dedicated to ‘broader learning experiences’. This option is designed for those progressing to university who ‘could do well in a less structured environment’. In 2012, a 6-year IP beginning in Secondary 1 is offered in 11 secondary schools although in four of them students complete Secondary 5-6 in a partnering Junior College. Students can also apply directly to schools for entry to a 4-year IP beginning in Secondary 3 and one further institution offers only this 4-year option. Further details are set out in my March 2011 post.
  • Students formerly within the secondary GEP now undertake School-Based Gifted Education (SBGE). The Ministry’s Secondary Education booklet says SBGE is offered within the IP and Academic (Express) tracks, adding that seven of the schools that offer IP have SBGE incorporated within it, while five schools offer the O level track specifically for GEP students. However, the gifted education pages on the Ministry’s website mention only the IP provision, suggesting that the Academic (Express) option may now have been phased out. Either way, secondary options for graduates of the primary GEP are more limited than they first appear, though some may attend a specialised school (see below) or an alternative independent school.
  • Most students will progress to a post-secondary institution which may be: a Junior College (2 years) or Centralised Institute (3 years) providing an academic pathway for those with the requisite O levels that leads to GCE A level examinations;  a Polytechnic providing a diploma course in fields such as engineering, applied sciences and business studies; the Institute of Technical Education providing courses which allow students to progress to Polytechnic diplomas; or an arts college offering diplomas in visual and performing arts. Those attending Junior College or a Polytechnic will typically progress to university.

The Origins and Development of the GEP

Singapore’s Ministry of Education website provides extensive coverage of the GEP – material which I have used as the primary source for this post, though amplified and supported by the full range of other information available online.

The historical timeline provided by the Ministry is unusually comprehensive, amply demonstrating the gradual evolution of the GEP and related provision over three decades.

The GEP arose from the findings of a 1981 mission, led by Education Minister Tay Eng Soon, to review other countries’ gifted education programmes. Israel, the Soviet Union, China and the United States are specifically mentioned.

Two years later a concept paper ‘The Gifted Project’’ was prepared by Phua Swee Liang (who subsequently became the second wife of the Deputy Prime Minister). It proposed an enrichment-based programme, as opposed to an accelerative approach, broadly following an Israeli model built around gifted classes within normal schools.

The mission and concept paper provided additional and now familiar educational arguments for the introduction of the Programme, including: the risk that gifted learners would be under-challenged and so would underachieve; the risk that they might become an ‘underclass’ if their psychological and emotional needs were not catered for; and the case, grounded in equality of opportunity, for providing them with an education tailored to meet their particular needs. Gifted learners were presented as having special needs to which the education system should respond.

A Special Project Unit – precursor of the Ministry’s Gifted Education Branch – was formed to bring the Programme to fruition.  It was responsible for identifying participants, selecting teachers, preparing curriculum materials and monitoring progress.

In 1984 a pilot project was launched in two primary and two secondary schools. Further schools were added in succeeding years until, by 2001, there were nine primary and seven secondary schools involved.

The initial student cohort consisted of 100 pupils in Primary 4 and 100 in Secondary 1, each identified as the top 0.25% of their year group. By 2004, the total number of participants had increased to 2,400.

Sunrise Marina Bay courtesy of Kohd Mamal

A 2001 essay by Mark Lim Shan-Loong, now a lecturer at Ngee An Polytechnic in Singapore, provides useful background on the origins of the GEP, drawing on interviews with several of the key players during this period.

He identifies geographical, economic, demographic and political factors behind the establishment of the GEP, including:

  • A growing need for highly skilled workers to help Singapore compete economically in an increasingly globalised environment. A New Educational System (NES) was introduced in 1979 to improve educational standards across the board. The 1979 Goh Report had called for a differentiated curriculum so students could be taught at the pace appropriate to them. The introduction of the GEP was set firmly in this context.
  • As GDP increased in the 1960s and 70s, Singapore became able to afford to invest in the development of human capital, the only substantive natural resource at its disposal.
  • As standards of living increased, Singaporeans also developed higher educational expectations. The differentiation provided through the GEP was to ‘meet the needs of an affluent society that expected and could afford a better education for its children’.
  • The GEP was also introduced partly to develop the future political leadership of Singapore.

