Gifted Education in India


This post is about Indian gifted education, principally informed by the test website of the newly-established National Association of Gifted Education (NAGE India) now renamed PRODIGY – Promoting Development of India’s Gifted Young.


I have long planned to provide further coverage of developments in India, having featured the country’s JNV schools for gifted students back in December 2010.

As I write, the final version of the NAGE India website has only a holding page but I am including the link since the test site presumably has a limited shelf life. It is likely that all the material on the test site will be migrated in due course to this address..


Brief Background on India and its Education System

India is the seventh largest country in the world by area and has the second largest population, comprising 1.21 billion people.

It is a federal republic consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. All but five of the territories have their own elected governments. Total (nominal) GDP is 10th largest in the world, but GDPper capita rates only 140th.


courtesy of rajeshodayanchal

courtesy of rajeshodayanchal


Responsibility for education is divided between the federal and state governments. The federal Ministry of Human Resource Development includes a Department of School Education and Literacy.

There is also a Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) and a National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) underpinned by a series of State Councils (SCERTs).

SCERTs generally operate within frameworks set by NCERT but also enjoy significant autonomy. They in turn advise their state government education departments on strategy, curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation.

The education system is divided between primary (five classes), upper primary (two classes), high school (three classes) and higher secondary school (two classes). States typically operate with a mix of government schools, grant-aided schools and fully private schools.

Government secondary schools are normally co-ordinated through the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and follow a common syllabus, which is also observed by some private schools. Many of the latter are affiliated instead to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE).

There is also Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (which administers almost 1,100 ‘central schools’) and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti which runs the JNV schools featured in my earlier post. There are some 600 of these located in rural areas in all Indian states.

In 2010-11, there were almost 72,000 higher secondary, 128,000 high, 448,000 upper primary and 749,000 primary schools in India, giving an overall total of almost 1.4 million schools (plus a further 68,000 pre-primary schools).

The total number of pupils is equally staggering. There were almost 249 million learners in classes 1-12 in 2010-11. This included over 30 million in Class 1 alone, falling to over nine million in Class 12. There were also over six million children in pre-primary classes.

The total teacher workforce includes 1.26 million in higher secondary schools, 1.24 million in high schools, 1.89 million in upper primary schools and 2.1 million in primary schools. About 90% are trained.


The Role of NAGE-India

The material that follows is taken from the incomplete version of the test website, supplemented by a variety of other sources available online.



NAGE-India (aka PRODIGY) was established in January 2013 as a non-profit organisation (another source says the organisation was registered as early as September 2011).

Its mission is:

‘To develop programmes to identify and nurture the abilities of gifted children and support them by building networks of parents, teachers, educators, professionals, community members, and interested individuals from the government and the private sector and engaging in a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders to impact national policy.’

Five objectives are listed (I have slightly paraphrased them):

  • Develop a gifted education programme for India;
  • Develop resources for gifted children;
  • Build a national network of mentors;
  • Create a platform to network and [engage in] dialogue on gifted education [involving] teachers, parents, educationists, education and research institutes – national and international, and other stakeholders;
  • Advocate for gifted education in the education system, and train stakeholders in advocacy;

But there is also a supplementary set of three (again slightly paraphrased):

  • Conduct research, develop giftedness and gifted education programmes;
  •  Support gifted learners with a range of interventions; and
  • Help gifted learners to ‘develop their abilities to the fullest and to channel their abilities to nation-building’.

The target group of learners is described as those who ‘demonstrate high performance or high potential compared to their age-peers’. Although used in illustrative fashion, the text refers to an estimated population of 13 million learners, derived by calculating 3% of all 3-18 year-olds in the country.

Different calculations appear elsewhere, including in the publications carried by the NAGE-India site (see references below):

‘According to provisional data released from the 2011 decadal census (Chandramouli, 2011), India has 158.8 million children in the age group 0-6 years, of whom 41.2 million live in urban areas. Figures for children in the age group 0-14 years have not been released as yet, but estimates put the fraction of the Indian population in this group at about 30% (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012), which, of the current population of 1.21 billion people as reported in the 2011 decadal census, amounts to about 360 million. If the top 2% of these are considered as ‘gifted’, the nation has about 7.2 million children between the ages of 0-14 years, of which about 3 million children are between ages 0-6 years. If the scope of the definition of giftedness is enlarged to include the top 10%, it would imply a staggering 36 million children up to 14 years of age, largely in rural India.’

The authors are very much aware of the problems involved in providing gifted education in such a large country, with such a diverse population, where the supply of universal basic education remains a real challenge.

There is a declared intention to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged learners, including girls, those living in poverty and/or in rural areas, those from ethnic minorities and those with special needs.

There is also declared interest in further international collaboration:

‘It is our hope that through collaborations with the NAGC, HKAGE, UCONN, WCSU and other international bodies, the project will be able to establish a gifted education programme for India.’

HKAGE is the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education, previously featured extensively on this blog. It is an Asian powerhouse in this territory and will already have established links with Indian counterparts through the Asia-Pacific Federation.

UCONN is the University of Connecticut, Renzulli’s base. We know he has been involved (see below).

WCSU is Western Connecticut State University – their website confirms the involvement of Marcia Delcourt:

‘She is presently working with educators and researchers through the government of India to identify and mentor children with high ability in mathematics and science’

NAGE-India is based at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore, capital of the state of Karnataka in South-West India.

Twelve founder members are listed, the large majority academics, though none are exclusively gifted education specialists. Several are based at NIAS or one of the two named partner organisations: the Agastya Foundation and the University of Delhi.


Delhi from a Rickshaw courtesy of wili_hybrid

Delhi from a Rickshaw courtesy of wili_hybrid


Precursors of NAGE-India


Gifted Education Elsewhere in India

The NAGE-India website explains that, while Indian gifted education research stretches back to the 1980s, it has been isolated in certain locations (Jnana Probhodhini, Pune and Delhi University are mentioned).

Provision has also been scant and has relied over-much on ‘learning models and assessment tools transferred wholesale from western contexts’.

There is no reference here to the JNV schools, but they are covered in a section on Indian programmes within one of the publications produced as an outcome of current work: ‘An Introductory Reading on Giftedness in Children’.

This highlights:

  • A National Talent Search Examination (NTSE) introduced in 1963 by NCERT, when it was confined exclusively to science. By 1964, 350 scholarships were available to students in Class 11, awarded on the basis of a written examination (a science aptitude test and an essay), a project report and an interview. The scholarships covered study to PhD. In 1976, the talent search was broadened to include engineering, medicine and social sciences and students in Classes 10, 11 and 12. A total of 500 scholarships were awarded on the basis of a mental ability test, a scholastic aptitude test and an interview. By 1983 the number of scholarships had reached 750 and was further increased to 1,000 in 2000. Some places were set aside for Scheduled Castes and Tribes and some for disabled learners. In 2006 the NTS examination was switched to Class 8 but, from 2012, it will again apply to Class 10. NCERT provides further details of the tests as they currently operate (including sample questions).

‘To identify students with talent and aptitude for research; help them realize their potential in their studies; encourage them to take up research careers in Science, and ensure the growth of the best scientific minds for research and development in the country.’

Selection takes place between Class 11 and the first year of undergraduate study. Applicants take an aptitude test and shortlisted candidates are invited for interview. Those awarded Fellowships are supported up to ‘pre-PhD level’.

‘Attract talent to the excitement and study of science at an early age, and to help the country build the required critical resource pool for strengthening and expanding the S&T system and R&D base. It is a programme with long term foresight.’

There are three sections: Scheme for Early Attraction of Talent (SEATS), Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) and Assured Opportunity for Research Careers (AORC).

SEATS provides for one million 10-15 year-olds (Classes 6 to 10) to receive INSPIRE Awards of 5,000 Rupees (about £56). There are plans to support at least two students per school. Additionally, some 50,000 students who come top in Class 10 exams are eligible to attend Summer or Winter Camps held in 100 locations. These are known as Inspire Internships.

SHE enables 10,000 students per year aged 17-22 to undertake a summer attachment to a scientific researcher who will provide mentoring support.

AORC provides doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships to 22-27 year-olds in science, engineering and medicine.

  • Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs), as covered comprehensively in my previous post (I have found no updated material during my research for this post.)
  • Jnana Prabodhini Prashala, a school for gifted secondary students established in 1962 in Pune, in the state of Maharashtra. A preliminary entrance exam consists of ‘a battery of intelligence tests and scholastic achievement test in Mathematics’. Those achieving above a specified level undertake a further intelligence test and an interview. Some 80 entrants – 40 boys and 40 girls – are selected annually from around 1,000 candidates. There are 470 students on roll. Fees are charged, but the School says:

 ‘Poor economic condition is never a hurdle in getting admission. Lots of scholarships are available for the needy students.’

Details are not supplied.

This online report, which seems to date from around 2007, includes a quotation from the Head of Jnana Prabodhini:

‘Within the constraints of the CBSE curriculum, we have pioneered enrichment programmes which stimulate gifted students to achieve their potential. Based upon American psychologist Dr. J.P. Guilford’s intelligences model, our teaching-learning is stimulating, interactive and flexible. For instance instead of using the traditional lecture model in classrooms, we make a conscious effort to arouse the curiousity, sensitivity, observation, critical and divergent thinking and creativity skills of our students. Providing gifted students vibrant and enabling learning environments is crucial to the economic development and prosperity of India’

It also mentions another School, the Gear Innovative International School, also based in Bangalore, established in 1995 alongside a parallel ‘Gear Foundation for gifted education and research’ by one M Srinivasan, formerly a postgraduate student at Renzulli’s National Research Centre at the University of Connecticut.