Another essay available online, produced by Gary Lim for a 2002 University of Alberta Graduate Student Conference, broadly supports this analysis. Lim examines the economic and social context surrounding the introduction of the GEP, tracing the shift from a ‘one size fits all’ Education for All policy towards a differentiated system described as ‘Ability-Driven Education’. He argues that:

  • The old system was deemed to have failed the gifted learner, not least because average class sizes of 42 inhibited effective differentiation.
  • The introduction of the GEP coincided with a period of sustained economic prosperity. The Government realised that it needed future leaders to steer the country through its next stage of economic and social development.
  • This coincided with the emergence of a Singaporean middle class who were attracted by the prestige of their children belonging to the GEP and alive to the benefits it might confer through their future advancement.
  • The GEP was consistent with Singaporean belief in meritocracy, combining Western views on the rights of the individual with the Confucian ideal of putting family and state before one’s personal interests:

‘The Government encouraged Singaporeans to believe that the GEP catered to the rights of individuals to receive the best education that they could obtain and that such a program would eventually result in financial progress for their family as well as economic development for the country.’

Consequently there was little debate or dissent.

The new policy received clear support from the top of the Government who were determined that it would succeed. As a result, it was driven through by a dedicated Special Unit which interviewed prospective teachers to establish ‘their suitability and interest towards promoting the cause of gifted education’. Pilot schools were chosen from those ‘known to have shown very keen support for the Ministry’s endeavours’ with dynamic principals who could make things happen.

Reflecting on the origins of the GEP, Mark Lim Shan-Loong describes the principles upon which the new Programme was based:

  • Provision through self-contained GEP classes within maintained schools – with GEP classes constituting no more than a third of the total number of classes per school – so participants could benefit from wider socialisation with their peers;
  • An enrichment-based approach, covering the mainstream curriculum in greater breadth and depth, as opposed to an accelerative approach enabling participants to undertake the mainstream curriculum at a faster pace. This incorporated higher-order thinking skills, collaborative and discovery learning.
  • Selection at age 9 (in Primary 3) steering a middle way between the advantages of early intervention and allowing younger pupils to become acclimatised to schooling while those from disadvantaged backgrounds have an opportunity to catch up their peers.

 

Introduction of the Integrated Programme

The next key milestone in the Ministry’s timeline is the introduction of the first Integrated Programmes in 2004. But, as we have seen from my previous post on the IP, it originated in the recommendations within a 2002 Report from the Junior/College/Upper Secondary Education Review Committee.

Initially three schools introduced IP for Secondary 1-3 and three schools for Secondary 4-6. But, as noted above, GEP participants were corralled in particular classes in particular schools to access a GEP version of IP called School Based Gifted Education (SBGE).

Depending on gender, they could choose between a 6-year ‘all-through’ IP option, then offered at the Chinese High School, Nanyang Girls’ High School, Raffles Girls’ School, Raffles Institution and the independent Anglo-Chinese School. The latter culminated in the IB, while all the remaining courses led to A level.

Four secondary schools continued to offer the GEP to pupils not opting for the IP, two providing it only in Secondary 1 and 2 and two more from Secondary 1-4.

These arrangements were refined over the next four years, with slight variations in the mix of schools offering the GEP and SBGE (though it’s not entirely clear whether the former still exists today).

The 2002 Report makes clear that the IP is designed for the top 10% of the relevant cohorts, on the basis that these will be the students progressing to university. (The Report notes that 92% of those amongst the top 5% of PLSE candidates and 86% of those in the next 5% typically attend university in Singapore.)

We know from a recent Singaporean Parliamentary Question that approximately 3,400 students have been admitted to the IP each year since 2004, about 20% of them at Secondary 3.

The answer also reveals that, between 2004 and 2006, about 6% on average withdrew from the IP before their final year, some because they moved abroad. It adds that ‘almost all’ of those who completed the IP qualified for publicly-funded universities in Singapore.

During a Parliamentary debate on the 2002 Report, the Education Minister was explicit that part of the justification for introducing the IP was to combat perceived elitism:

‘That is the basic point. We need more outstanding Singaporeans in all fields – Science, Mathematics, law, diplomacy, arts. We need more outstanding Singaporeans to take us forward. We need to groom them as best as we can, nurture a spirit of Singaporeaness in them and maximise their contributions to society. So, let us build this diversity into the mainstream and seek to contain social elitism as we do so.

The Integrated Programme schools will actually offer us more opportunities to guard against social elitism than our existing school system does. They will have more time. If you look at the proposals that have been put forward by the schools that are applying to run the Integrated Programmes, they indeed intend to spend a lot more time on developing leadership and commitment to the community. So, this is not a change that is intrinsically going to lead to a more elitist system. If anything, it offers an opportunity for the top academic talents to develop stronger instincts of Singaporeaness and commitment to their fellow citizens.’

A 2004 speech by the Parliamentary Secretary (Education) to a GEP 20th Anniversary Reunion Dinner offers a slightly different rationale, citing a need to ‘allow for diversity’ and ‘cater for a greater variety of needs in the education of the gifted’.

He also stresses the importance of moving with the times rather than remaining locked into an outdated system:

‘The GEP, having evolved to this point, should be prepared to adapt further to the demands of the time. What might have worked well for us in the past may be superseded by new best practices. Singapore’s education system can only stay ahead and serve our children well if students, parents and educators are open to change and new challenges.’

The IP was not the only reform during this period as another 20th Anniversary speech, this time by the Minister of Education, makes clear:

‘We lifted the cap on the number of GEP students entering each secondary school from this year, so as to give gifted students the freedom to choose from the range of programmes available. The IP schools will also have the flexibility to identify and select additional students to join their gifted programmes…

….The introduction of specialized independent schools opens up other new branches in gifted education.  The Sports School and School for the Arts will provide a higher level of resources and expertise, and a specially tailored curriculum, for students with exceptional talents in these areas. The NUS High School of Maths and Science, which will open its doors next year, will introduce a new model of education for the intellectually gifted.  It will offer a whole school approach to developing students with exceptional talents in mathematics and science.  It will offer a curriculum and assessment system quite different from the mainstream, allowing them full rein to develop their special interests and abilities, although it will share with the mainstream the desire to provide students with an all-round education.

…Together, these programmes will provide a wider array of choices for our intellectually gifted pupils.  The new programmes will remove some current constraints, particularly in the way standardised assessment shapes teaching and learning, and help us evolve new models of curriculum and delivery for the intellectually gifted.’

Raffles Place courtesy of Ramir Borja

Recent Developments – the Last Five Years

Further significant reforms followed in 2007 and 2008 with the introduction of a Revised Gifted Education Framework, which also impacted on the primary sector.

In 2007, while 9 primary schools continued to provide self-contained GEP classes for those selected into it, efforts were made to develop a slightly broader approach. Two schools introduced pilot schemes for the integration of GEP pupils within normal Primary 4 classes, while the remaining seven introduced ‘specific measures to promote interaction’.

In the case of the former, an integrated class of GEP and non-GEP pupils was taught together for all subjects outside the ‘GEP core curriculum’ consisting of English language, maths and science. In the latter, separate classes continued but GEP and non-GEP pupils were taught together in arts and crafts, civics and moral education, Chinese, music and PE.

All 9 schools would ‘ continue to provide enhanced opportunities for greater integration through schoolwide activities, CCAs and community involvement programmes’.

The precise details of integration are set out more fully in a Ministry press release.

Centrally-organised activities were also introduced to support High-Ability Primary 4 learners outside the GEP in English, maths and science. These activities were eventually extended to pupils in Primary 5.

(These High Ability pupils are described elsewhere as the top 2-5% of the cohort, so still a limited group by comparison with the 10% or so supported through the secondary IP.)

By the end of 2008, stand-alone secondary GEP options were entirely phased out, leaving only the SBGE provision (and we have noted above that SBGE may now be confined to the Integrated Programme (IP) track).

SBGE gave schools greater flexibility over curriculum design, though still supported by officials from the Ministry’s Gifted Education Branch, who continue to provide consultancy on request but also conduct regular evaluations to ensure the level of challenge is appropriate.