The Gear School is described as ‘a CBSE affiliated kindergarten-class X school with an aggregate enrolment of 650 students’. It seems that it is not selective but offers a ‘special focus on providing environments which stimulate high potential students’ based on Renzulli’s work and Gardners Multiple Intelligences Model:

‘We have devised a special hands-on curriculum for children in classes I-VIII which stimulates creativity according to aptitude. This is done in specialist academies for nurturing the seven intelligences as defined by Gardener [sic] which gifted children can self-select according to their special talent. For instance there is the Anand Chess Academy, Ramanujam Math & Logical Academy, the Ravi Verma Visual Academy, etc. These academies have highly trained teachers/ mentors who help students develop their talent.’

The School and Foundation continue to exist. Their website includes a lengthy profile of the founder but does not give a ready insight into the current size of the School and exactly how it operates.

The online report also mentions a third institution, Col. Satsangia’s Kiran Memorial School (CSKMS) in Delhi which is said to have an associated Gifted Children’s Centre, founded in 1998 to raise awareness nationally and undertake research.

The Principal is named as Shakuntula S Jaiman:

‘It’s been proved that mainstreaming gifted children is the best methodology to nurture them. In CSKMS we practise partial segregation of gifted children i.e. they are grouped with children of similar abilities only for some activities. But mostly, they are in mixed classrooms. Interaction with children of varying learning abilities and backgrounds heightens awareness that they must utilise their special talent for the greater good of society and provides them leadership opportunities’.

The School’s website includes a prospectus which mentions

‘The Institute for Gifted Children

 This Institute provides ENRICHMENT PROGRAMMES to gifted children admitted in the CSKM School on all days of the week and to Gifted Children from other schools on Saturday/Sundays. It also holds an ANNUAL GIFTED CHILDREN DECATHLON that attracts participants from other schools in and out of Delhi.’

It is not clear why these two latter schools have not been mentioned in the NAGE-India/NIAS publications.

A media story from 2011 written by one of the NIAS team also mentions in passing a large number of Olympiad competitions administered in India, which again do not feature in the NAGE/NIAS analysis.

CBSE provides a list of these, but it is not entirely clear how many of them are still in operation.

They include: a Group Mathematical Olympiad held in December 2012, an Indian National Mathematical Olympiad (INMO) – details of which can be found elsewhere – a National Science Olympiad, a National Cyber Olympiad and a National Informatics Olympiad.

At least four of them appear to be operated by the Science Olympiad Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation whose mission includes an objective to ‘identify and nurture future scientists, technologists and IT talent at school level’.

This media report from 2010 reveals the popularity of such competitions in India, but also some wariness about the wisdom of entering the youngest pupils.


The Afternoon Glowing Temple courtesy of stuck in customs

The Afternoon Glowing Temple courtesy of stuck in customs


Origins of the NIAS Project

The NIAS website explains that the Project originated from an ‘Indo-US Round Table’, organised in New Delhi in January 2010 by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and the Indian National Science Academy, (so once more by scientific rather than educational interests).

Details are still retained on the website of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (I have inserted the hyperlinks):

‘Gifted children have innate capabilities that set them apart from other children. A great deal is happening across the world in the field of gifted education. Advancement in education and psychology has brought empirical and scientific credibility to the field of gifted education. The United States being the pioneer country in the development of gifted and talented education (GATE) has created various federal and state laws and regulations to make policies on educating the gifted and talented in all the states of the U.S.

Although In India, there are various agencies/departments working in talent search programs in different subjects, there is a need for collaborative and sustained research based practices. With this in mind, an Indo-US Round table discussion on Identification of Giftedness with special focus on science and mathematics was organized by Prof. Krishna Maitra (University of Delhi), Dr. Jyoti Sharma (University of Delhi) and Prof. J.S. Renzulli (University of Connecticut).

The discussions lead [sic] to empirical and descriptive understanding of issues concerning gifted education particularly in science and mathematics, and provided a platform for exchange of ideas and sustained collaboration in this area of research. The discussion focused on early identification of highly gifted children and planning the appropriate mentoring program for them. Distinguished speakers from the US and India summarized the current status of practices as well as possibilities for future deliberations.’

According to NIAS, following a subsequent discussion in Bangalore, the NIAS-led project was established later that year (2010) and was focused on the identification of gifted learners aged 3-15, particularly in maths and science.

NAGE-India’s website say NIAS has been working on this in partnership with the Agastya Foundation and the University of Delhi. (However, NIAS suggests the Delhi partner is specifically Shyama Prasad Mukherji College for Women, one of the constituent Colleges of Delhi University.)

This press report says that the project is funded by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), rather than the Department of School Education and Literacy, which presumably dictates the primary focus on maths and science. Unfortunately, the DST website does not reveal any further details of the grant paid.


Implementation of the NIAS Project

NAGE-India explains the distribution of responsibility:

‘In order to derive a representative model of giftedness in India, the three institutes have been looking at distinct demographic groups.

NIAS has focussed on young urban children (age 3-8, South India).

Agastya Foundation has been studying rural and out-of-school children (age 9-15, South India).

Delhi University has been working with the urban, semiurban, and tribal demographic (age 9-15, North India).

The three institutes have pooled their data in order to generate a rich model of giftedness across India. This was the first step in developing a fair, culture-appropriate, and inclusive identification protocol.’

NIAS adds some further clarification:

‘Each research team will independently conduct the study over a period of three years. The design of the research project will allow the three research teams to evolve independent methodologies as well as develop tools for identification appropriate to their specific context. Each research team will constantly interact with local experts on a regular basis to make mid-term corrections as the project progresses. Simultaneously, the project will develop mechanisms for mentoring the identified children. At the end of the project a policy paper on identification and mentoring gifted children will be developed.’

Agastaya has relatively little to say about its involvement, though the Foundation’s 2010-11 Annual Report does devote a page to the project, noting that:

‘During the year the Agastya team covered 639 schools, screened 89,998 students and shortlisted 2,831 of them for further screening.’

More recently, the 2011-12 Annual Report highlights several more milestones:

‘Surveyed 109,796 students in 824 schools of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka

Received 4,730 nominations from teachers

Had face-to-face interactions with 1,249 children

Shortlisted 360 children (246 ‘mildly gifted’ children; 107 ‘moderately gifted’ children; 7 ‘highly gifted’ children)’

I can find no substantive references in English on the University of Delhi’s site, beyond a brief reference or two in personal CVs of staff engaged in the Project.

Since the three-year Project began in 2010, it is scheduled to end in 2013. There may be further publications marking its end, or its transformation into the new NAGE-India Project. References are made in various sources to the development of a ‘roadmap’ for Indian gifted education and there may also be a final Project Report.

Two documents have been published to date on the NAGE-India website, one of which has already been referenced above:

‘A young organisation run by subject matter experts.

Our vision is to be one of the leading organizations that educate students on the latest trends and research in various fields to help students be knowledgeable about career opportunities.

Our mission is to provide students with access to industry experts, share relevant knowledge that will be useful to them in the working world and also help them pursue their passions by helping them make informed decisions.’

This provides some further insights into the NIAS project, which it describes as:

‘The first collaborative attempt in India to draw together a research base to address the issue of equitable educational opportunities for the gifted and develop talent through appropriate nurturance’

According to this version, the Project was born after a series of consultation meetings involving national and international experts.

A set of four strategies were formulated (which I have slightly rephrased):

  • To begin inter-disciplinary research to develop appropriate definitions of giftedness;
  • To develop appropriate identification tools, focusing on early identification;
  • To develop appropriate mentoring and nurturing programmes; and
  • To pursue research through international consultation and collaboration.

The three partners adopted the different target groups already outlined above but, in addition:

  • Delhi University’s work with urban 8-13 year-olds (not 9-13 year-olds as stated by NAGE) involved ‘developing an identification measure and an advanced screening matrix for children in maths and science’. This was undertaken through a pilot including the full range of government and private schools including JNVs and Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas (RPVVs) – a kind of selective school run by the State Government in Delhi. The Directorate of Education describe them thus:

‘It is common knowledge that bright students from poor families are unable to realize their full potential because spirit of competition does not exist when they compete with mediocre students. To enable them to realize their full potential and to get best out of them, it was considered desirable to open Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya in which talent would be nurtured and competitive spirit among bright boys and girls would be developed to their full potential.’

The pilot applied a variety of identification measures in combination, including IQ and non-verbal tests, behavioural assessments and nominations by teachers, peers and parents.