The wider context for these reforms is provided by a 2007 Speech by the Minister for Education entitled ‘Having Every Child Succeed’:

‘We are injecting fluidity into our ability-based system of education. The fundamentals of our school system are sound. We recognise different abilities and have students take different courses of study so that they can do well, and do not get demotivated in school. That’s a strength of the Singapore school system, and it has allowed our students to perform at a higher average level than most others.’

The current phase of reform:

‘helps many more students recognize that they can be strong in some areas, even if they lack prowess in other things’.

On the development of the GEP:

‘We are also seeing greater interplay between the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) and the rest of the school. The Integrated Programme (IP) schools are running talent-focused programmes at the secondary level, enabling both GEP and other students with a talent in a particular field to work together. We are moving towards the same arrangement in our primary schools, creating more opportunities for GEP students to learn and interact with others, and develop rounded characters from young.’

This is placed firmly in the context of meritocracy and social mobility:

‘By investing in quality across the board, we make sure that Singapore remains a place where it is your ability and effort that determine success, not who your parents are or where you start off from. We must remain a place where education is a path for social mobility, from one generation to the next.’

But also references the selective nature of the Singaporean education system:

‘Selection is by talent and ability. It is a rarity in state school systems, in fact quite incorrect politically in most countries. But it is what motivates and gives opportunity to every bright and talented kid from a less advantaged background. ..

We have an ability-based system, but it is one that opens up ladders all along the way, so that it is driven by each student’s aspirations…. We must keep enough flexibility in the system, keep open the bridges and ladders and make sure there is always space for aspirations, so that every Singaporean feels encouraged to try hard and go further….

But still, we see significant mobility taking place through education today, and more so than in most other countries. Students who come from the bottom 1/3 of home backgrounds (in terms of housing type and parents’ education levels) have a 50% chance of making it into the top 2/3 of PSLE performance in our primary schools. They also have a 50% chance of being in the top 2/3 of performers at the ‘O’-levels in our secondary schools.’

This time round there seems to be some reluctance on the part of politicians to acknowledge concerns about elitism, but other evidence shows these are still substantial. A 2007 Straits Times article argues that these changes were prompted by the:

‘long-held criticism that the GEP is elitist and churns out students who have problems relating to their non-GEP peers’.

A 2009 Parliamentary Question asks about the success of the integration policy in the primary sector. Part of the response is:

‘All nine GEP schools have provided positive feedback on the intermingling initiative.  Both pupils and parents have found intermingling beneficial.

With GEP and mainstream pupils spending more curriculum time together, engaging in hands-on activities as well as exchange of ideas and personal experiences, pupils have developed meaningful friendships. For example, as pupils are in mixed PE classes, they had to form mixed teams to represent the classes in competitions at the School Sports Day, and this has been invaluable in building team work.

Schools have also made it a point to organise pupils in mixed groups for school camps, outings and Community Involvement Programme (CIP) projects. This also provides opportunities for both groups to have a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and learn to appreciate each other’s talents.

We are encouraged by the positive feedback, and will continue with our efforts to promote intermingling of GEP and mainstream pupils.’

The Singapore Skyline courtesy of Someformofhuman


Gifted Education Today: The Government Perspective

The historical development of Singapore’s provision clearly demonstrates a gradual trend away from discrete GEP classes for a tiny minority of exceptionally able pupils towards a more balanced, multi-stranded approach that caters for a significantly  wider range of high-ability learners.

So how does the Government define the core purpose and aims of the GEP as it now operates in Singapore’s schools?

Unusually, the Ministry’s website publishes a full set of business statements for the Programme. It is possible to trace within these some of the rationale for the original introduction of the GEP, as well as traces of the reform agenda.