  • The Agastya Foundation focused its efforts on identifying a cadre of 15-20 learners aged 8-15 (not 9-15 as stated by NAGE) in two stages ‘based on exposure to scientific experiments, resources and games’. At the first stage 200,000 learners would be screened to provide a population of 5,000 for the second screening. (The references above to the material in the Foundation’s two most recent Annual Reports suggest that they got close to achieving these targets and may even have exceeded them.)
  •  NIAS concentrated on early identification with its population of 3-8 year-olds, undertaking: intensive classroom observations to identify relevant traits and behaviours and development of a battery of activities to ‘facilitate the demonstration of gifted behaviours within the classroom’; a set of teachers’ workshops to increase professional awareness and support identification (with input from national and international experts); and production of a set of case studies of gifted learners ‘to generate rich qualitative insights on the developmental pathways of giftedness’. Some of these case studies are incorporated in the published document (though it also includes studies of significantly older pupils which are presumably drawn from the work of NIAS’s two partners). Further details of the other outputs are provided on the NAGE-India website and summarised below.


Varanasi India courtesy of babasteve

Varanasi India courtesy of babasteve


Outcomes of the NIAS Project

Key findings from the NIAS project to date, as summarised in ‘Case Profiles of Gifted Children’ include:

  • The impact of socio-economic background. Given the over-sampling of middle class children ‘it is important to critically examine the conceptions of giftedness held by the project and to actively pursue gifted children from lower-classes and rural backgrounds’. There was also a pronounced male bias and bias towards those living in urban settings. Programme design and dissemination need to enable providers to reach learners in smaller towns and rural environments.
  • Although individual profiles have varied, there is broad evidence of: intellectual curiosity and capacity to learn rapidly; accelerated language development and reading ability; high levels of metacognitive skill and self-directed learning. Whereas some learners appear to rely on memorisation and information-processing, others deploy ‘curiosity, exploratory behaviour and analysis and synthesis.’
  • ‘It appears that certain socio-emotional characteristics such as task perseverance and socio-emotional adjustment may be related to giftedness and may be important in preventing adverse outcomes for these children.’ Where there are socio-emotional difficulties, a supportive home background is important. A variety of strategies need to be introduced in response, including awareness-raising for parents and professionals and development of self-regulation strategies.

The document argues that it will be necessary to extend this approach to a much wider range of learners to check whether their findings hold. There is also a need for more thorough studies which incorporate further interaction with children and parents.

Additional support for mentoring is also necessary:

‘It is important to develop a network of scientists who volunteer as mentors for these children and their parents and can provide guidance with respect to their education and career, provide opportunities for short-term projects and help them access scientific networks that might otherwise be unavailable. Developing parent networks and organising regular peer interactions for these children can also be useful to help them interact with similarly able peers, to gain information, and to provide opportunities to pursue their areas of interest.’

But there is ultimately recognition that a personalised programme is needed to respond to learners’ and parents’ very different needs and circumstances:

‘In terms of schooling policy, some children benefitted from regular schooling without acceleration, but with other opportunities for enrichment. For other children, acceleration was important, but brought other problems such as difficulties with peer interaction and social development… it was evident that opportunities for the ‘twice-exceptional’ in India are very limited indeed. ‘


NAGE–India’s Services

It would seem that NAGE-India has emerged as a spin-off from the NIAS Project and is the vehicle intended  to carry forward these recommendations

The homepage of the website suggests that it will serve as both a national network and an online hub:

‘The NAGE (India) is an initiative to bring together researchers, educators, policymakers, parents, and other stakeholders to discuss and address the challenge of gifted education. Here you can explore the activities undertaken by the member institutions, as well as access resources for stakeholders. You can additionally explore opportunities for collaborating on the project or participating in one of our workshops or other events.’

The structure of the site outlines the range of audiences it will support and what it will address:

  • The Home Page carries an ‘about us’ section and contact details, but also links for user registration, institutional and individual membership and donations, as well as sections for books, articles and reports, media, ‘notification’, FAQs and career opportunities. There is also a picture gallery.
  • The Teachers’ strand features sections on teacher workshops, becoming a teacher trainer, managing a gifted student, enriching the classroom and other resources.
  • The Children’s strand includes sections on workshops for learners, science and maths resources and setting up a science/maths club in your school or neighbourhood.
  • The Parents’ strand covers workshops, schooling, parenting a gifted child and becoming and advocate.
  • The Principals and School Management Strand includes management workshops, a section distinguishing between ‘bright’ and ‘gifted’, another on whole school provision and finally a section on ‘other resources’.
  • The Mentors, Psychologists and Collaborators’ strand features sections on becoming a mentor, becoming a teacher trainer, counselling, developing curricula and resources and one entitled ‘in what other ways can I get involved?’

At the time of writing, only those sections in bold have been populated.

There is no reference at all to funding, so it is unclear whether NAGE-India will be underwritten in part by a contribution from the Indian Government or whether it will need to rely entirely on donations and membership subscriptions.

The FAQ addresses four questions: what is giftedness, aren’t all children gifted, why is gifted education a part of inclusive education and why is gifted education important for India? Only the first two have been published at the time of writing.

The answer to ‘What is Giftedness?’ provides a brief but balanced review of the key issues, noting in passing that:

‘This complex nature of giftedness means that identification of these children in a country like ours that is characterised by wide socio-economic and socio-cultural differences, cannot take a simple route such as IQ or psychometric testing. Further, the numbers in the country make identification and mentoring for any single agency a mind-boggling feat. An alternative route to identification can be taken by paying attention to early developmental processes as they are revealed in authentic tasks and contexts.’

The answer to ‘Aren’t All Children Gifted?’ is actually a more discursive piece about identification which doesn’t address the question posed in the title.


Teacher Support

The material incorporated into this section of the site provides further insight into elements of the NIAS-led project.

It tells us that the project has incorporated a series of 2-day teacher workshops on identification and support of gifted children. These have been conducted in English, though parallel events using regional languages are now being prepared.

Apart from general awareness-raising and group work to develop a viable lesson plan, the workshops have also introduced a nomination form to support identification, described as ‘a first-level screening measure’.

This is likely to be the same identification instrument described in a media report dating from September 2012. It refers to:

‘a list of 21 behaviours that some children show more often than others. Teachers can use their observations of children to identify early signs of potential…

The checklist is suitable for primary schoolchildren. It covers a range of abilities including concentration, observation, learning speed, critical thinking, vocabulary and extracurricular ability.

“We studied children in one of their natural contexts — at school. Our objective was to determine the behaviours characterising gifted children, and the situational factors that elicit or impede these behaviours,” said Anitha Kurup, principal investigator of the project.’

Teachers are asked to return completed forms to NIAS who will then assess learners’ intelligence and creativity, optionally prepare a case-profile and then ‘link these children up with relevant resources including a national network of mentors’.

NIAS uses teacher workshops to identify additional external teacher trainers and has developed a self-contained training module, currently being translated into regional languages, for them to use when running their own courses. (This is not available on the NAGE-India website; nor is the identification instrument.)

The text admits:

‘Our team is small and focussed on research; our ability to directly reach teachers across the country is limited. Our training module, which is a work in progress, reflects these limitations. A majority of participants in our workshops to date were from private schools, where the student-body was from middle-class or elite backgrounds. It is, however, in government schools, rural schools, and other schools catering to less-advantaged child populations that we most urgently need to train teachers to identify and nurture gifted children.

But, though NIAS commits to coverage of all travel and subsistence costs, there is no payment to the trainer.

The section on ‘Managing a Gifted Student’ discusses curriculum modifications, including acceleration and curriculum compacting, project work and mentoring

The section on enriching the classroom addresses the contention that effective gifted education is costly and hard to implement, advocating an approach that benefits all students.


Wheel of Time courtesy of stuck in customs

Wheel of Time courtesy of stuck in customs


Learner Support

This strand is currently confined to a section on workshops for children in maths and science, also developed as part of the NIAS project.

The first workshops were offered as recently as December 2012. There are four declared aims:

  • Providing opportunities to explore familiar concepts in new settings;
  • Encouraging learners to develop solutions to challenging problems rather than adopting a standard approach;
  • Assessing learners’ thinking ability and observing their work; and
  • Developing and testing enrichment activities suitable for Indian classrooms.


Mentor Support

There is clearly an aspiration to link all gifted learners with a mentor, to support their development in maths or science and offer guidance on progression and careers.

NIAS is seeking subject experts but also ‘individuals with wide contact networks, including subject-matter experts, educational and child psychologists, and other individuals who can enable the child and his/her family to ensure that the child reaches his/her potential’.

They will interact with learners online, or possibly face-to-face when they do not have internet access. NIAS commit to mediating these relationships and liaising with parents and teachers. Prospective mentors are invited to discuss terms, which suggests that they might be paid for their time, even though teacher trainers will not receive remuneration.

NIAS say they are recruiting mentors from various scientific organisations including the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

They are also working with an organisation called MentorCloud to create a national mentor network.

It is not clear whether the involvement of MentorCloud allows the possibility of recruiting online mentors from outside India, including the diaspora.


International Dissemination

There has been relatively little international dissemination of this work to date and what has been undertaken is not in the public domain:

  • There was a presentation at the 2011 NAGC Convention in the United States, entitled ‘The Identification of Gifted Children in Science and Mathematics: Outcomes from Three Contexts in India’ but only a brief summary is available.
  • A paper called ‘A review of Challenges in Developing a National Program for Gifted Children in India’s Diverse Context’ by Karup and Maithreyi was published in the Roeper Review in 2012. A copy is retained in NIAS’s ‘Open Access Repository’, but the Repository requires registration before the document can be accessed. The abstract says:

‘The wide variation in parents’ abilities to provide enriched environments to nurture their children’s potential makes it imperative for India to develop a national program for early identification and nurturance of gifted children. However, the focus of the education system remains on increasing enrolments and catering to the “average” child. This article reviews the Indian context and calls for a shift from existing talent search models to a multidisciplinary approach and response to intervention (RtI) program that is central to early identification in the context of diversity in India.’

  • Another paper was published in Gifted Education International, also in 2012. ‘Where are they? Gifted disadvantaged children in India’ by Sharma is lodged behind a paywall. The abstract says:

‘India is a pluralistic, multicultural, and multilingual society. Cultural differences within India make it impossible to adopt a common approach to the identification of potentially gifted children. We need a program that is locally driven and culturally appropriate to be able to make a real difference in the future life of young potentially able children, so that our neglected best can become culturally excellent achievers. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has taken the wake-up call to bring all marginalized children into an educational ‘safety net’. Preparing a suitable model for ‘identification’ and ‘nurturance’ of potentially gifted children across diverse sociocultural profiles of society is also an area of concern for today’s government.’

  • According to her CV, the same author has another article ‘Gifted Disadvantage in Education Safety Net: A Reality Check’ awaiting publication in the Journal of Indian Education. It is not clear whether that will be freely accessible or when.

This suggests that many of us will be relying on the emerging NAGE-India website to keep us abreast of developments over the coming months and years.

Already the two publications carried by the site are attracting some interest and this is bound to increase as the new organisation grows to fruition and begins to form relationships with a wider range of similar bodies elsewhere in the world. I am sure there are many in the UK who would welcome such interaction.

I have long believed that extensive mutual benefits could be derived from gifted education partnerships between countries and their diasporas.

There would be huge potential in a relationship between NAGE-India and the Indian diaspora in the UK, many of whom form part of our domestic gifted and talented population.

The 2011 Census reported 1.41 million people of Indian descent living in England and Wales, some 543,000 in London alone. In January 2011 there were over 23,400 identified gifted and talented learners of Indian origin in state-funded primary and secondary schools across England.

Perhaps I might be so bold as to finish this post by offering the suggestion for consideration by Indian colleagues.



June 2013

Gifted Education in Taiwan: Part Two


Flag_of_the_Republic_of_China.svgThis is the second part of a two-part post about gifted education in Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China (R.O.C.)

Part One traced the history of Taiwan’s national gifted and talented education programme from its earliest origins in 1961/1962 up to the final years of the Twentieth Century.

Part Two picks up the story at that point, tracing developments up to the present day and on either side of the publication in 2007 of the seminal White Book on Gifted Education.



Before the White Book


The Millennial Position

Wu’s article from 2000 ‘Talent Identification and Talent Development in Taiwan’ provides a useful basis for comparison with his earlier publications.

We will continue to use his preferred categorisation into Supervisory, Implementation and Resource issues (though he has much to say about the middle of these and comparatively little to offer on the other two).



The Special Education Law (SEL) was revised and reissued in 1997 but Wu does not explain in detail how the provisions have been adjusted compared with the 1984 version.

He does mention changes to identification processes:

‘The new regulation…is more flexible and more school-based (rather than national norm-referenced). As the conception of giftedness is broadening and the gifted/talented education programmes are expanding in Taiwan, the identification/assessment procedures will change into a less strict and more flexible system, aiming at developing talents for all.’

There is slightly more information in a brief article in the Winter 1999 World Council Newsletter which mentions that the revised SEL extended the definition of giftedness to include leadership and creativity. It also specified that support should be available for socially and culturally disadvantaged and twice exceptional students.




Identification: Wu explains that, prior to 1998, students had to fulfil additional criteria to those outlined in the previous section, but it is not clear whether these were introduced by the 1997 SEL or beforehand.

Gifted students needed:

‘A score higher than two standard deviations above the mean on the IQ test; a grade point average in the top 2 % of their school peers at the same grade, or a score higher than two standard deviations above the mean on an achievement test covering major subjects in the curriculum .’

Meanwhile, students identified as mathematically or scientifically talented needed to:

‘Receive a score higher than one and a half standard deviations above the mean on an intelligence test and achievement tests in math and/or science. In addition, they must have a grade point average in the top 1% of their school peers at the same grade in mathematics or science, or have demonstrated an outstanding performance in a national or international competition.’

And arrangements were similar for those with talent in languages. The identification arrangements for the artistically talented seem broadly the same:

‘Students are assessed through their performance…and through a series of artistic or musical aptitude tests. The eligibility criterion for the students talented in dance and drama is mainly focused on performance. Those who achieved awards for distinguished performance in a national or international contest are also accepted.’

The expectation of ‘an IQ test score above the mean’ for artistically talented learners was removed by the 1997 SEL and implemented in 1999.

Wu concentrates on a series of familiar problems and challenges associated with identification. These include: a tendency for parents and teachers to view the procedure as competitive; the selection of very few socially and culturally disadvantaged learners because of the nature of the tests used; and uncertainty over how to deal with high IQ students who nevertheless underachieve in the classroom.

Conversely, there have been issues with high achievers who not have a sufficiently high IQ to be selected into the gifted classes:

‘These children were placed in regular classes but their exceptional grades put pressure on teachers and administrators to get them admitted to the special classes for the gifted. School personnel see the children as gifted and are impressed by their strong motivation and good work skills. After considerable debate within each school, these children are gradually admitted to the gifted classes.’

Coaching is also mentioned for the first time:

‘It has been rumoured that some parents bought the IQ tests used by the schools and coached their child with these exams. This rumour should be viewed with scepticism since it is by no means likely that the average parent could purchase all the different forms of each of the IQ tests and be able to coach the child effectively for such a complex task. Nevertheless, coaching remains problematic because it places a great pressure on the school and the educational administration bureau.’


Programme Design: Wu says that:

‘Up to 1997, programmes…were three types: programmes for the intellectually gifted, programmes for students talented in specific academic domains, and programmes for students talented in fine arts, music, dancing, drama, and sports.

The goals of these gifted programmes are: to develop the potential of gifted/talented students, to cultivate good living habits and healthy personality traits, and to teach for high cognitive and/or skill attainment.’

This rather implies that the categorisation changed in 1997, but Wu provides no further information. In other respects programming seems broadly unchanged.

Wu’s analysis of the problems associated with programme design and development include a more thorough treatment of the advantages and disadvantages of mainstreaming.

He notes that the perceived advantages of the resource room approach are associated with ‘the affective and social domains’ yet there is little research evidence to support the argument that they are preferable to separate classes in this respect.

He concludes that

‘The decision on the relative efficacy and desirability of each model is still an unsolved problem.’

Other issues are largely repetitions of the earlier set quoted above.


Teacher development and deployment: Wu rephrases his previous concerns, noting that teachers find it increasingly hard to ‘cope with a class of students with a large appetite for learning and diverse interests and aptitudes’. Their additional responsibilities for curriculum design and development of teaching materials contribute to overload. Many believe gifted education is more challenging but also more stressful. Interestingly ‘they also caution against having expectations that are too high for the gifted’.



Wu recapitulates concerns about parental attitudes, which are dominated by the entrance examinations for senior high schools.

‘They feel anxious if the gifted/talented classes have too much curriculum content that is outside the scope of the “standard curricula” or the high school entrance exam. This perception puts inordinate pressure on the schools, and influences the teaching of gifted/talented classes.’

He concludes with plea for a more coherent and flexible system:

‘Further development should be planned and implemented. To ensure the full development of talents in our society, we must not be content with the limited programmes in limited areas on an experimental basis. Multi-flexible gifted/talented education programmes ought to be designed to meet the divergent needs of the students with multi-capabilities.’

Let us see how far progress towards this ideal was subsequently realised.


Taipei 101 courtesy of Francisco Diez

Taipei 101 courtesy of Francisco Diez


Incremental Growth and Associated Controversy

There is relatively little freely available material covering the period between 2000 and 2007, which may be attributable – at least in part – to a decline in the relative priority attached to gifted education by the Taiwanese Government.

There is, however, data available – reproduced in Table 3 below – which shows continued expansion, in high schools at least:

Year Classes Students
2001 50 1731
2002 59 2084
2003 79 2476
2004 107 3777
2005 186 5450

 Table 3: Increase in Numbers of Gifted Classes and Students in Taiwanese High Schools, 2001-2005


Another source reveals that, by 2005, the total number of students attending special and resource classes was 45,537, equivalent to 1.27% of the total student population, and a significant improvement compared with 1997, when fewer than 33,000 learners were supported.

By 2006, this total had further increased to 50,693. However, only 13% of Taiwan’s schools (519 in all) were by this stage providing such programmes.

This increase in the number of gifted classes was not entirely welcomed however. Many educators felt that parental pressure was turning some of the classes into little more than crammers for high school entrance examinations.

The Government’s response was to tighten the identification criteria, reintroducing requirements that students must score two standard deviations above the mean in IQ tests and above the 97th percentile in achievement. (These requirements had for some years been relaxed to 1.5 standard deviations and above the 93rd percentile).

Continuing disagreement over this issue prompted the Government to organise a national conference on gifted education in July 2006 (more on this below).

Such disagreement was embodied in what became a cause celebre

In 2004 Taiwan’s National Education Act was amended to require mixed ability classes in junior high schools. Previously it was permissible to run selective ‘upper level’ and ‘lower level’ classes. However, under the terms of the SEL, schools were still permitted to provide special gifted classes.