There is a mission statement:

‘Our mission is to provide leadership in the education of the intellectually gifted. We are committed to nurturing gifted individuals to their full potential for the fulfilment of self and the betterment of society’

Also a vision statement:

‘Our vision is to make Gifted Education in Singapore a model of excellence. We will achieve this vision by providing professional expertise and exemplary resources to develop intellectual rigour, humane values and creativity in gifted youths to prepare them for responsible leadership and service to country and society’

Each of these seem designed more for internal consumption by GEP staff rather than for participants, their families and other stakeholders. The same applies to a more learner-focused aim that deploys some of the same terminology as the vision statement:

‘To develop intellectual rigour, humane values and creativity in gifted youths to prepare them for responsible leadership and service to country and society.’

The italicised emphasis here is noticeably different to the aims typically articulated for similar programmes in the West.

A set of equally learner-focused goals includes terminology somewhat more familiar to Western ears, as well as similar references to leadership and national service:

  • to develop intellectual depth and higher level thinking
  • to nurture productive creativity
  • to develop attitudes for self-directed lifelong learning
  • to enhance aspirations for individual excellence and fulfilment
  • to develop a strong social conscience and commitment to serve society and nation
  • to develop moral values and qualities for responsible leadership

Finally a statement of rationale is set squarely in the context of the Ministry’s wider commitment to provide ‘an education of quality and relevance’ for each and every pupil. It offers two reasons for the existence of the programme:

  • The educational case, which is expressed in the following terms (the emphasis is mine:

‘children have varying abilities and it is not a sound practice to give every child the same education and expect him/her to move at the same pace as his/her peers.The intellectually gifted need a high degree of mental stimulation. This need may not be met in the mainstream classroom and the gifted child may become mediocre, indifferent or disruptive in class’

(Interestingly, this includes some recognition of the benefits of an accelerative approach that seems slightly out of kilter with the enrichment-driven rhetoric elsewhere.)

  • The wider national benefit, expressed in terms of investment in the human capital upon which Singapore relies for ‘progress and prosperity’.

How is the GEP Managed?

The Gifted Education pages of the Ministry’s website contain no information about the staffing and structure of its Gifted Education Branch, but further detail can be found within the Government’s online directory.

This shows that the Branch is located within the Ministry’s Curriculum Planning and Development Division. It is led by a Deputy Director, Dr Tan Bee Geok. She is supported by a Principal Specialist, Dr Quek Chwee Geok and two Assistant Directors, Chan Mei Yuen and Chng Poh Teen.

Altogether, exactly 40 officials are listed, including 14 senior specialists and 22 officers. There is also a general office which presumably contains additional administrative support staff.

A presentation given at the 2010 Asia-Pacific Conference describes the role of the Branch as:

In relation to the primary sector:

  • Identifying and selecting GEP participants
  • Selection, training and mentoring of teachers
  • Developing curriculum materials
  • Monitoring the implementation of GEP
  • Organising programmes for high-ability learners

And within the secondary sector:

  • Providing consultancy and training for schools
  • Organising Special Programmes to develop students’ domain-specific talents
  • Approving funding
  • Facilitating the development of exceptionally gifted learners
  • Conducting research and evaluation

Such a high level of Government staffing for gifted education must be unprecedented and unique. It is all the more astounding considering the size of Singapore’s education system, and the very small minority of Singapore’s pupils that are served by the Gifted Education Programme and related initiatives.

Taking the statistics available online, there are 2,400 students within the Primary GEP and 3,400 admitted each year to the IP (I have not been able to discover how many within the IP are also undertaking SBGE). That gives a total number of about 23,000 learners. Even if we assume that 5% of older primary pupils benefit from High Ability activities, the total number of beneficiaries cannot be much in excess of 30,000.

The staff to learner ratio for Gifted Education Branch alone is therefore about 1:750. I have found no information about the number of teachers working exclusively with gifted learners and the significant proportion of the time of other educators that must be dedicated to meeting their needs.

The Ministry is similarly coy about the cost of this staffing, as well as the size of the support budget for the GEP and related activities. All I can find is one recent Parliamentary answer that mentions an annual programme grant for primary GEP participants of 53 Singapore dollars per pupil!

It is almost certain, however, that Singapore’s per capita investment in its gifted learners is the highest in the world by some considerable margin.

We have come to the end of Part 1 of this post. In Part 2 we will take a closer look at how primary and secondary gifted education provision operates in Singapore today.

GP

May 2012