Many used this provision as a loophole, redesignating their upper level classes as gifted classes.

In May 2006, four or five counties and cities in central Taiwan (the number varies according to the source) organised a joint entrance examination for over 20,000 elementary school students seeking entrance to these redesignated classes. Central Government declared the examination illegal.

One source quotes different opinions of existing practice:

‘Yang Hsiu-pi…policy director of the National Teachers’ Association, said that fake gifted education classes only caused segregation between students and that more resources were distributed to these classes, so they are therefore unfair to other “normal” students.

Also, the courses for students in the so-called gifted classes are geared towards entrance examinations to high school…’


‘Baw Chung-miin , chairman of the Parents’ Association in Taipei, said that the association supported gifted education…Gifted students should be distributed into mixed ability classes but for subjects for which they show a particular talent, they can be removed from their normal classes to learn in a special class designed especially for gifted children, Baw said.’

The Minister was quoted in a follow-up story:

‘According to the Act, so-called gifted students must earn that designation after being observed by teachers or other professionals before taking the test…Many students attended cram school classes before taking the joint exams, and therefore failed to fulfil this requirement…The joint examinations also meant that students may end up going to a school far away from home when the ministry promotes attending nearby schools’.

Tu said that although local governments were often allowed to make their own decisions, they had not listened to the education ministry during a meeting early this month…’

In a second report of the affair, Tu offers up a slightly different concern:

‘Education Minister Tu Cheng-sheng reiterated yesterday that he strongly backs the classes for “truly gifted” students but steadfastly opposes the “falsely gifted” students.

He stressed that it is “common sense” that “gifted” students are born and not produced by cram schools.’

In opposing the belief that learners can be coached to become recognised as ‘gifted’, he falls into the opposite error of suggesting that their giftedness is entirely determined by heredity.

There is also an undercurrent of tension between central and local government, with the latter clearly feeling that the former has intervened far too belatedly, is singling them out when other local authorities are doing exactly the same thing, and is trampling on their local autonomy.

The second report concludes:

‘The identification, selection and education of “gifted” students in Taiwan have long been among the most controversial education issues on the island…

Most junior high schools in rural areas tend to separate students into three major categories: 1) “talented students” who are on their way to top-notch senior high schools and subsequently best universities; 2) “average” students; and 3) “abandoned” students, who either quit school after completing the compulsory junior high education or moving on to vocational training schools and junior colleges…

Educators said it is absurd to see that almost every school has a large number of “gifted” students. The MOE should help draw up independent and stricter criteria to discover and identify the genuinely talented teenagers for “special cultivation,” they said.’


Science and Creativity Become Priorities; Music is Problematic

An insight into the priorities of this period can be gained from the list of projects undertaken by Ching-Chi Kuo, who was Director of NTNU’s Special Education Center from 2001 to 2007. These include:

2000: Identification and Assessment of Culturally Different Talented Students.

2001-2003: Discovering and Nurturing Art Talented Students—The Wu-Lai School Model.

2003-2006: Developing Multiple Intelligences and Problem Solving Ability of Gifted/Talented Handicapped and Non-handicapped Preschool Children.

2006-2008: The Compilation Project on Adjustment Scale for Identifying Gifted Students in Senior High Schools (Co-PI)

2006-2008: The Compilation Project on Adjustment Scale for Mathematic Gifted Senior High School Students

2006-2008: Group-administered Intelligence Test for Primary and Junior High School Students (Co-PI)

Several of these were conducted under the auspices of Taiwan’s National Science Council, and science evidently became a major priority during this period.

In 2003 the Ministry published a White Paper for Science Education.

This states that:

‘Special curricula and evaluation systems should be developed for gifted/talented students…The needs for science learning for gifted/talented students should also be considered’

In 2006 there is a reference on the Ministry website to a ‘Project for Cultivating Outstanding Talents in Science’ but it is not too clear what the project entails.

A subsequent report, dating from 2009 refers to recent decisions to create science streams in senior high schools.

‘Six senior high schools have been approved to open a science stream each this year. There will be 30 people in each class, selected from junior high school graduates or 8th graders qualified to take the basic competency test. No more than five junior high senior students with proven outstanding performance and exempt from the competency test can be accepted to each class….

Senior high schools and universities will coordinate and design the curricula. The programme will be divided into two stages. In the first stage the students will take regular basic science subjects as well as humanity science courses and attend intramural examinations for exempted subjects. The second stage includes mostly specialised disciplines. University professors will be invited to give lectures or students may directly take natural science courses in universities and conduct their own research projects under the guidance of university professors…’

Science remains high up the agenda. The Ministry indicates that advanced science education was a particular priority in 2012, especially in senior high schools:

‘Taiwan has achieved outstanding results in the international Mathematics and Science Olympiad. Domestic mathematics and science competitions are frequently held for senior high school students, and there are also science talent cultivation plans and domestic and international exhibitions to stimulate interest and learning in the sciences.

Key objectives for the year 2012: (i) Continue training students for the Maths and Science Olympiads, and organise similar domestic competitions in mathematics and information technology for junior high school and senior high school students. (ii) Plan to host the 26th International Olympiad in Informatics in 2014. (iii) Continue supporting secondary and elementary education projects in science and cultivation programmes for scientific talent. (iv) Set up science programmes in senior high schools and monitor the effectiveness of the programmes.’


SunMoonLake courtesy of Allen Hsu

SunMoonLake courtesy of Allen Hsu


Also in this period the Government published a Creativity White Paper marking the culmination of a series of research projects and initiatives conducted throughout the late 1990s.

The White Paper argued that:

‘To fully unleash the creative potential of the people in Taiwan , it is essential to initiate a thorough analysis and examination of all relevant policies and strategies to determine which actions have fostered and will continue to promote the creative processes and which ones have been stifling innovation. The ultimate goal is threefold: first, to establish an educational policy that will encourage and support creativity; second, to develop and institute instructional strategies to implement creative education; and third, to widen the public’s vision and appreciation for a “creative culture” by arousing their creative interests from an “ecological perspective.”’

The aims included providing ‘an educational environment in which individual differences are treasured and that contributes to a diverse and dynamic learning atmosphere’.

Analysis of the current situation in Taiwan revealed a set of problems not dissimilar to those besetting gifted education:

  • The public understanding of creativity is limited and beset by prejudice – ‘many assume that creativity is an inborn trait and that nurturing efforts are futile’ while ‘parents’ and teachers’ high expectations for short-term academic performance does not encourage innovative learning through trial and error’;
  • Though many educational policies emphasise creativity, they have not been fully implemented. Teacher education and evaluation are limited.
  • The culture of most schools is not conducive to creativity and there is too much emphasis on the outcomes of teaching and learning rather than the process.

The White Paper proposes a series of principles to govern implementation, the first of which is called ‘the all-inclusive principle’ Part of this says:

‘When implementing creative policies, we must focus on both those with special talents as well as on the general public. Of course, we will continue to promote policies that support gifted and talented education and that cultivate special talent, but we must also pay homage to the idea that everyone is born with creative potential; as such, we should strive to maximize the creative aptitude of the general public as well.’

One of the imperatives in the strategy laid out in the White Paper is to ‘Specify Creative Thinking as One of Our Educational Goals and Incorporate this into Educational Curriculum at All Levels’ but there is no further reference to talent development or the interaction with gifted education.

An article by Kuo on Creative Education for Gifted and Talented students (undated but certainly post 2006) outlines the key elements of the Taiwanese ‘creative education development plan’ which consists of ‘8 main projects and 277 sub-projects.

The former are listed: nurturing trips for creative learners; professional development of creative teachers; campus space renewal; ongoing consolidation of creativity cultivation; online learning via database banks; creative campus life in action; international creativity education exchange; and promotion of the concepts of creativity.

According to Kuo, the beneficiaries include:

‘students who come from gifted or talented classes/programmes and students who are not labelled as ‘gifted’ but also show high creative potentials’.

She goes on to describe an enrichment programme based at NTNU to develop ‘young gifted children’s multiple intelligences…problem solving ability and creativity’.

In a 2009 paper ‘Planting the Seeds of Creative Education in Taiwan: Some Examples of Down-to-Earth Programmes’, Jing-Jyi Wu illustrates some of the outcomes of the White Paper strategy, including the so-called ‘Intelligent Ironman Creativity Contest’  introduced in 2004.

The purpose of this team-based competition is to:

‘Prepare future leaders with the following strengths: (a) creative and innovative, (b) cooperative team members, (c) multidisciplinary, (d) able to obtain and use resources efficiently, (e) physically strong and enduring.’

The contest continues to this day.

A paper dating from 2005 by Hsiao-Shien Chen examines the effectiveness of Taiwan’s Special Music Programme (SMP), designed to prepare students with musical talent for subsequent university study.

Talented young musicians are recruited into SMPs at elementary, junior and senior high schools. In the latter case, they must pass auditions and the standard entrance examinations.

In the case of elementary and junior high schools they undertake an IQ test, an ‘academic test’ and separate tests of musical aptitude and ‘musicianship’.

Chen’s review pulls no punches:

‘The results of this study suggest that there be continued investigation of the Special Music Programmes in Taiwan and that they be viewed with scepticism. It would appear that a great deal of government money and teacher effort is expended in the SMPs, but little evidence of this specialised training can be seen after three semesters in a university music programme. Given the scarcity of resources for ordinary K-12 school programmes, one must wonder if the resources devoted to the SMP might be better spent…

Although the SMP functions well in preparing students for advanced music study in certain subjects, the significant effect of an SMP background only shows up for a short period in students’ performance. Besides the main function of the SMP to prepare students for advanced music study, the side effects of the SMP should be a serious concern, too.’

The author recommends that the Ministry should appoint an expert group to review and revise the SMP curriculum, which is over-focused on exam preparation and under-focused on the development of musicianship.


Taipei 101 courtesy of fishtailtaipei

Taipei 101 courtesy of fishtailtaipei


The White Book of Gifted Education to the Present Day


The White Book

The appearance of the White Book was an important watershed in the recent history of Taiwanese gifted education.

The idea may well have originated with Wu. There is a paper dating from 2005 or thereabouts called ‘Development and Perspectives of Gifted Education in Taiwan’, though I can only source a Chinese version with an abstract in English.

The abstract says the paper proposes ‘seven action plans for further development’:

‘(1) enhancing scientific researches and their application; (2) strengthening legislations; (3) keeping the educational avenues fluent for gifted students; (4) enhancing teacher education and empowering GATE teachers; (5) enhancing accountability for results and follow-up; (6) publishing a national “white book” on GATE: (7) establishing a National Research Centre on GATE and initiating an Asian Resource Centre of GATE.’

The following year, the sixth of these proposals became a reality.

The Ministry of Education’s website carries an introduction to the White Book which notes that:

‘The development of gifted education in Taiwan at the turn of the new century has aroused great attention when a lot of gifted classes were formed without adequate evaluation on its content and quality.’ [sic]

This concern led to a Conference of National Gifted Education Development being convened in July 2006, where experts discussed a list of issues: administration and resources, identification and placement of gifted learners, curriculum design and teaching, teacher education and support, counselling, disadvantaged gifted learners and evaluation.

Conclusions were reached following a series of local forums

The White Book captures Conference outcomes and is intended ‘to serve as the reference of local authorities’.

A second note by Kuo offers a similar summary.

An English language version of the White Book itself was published in March 2008. It opens with the note summarised above before setting out the detailed provisions.

These begin with four ‘ideals of gifted education’ which, in brief, are:

  • Every gifted student should have suitable educational opportunities to explore their potential;
  • Gifted students require a differentiated learning environment responsive to their different abilities, interests and aptitude;
  • Gifted education should respond to different types of ability and multiple intelligences – there should be more opportunities for more students, not just the academically able, and this requires support from parents and society as a whole;
  • Gifted education should place equal importance on the cognitive and affective, supporting gifted students to become wise and caring people who can help the less fortunate, tolerate differences and appreciate the achievements of others.

Some of the strengths of the Taiwanese system include the support of ‘government authorities’ (both central and local, presumably), the existence of expert committees securing open and fair identification processes, support from the special education centres established for that purpose and support from research bodies such as the National Science Council.

On the other hand, some weaknesses are apparent, including poor levels of public understanding, limited professional understanding amongst teachers and administrators, insufficiently differentiated curricula and ‘hindrance on multiple assessment and placement plans’.

Seven ‘developmental dimensions’ require attention. In each case the White Book analyses the current state, the obstacles faced and planned strategies to overcome them. It sets out seven action plans to implement these strategies.


Administration and resources: This includes the organisation and operation of the system, budgetary and regulatory issues and online and community resources, including parental involvement.

National responsibility for administration is vested in the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit, supported by a Special Education Advisory Council.

The Education Bureau of each county and city also has its own Special Education Division, an Advisory Board and a Committee for the Identification and Placement of Gifted and Disabled Students.

Each School has its own Special Education Promotion Committee and/or a Special Education Unit.

Regulation is via the 1984 Special Education Law (SEL), as substantively amended in 1997, but also subject to further amendment in 2001, 2004 and 2006 respectively. There are also several relevant sets of Regulations relating to issues such as the curriculum and teaching materials, acceleration, staffing and so on.

Article 30 of the SEL makes the necessary budgetary provision, requiring that:

‘The annual special education budget of the central government shall account for no less than 3% of the sum allotted to education. The annual special education budget of the local governments shall account for no less than 5% of the sum allotted to education.’

A table is supplied showing that gifted education has been allocated around 5% of the annual special education budget in the years 2005-07.

The total annual gifted education budget varies from $NT 307m to $NT 334m (roughly £6.67m to £7.16m). A note says these total include ‘the personnel and administration expenditures in Public senior high schools’.

The description of community and internet resources is more qualitative, outlining the support available through libraries, museums and universities, a range of competitions and science fairs and a smattering of websites.

The text says ‘it is desirable to have more websites in the future specifically designed for gifted education’.

A few gifted education development organisations have been established by parents, some of whom serve on local special education advisory boards and school-based parents’ associations. Additional support is provided through the centres established at normal universities and teachers’ colleges and also local gifted education resource centres.

The key problems identified include: too little human resource, ‘lack of clear regulations and policies’, inadequate funding, limited distribution of community and online resources, limited parental co-ordination and too few research institutes and resource centres.

Six actions are proposed to address them:

  • Amend the Special Education Act and related regulations to promote gifted education.
  • Enhance professional knowledge and administrators’ implementation strategy.
  • Increase the proportion of the total education budget allocated to gifted education.
  • Organise the involvement of experts, professionals, teachers and parents in supporting gifted education development
  • Support the creation of more parents’ groups and
  • Establish a National Special (Gifted) Education Research Development Centre and support local government to establish more resource centres for gifted education.


Identification and placement: This incorporates identification criteria and tools, professional involvement and processes, and continuity across different sectors.

We learn that the SEL as amended has replaced the original tripartite distinction between general intelligence, scholastic aptitude and special talents.

There are currently six categories of giftedness: general intelligence aptitude, specific academic aptitude, visual and performing arts, creative and productive thinking, leadership ability and other aptitudes.

There is provision for the early entry of gifted students to kindergarten and some areas are trying out accelerative approaches, but there is so far no special identification processes for students displaying creativity, leadership and other special talents.

There was a move to:

‘include multiple intelligences, to lower the threshold of gifted children identification to 1.5 standard deviations (SD) above the mean, instead of 2 SD, and to depend more on the observation and professional judgment of experts than on objective tests.’

But, as we have seen, the use of gifted classes as a way to continue selective groups when mixed ability grouping was imposed in 2004 eventually led the Government to reintroduce a requirement that gifted learners should have scores on aptitude tests that were 2 standard deviations above the mean.

In reaction to ‘the implementation of ability grouping under the disguise of gifted education’ the Government has also ruled that separate gifted classes should be confined to those with talent in visual and performing arts. Others attend ‘distributed gifted classes’ (presumably identical to the original resource room model).

Local authorities are also expected to provide a menu of additional opportunities including school-based programmes, summer and holiday sessions, competitions and mentors.

Key problems identified include: poor understanding; inadequate human resource, assessment instruments and assessment plans; lack of co-ordination and the absence of systematic identification of those with creative, leadership and special talents.

Seven strategies are identified to address these issues:

  • ‘Advocate the ideal and spirit of gifted education through media’;
  • Draw up codes to govern identification processes;
  • Provide training for those engaged in identification;
  • Develop assessment instruments and standards to improve the reliability and validity of assessment;
  • Create ‘multiple placement paths’ and improve continuity of provision between sectors;
  • Establish acceleration guidance; and
  • Develop processes for identifying students with creativity, leadership or special talents.


Curriculum and project design: This includes differentiation, providing curricular continuity and a flexible educational environment. Responsibility is currently vested mainly in the teachers of gifted classes.

They typically embellish the standard curriculum for the relevant grade and subject, adding enrichment activities, independent study and options for acceleration. There is increasing diversification but little development so far for creative, leadership and special talents.

Problems identified include poor co-ordination, poor curriculum design, over-reliance on didactic teaching, limited focus on creativity and affective issues, poor quality teaching materials, inadequate provision for pre-schoolers and limited attention to curricular continuity across sectors.

Four strategies are proposed:

  • Establish a ‘differentiated curriculum and adaptive educational environment’;
  • Support school-based programmes to provide differentiation and a suitable educational environment;
  • ‘Create a digital learning platform for gifted education to facilitate exchanges of teaching materials, resources, and other support of gifted education’; and
  • Support pre-school enrichment programmes for gifted learners.


Teacher training: including accreditation and professional development. Following legal changes in 1999, the majority of gifted education teachers received specialist pre-service training. It is now possible to graduate with a major in gifted education.

Teachers require 40 credits for certification compared with the 16 originally stipulated and this includes 20 credits related directly to gifted education.

However, further reforms provide for all teachers to pass a certification test and the certification rate is relatively low amongst gifted education teachers: 42% in elementary schools and just 6% in secondary schools. Only 14 of 26 applicants working in gifted education successfully passed the certification test in 2007.

A recent over-supply of teachers has significantly reduced recruitment. Those who are recruited tend to be selected on the basis of their subject specialism.

Professional development is provided through seminars run by local authorities and universities, an in-service masters degree and a range of other graduate programmes. Most teachers have to pay their own fees.

There is therefore a gap between the training provided and the expertise required, too few teachers with gifted education certificates and too few professional development activities.

Four strategies are set out:

  • Provide ‘multidisciplinary training’ for gifted education teachers;
  • Strengthen the professional standard for gifted education teachers so that it meets the demands of the role;
  • Promote increased professional development and networking between gifted education teachers;
  • Develop an ‘empowerment programme’ so generalist administrators can improve their professional knowledge in gifted education.


Counselling and follow-up monitoring: More attention is paid to cognitive than affective needs. However:

‘Many gifted students have unique mal-adjustment problems, as a result of perfectionism, unbalanced physical and psychological development, and anxiety due to stereotyped expectations.’

Most counselling is provided by teachers other than the gifted education specialists or by school counsellors. Most schools monitor their gifted students until they leave. More focus is required on cross-phase studies. The proposed strategies are:

  • Provide more counselling and careers advice courses.
  • Develop ‘social service programmes’ for gifted learners
  • Develop and maintain a database to support ‘systematic guidance’.


Disadvantaged gifted education: The importance of gifted education for disadvantaged learners was first recognised a 1995 National Gifted Education Conference. Guidelines were initially introduced in the 1997 SEL and the Ministry of Education subsequently introduced ‘a series of policies and strategies’.

In the Taiwanese context, ‘disadvantage’ includes twice-exceptional students as well as the socio-economically disadvantaged. The former are sub-divided into those with a sensory or physical disability and those who are cognitively disabled.

In 2007, there are just 97 students in these two sub-categories, 24% were hearing impaired, 22% physically disabled and 13% autistic.

The socio-economically disadvantaged include:

‘Those who possess giftedness but live in remote or aboriginal areas, from poor families, or foreign students lacking certain cultural stimulation, or students with parents possessing different mother tongues, and so on.’

The 2007 data records 129 ‘aboriginal gifted students’ and 48 students with foreign parents. The clear majority in both categories have been identified for talent in visual and performing arts.

The problems identified are inadequate understanding of gifted learners in these groups and limitations of assessment tools, administrative support and professional development.

The strategies proposed are to:

  • Advocate for disadvantaged gifted education and better services for disadvantaged students.
  • Develop ‘multiple identification tools and placement procedures’.
  • Strengthen support systems, provide consultation services and improve teachers’ knowledge and counselling of these groups.


Evaluation and supervision: There has been a long history of evaluation, much of it set out above. As for supervision, the 1997 SEL provided for at least biennial assessment by local authorities of schools and by central authorities of local authorities. Local authorities have been particularly active.

In light of the problems with ‘phantom’ gifted classes, the Ministry decided to include the effectiveness of gifted education in ‘the assessment index of special education’.

But outstanding problems include and absence of policies, limitations of assessment indices and lack of a self-evaluation process.

Three strategies are set out:

  • Introduce ‘institutionalised assessment and effective supervision’.
  • ‘Regulate assessment indices’ for various gifted education categories and
  • Promote school self-assessment including ‘a sanction system’.


These seven strategies are outlined in slightly revised within the seven parallel action plans. Four of the actions are identified as urgent priorities:

  • ‘Encourage the local educational authorities to establish their own Gifted Education Resource Centre’
  • ‘Have Special Education Programmes at Normal Universities or Educational Colleges conduct gifted education teacher training workshops in order to increase the percentage of certified teachers’
  • ‘Increase the percentage of gifted education budget’ and
  • ‘Increase the subsidy to local education authorities to improve the facilities of gifted classes.’

An annex divides the actions into short-term (2008-09); intermediate (2010-11) and long-term projects (2012-13).


white book action plan Capture


A 2008 paper from the still ubiquitous Wu carries an English language abstract  mentioning three statutory changes introduced at this time: raising the test threshold from 1.5 SDs above the norm back to 2.0 (as mentioned above); retreating from separate special classes for gifted learners in favour of the pull-out model of provision; and applying screening and identification processes only after pupils have been admitted to their schools (presumably so that they do not become de facto admissions processes).

Wu notes that these adjustments have led to ‘operational problems’ and provide only limited flexibility. He argues that the future success of Taiwanese gifted education is dependent on balancing excellence and flexibility – and suggests that some of the existing regulations need to be reviewed and/or amended.

Conversely, other commentators prefer to stress the progress made already towards greater flexibility, citing the impact of articles 4, 28 and 29 of the SEL as amended in 2008, which further expanded the definition of giftedness as set out in the White Book and introduced additional provision for grade-skipping.

An insight into the implementation workload can be gleaned from an October 2011 report in the World Council’s Newsletter in which Ching-chih Kuo reveals that there are dozens of strategies and plans requiring implementation: twenty-six have been commenced or completed but others have not yet begun!

Kuo’s own website reinforces the sense of action plan overload. Her long list includes: Sub-project to Gifted and Talented Education Action Plan: Identifying and Serving Gifted Students with Disabilities and/or from Culturally Diverse [Backgrounds];  The Development Plan for Gifted Education;  Sub-project to the Development Plan for Gifted Education: Progress and Perspectives;  An Action Project to Assess the Outcome of School-based Gifted Education Practice;  An Action Project to Develop Measures of Identifying and Serving Gifted Students with Disabilities and/or Social-economic Disadvantages;  An Action Project to Develop the Follow-up System for the Gifted (Co-PI);  An Action Project to Regulate Essentials on the Identification and Placement of Gifted Students;  and An Action Project of School-based Gifted Education Service

By 2011 there are plans to ‘reshuffle’ the Ministry’s Special Education Unit to secure better performance. A new large-scale projects is also mentioned:

‘A Balanced Development Plan for Different Categories of Gifted Education…the Department of Special Education of National Taiwan Normal University is entrusted with the responsibility of developing a long-term project for 2012-13 and compiling suggestions to prepare another six-year action plan for gifted education from 2014 to 2019 to plan for a golden decade of gifted education in Taiwan.’


The dawn of a small fishing port dawulun keelung taiwan courtesy of harry taiwan

The dawn of a small fishing port dawulun keelung taiwan courtesy of harry taiwan


A Local Perspective from Kaoshuing City

The material available online includes an interesting commentary by Su, a gifted education administrator in Kaoshuing City’s Bureau of Education.

Kaoshuing is a city in the South-west of Taiwan with a population of almost 2.8 million. Formerly a special municipality in its own right, it merged with Kaoshuing County in 2010 to create a larger administrative unit.

Su’s paper on Gifted Education in Kaoshuing City (or Kaohsiung City) was amongst those presented at the 10th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness, hosted by Singapore in July 2008.

Unfortunately the English is not easy to follow but it describes the development of gifted education provision and services within the City, especially over the period from 2004 onwards, and reflects on the implications of the White Book action plans.

Following an inaugural National Gifted Education Meeting in 1996, the City’s Education Bureau published a framework for gifted education in junior high schools in 1997 and in elementary schools the following year.

By 2003, the City had introduced a ‘Special Education Consulting Commission’, responsible for development planning, overseeing an annual work plan for special education and handling complaints. A parallel ‘Commission of Assessment and Entry Tutoring’ was also formed and several schools also set up their own ‘Special Education Promoting Commission’.

In January 2004, the Education Bureau also established a dedicated Special Education Department. The gifted education section was given responsibility for a set of learning and resource centres including a ‘high achievement education resource centre’ based in Kaohsiung Junior High School which was established in 2005.

The Bureau’s gifted education team consisted of two specialists and three support teachers, but additional staff are attached to the resource centres.

By 2008, the City’s gifted education provision is offered in four forms: early enrolment, a ‘general intelligence gifted resource project’, telescoped or compacted study and support for artistically talented young people.

The ‘general intelligence gifted support project’ selects pupils in the second year of primary school and in junior high school. The telescoping options apply in elementary and junior high schools and include:

‘‘exempt curriculum’, ‘speeding individual subject’, ‘jumping subject’ and ‘speeding whole subjects’, in order to earlier select curriculum higher than senior high school year 1 in a total of 7 categories.’

By 2004 there were 156 gifted classes in the city catering for almost 5,200 learners. By 2007 this had increased to 180 classes for almost 6,400 learners and some 320 teachers were engaged in this work, the majority in elementary schools.

An increase in the number of junior high schools has resulted in a shortage of qualified specialist teachers in that sector. There are no qualified specialists leading classes for artistically talented learners.

The Bureau partnered with the Special Education Department at National Kaohsiung Normal University in 2007 to run a course for 40 gifted education teachers (and a similar course for teachers of ‘art talent classes’ is also planned).

The budget is relatively small – $NT 3m – in 2007, but from 2008 significant additional funding ($NT 15m) is being made available for projects implementing recommendations in the White Paper for Creative Education.

The paper identifies a number of problems with current provision and strategies to address them. These include:

  • Securing increased professional support within the Education Bureau;
  • Finding a more efficient assessment model (because confidentiality cannot be maintained, the Bureau is having to invest in new test items each year);
  • Maintaining flexibility within the gifted education curriculum in the face of parental expectation that it will be exclusively accelerative;
  • Enabling staff to work collaboratively on gifted education curriculum development;
  • Increasing the supply of qualified gifted education teachers and increasing the available funding.


Further Progress with Arts and Sports

An article published in the Taiwan Review in 2010 provides a relatively thorough picture of provision mid-way through the White Book reforms, while also foregrounding a growing emphasis on talent development in arts and sports.

It notes that, at March 2010, there were 26,949 students identified for artistic talent, compared with 10,740 for scholastic aptitude, 6,446 for general intelligence and 265 for ‘other special talents’.

The article gives an insight into the latter:

‘A MOE [Ministry of Education]  subsidy programme will spend about NT$2.73 million (US$87,000) this year on local governments’ gifted education efforts aimed at other areas where students display special talent such as leadership, information technology, card-playing and the board game Go. The Affiliated High School of National Chengchi University in Taipei, for example, uses Go as one means to identify gifted students and even offers admission to the school based on a student’s Go ability.’

A further 32,000 were enrolled in specialised sports classes in 2008/09, though these do not count as gifted under the terms of the SEL and are the responsibility of the Ministry’s Department of Physical Education.

This shift away from a narrow concept of giftedness is seen as part of a growing trend towards diversification. While separate classes for gifted learners are no longer permitted by the legislation, this does not apply to sports and arts classes.

However there is no longer special funding for such classes on the arts side. There is also pressure to establish a separate unit to verse the arts classes.

Now that different abilities are being recognised, the standard entrance examinations for senior high school and university are being supplemented – even replaced – by other forms of assessment.

Applicants for senior high school sports classes can rely on ‘rankings at major competitions’ as well as tests of ‘general physical capability and specific skills’. Applicants for musical classes can also apply on the basis of rankings in national and regional competitions. Admissions policies have become more flexible in recent years.

Turning to sports, the Ministry of Education reportedly introduced a three-year project in 2009 to develop sporting talent through a regional infrastructure with a budget of $NT 100m. One of the aims is to establish sports classes at elementary and high schools. Students learn about sports medicine, sports nutrition and injury prevention as well as developing their sporting talents.

The article also focuses on SEL provisions permitting gifted students to enter a school early or complete their course more quickly. It features a student who performed well in the 2010 Asian Physics Olympiad. This enabled her to enter university early having already been accelerated at a younger age, skipping a year at both elementary and junior high school.

Such provision is exceptional however and the Director for Special Education at the Ministry is paraphrased:

‘For gifted students, access to higher-level and a bigger range of courses at school is better than skipping grades. In the past, some gifted students have had problems fitting in with older classmates and might have felt shy or isolated. “It can be important for students’ social development to be with classmates their own age.”’


The Size of the Programme

The Ministry website provides a breakdown of the gifted education statistics for 2008. During that academic year there were a total of 1,820 classes for gifted learners, 694 in elementary schools, 707 in junior high schools and 419 in senior and vocational high schools.

Of the total, 346 classes were for students with general intelligence, 352 classes for those with scholastic aptitude, 1,103 for the artistically talented (500 in music, 445 in art and 158 in dance) and 19 for those with other special talents.

These classes catered for a total of 44,970 students, 16,869 in elementary schools, 17,510 in junior high schools and 10,591 in senior high and vocational schools. Two graphs show how these figures have changed since 2004.


2004-08 graph one Capture


2004-8 graph 2 Capture


Unfortunately, more recent data available in English is not always comparable.

We have seen above that, in 2010, there were 26,949 artistically talented, 10,740 deemed to have scholastic aptitude, 6,446 with general intelligence and 265 with other special talents. This gives a total of 44,400, very slightly fewer than the 2008 total.

But another source claims that:

‘In 2010 in Taiwan there were more than seven thousand K–12 schools educating three million students, including a gifted population of up to 150,000 students.

The Ministry’s own summary statistics for school year 2011 (ending 31 July 2012) indicate that there were 29,911 students designated as gifted during that period:

  • 11,017 at primary schools
  • 8,479 at junior high schools and
  • 10,415 at senior high and vocational schools.

But a different Ministry publication gives the total number as 38,080.

It may be that some of these totals exclude certain categories of gifted and talented students, but such distinctions are not made clear.

Nevertheless, it would appear that the total number of gifted and talented learners in Taiwan’s schools is now declining compared with 2008. This may well be attributable – at least in part – to the stricter identification criteria introduced after the difficulties experienced in 2006.

Another source provides a helpful list of the schools in the Taipei area which operated classes for the academically gifted in 2011.

This names thirteen senior high schools, but a conference presentation provides a different list for the whole of Taiwan containing 36 senior high schools all told, only nine of which are in Taipei City.


gifted classes in Taiwan senior high schools Capture


One of the statistical sources above also lists key achievements in special education over the decade 2002-2012 and priorities for the next decade. For gifted education, the retrospective achievement is summarised thus:

‘Promotion of multiple education alternatives for gifted students so as to fully develop their talents’

And the priority is to:

‘Plan 2012-2017 promotion programme for gifted students’,

so a slightly different 5-yar plan to the one envisaged by Kuo.


Contemporary issues and problems

The most recent press reports have focussed on two or three issues that are clearly exercising the Taiwanese government. In particular, there is evidence of a growing interest in the full spectrum of talent development and concern about a ‘brain drain’.

In April 2012, the Government announced that it would publish a White Paper on Talent Development within a year, following an internal review of Government policies.

Six months on, an editorial in the Taipei Times analysed the root of the problem:

‘Recently, the decline of Taiwan’s political and economic status in the international community has become a hot issue. Not only has Taiwan dropped to last place among the four Asian Tigers, but it is also lagging behind many other Asian countries. Some have concluded that the problem lies in Taiwan’s dearth of talent, a situation that has reached worrying levels.’

It suggests that Taiwan is producing too many students with academic skills, whose parents want them to become doctors, businessmen or engineers. They do not encourage their children to develop ‘diverse interests and talents’.

Furthermore, society overvalues status and wealth, particularly when embodied in rich businessmen and government officials.

Thirdly, ‘Taiwan’s educational leaders lack the confidence and refuse to believe that they can train world-class talent.’ Many Taiwanese young people go to study abroad rather than attending domestic universities. They are unlikely to return because of ‘Taiwan’s economic downturn over the last few years’.

Graduate starting salaries have not increased for a decade and are not competitive with opportunities abroad. Many are relocating to mainland China. The country also needs to improve ‘the quality of working and living environments’.

The author suggests that Taiwan must build its identity in the international community and create an environment that will attract international businesses to the country (as well as encouraging Taiwanese businesses that have relocated to the PRC and elsewhere to return).

It will be interesting to see whether these ideas feature in the 2013 White Paper.

Meanwhile, another article, this time in the Taiwan Review, provides an update on progress towards extending compulsory education to the end of senior high school, expected to be introduced in 2014.

Interestingly, part of the reform is to reduce the emphasis on examinations governing entry to senior high school.

‘Under the current BCT [Basic Competency Test] scoring system, students receive a percentage ranking between 1 and 99, and in many cases that score is the only factor schools consider when admitting students. Results of the new test, however, will only be ranked as highly competent, competent or not competent. In addition, that new ranking will only constitute a maximum of one-third of the overall score by which schools evaluate prospective students, if such a score is necessary.’

The intention is to shift gradually to a point where exams are retained only for those students with ‘advanced academic ability’ or talent in arts or music. By 2019-20, only 15% of admissions to senior high schools and junior colleges will involve examination.

Some of the most selective schools under the current system are understandably reluctant to change:

‘The high ranking of Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, for example, gives it the ability to select “elite” students… Jianguo students have expressed concerns about the learning difficulties that could be encountered in classes in which students have a wide range of academic competence. “Some of the new students may be unable to recognise even the 26 letters of the English alphabet,” another Jianguo student said on a television news programme.’

However, the new approach is expected to reduce the pressure on junior high school students to gain admission to a ‘star school’.

Meanwhile, the issue of stifling exam pressure seems to continue to exert undue influence and several of the other old problems – cited above – seem not yet satisfactorily resolved.

The abstract of a recent paper by Kao carried by the Roeper Review (the full article costs £23.50 to access) appears to confirm this:

‘This study examines the current problems affecting Taiwan’s gifted education through a large-scale gifted programme evaluation. Fifty-one gifted classes at 15 elementary schools and 62 gifted classes at 18 junior high schools were evaluated… Major themes uncovered by this study included exam-oriented instruction, lack of quality affective education, heavy burdens for teachers, enormous pressure for students, gifted art programmes as camouflage, and the failure to utilise resources in the community. These problems could further be consolidated into an overarching theme, overemphasis on exam performance. Discussions and implications addressing these problems are provided in the hope that Taiwan’s and other countries’ gifted education can benefit from them.’


Final Words

The history of gifted education in Taiwan spans a period of over 50 years. At one level it is conspicuously successful: national performance in international comparisons studies and the various Olympiads amply demonstrates that high achievement is pronounced and embedded, especially in maths and sciences.


Taiwans Performance in Olympiad


But, paradoxically, the cause of Taiwan’s success is also the root of the problems that continue to beset its gifted education programme – and indeed its wider education system. The Taiwanese government has been wrestling with these issues determinedly for several years. There are signs of progress, but progress is slow because these reforms are challenging deep-seated cultural beliefs.

Meantime, a comparative economic downturn appears to be stimulating further policy development in reaction to the additional problems that it is generating. How it will impact on the framework of Taiwanese gifted education remains to be seen.

But the remainder of this decade promises to be a significant phase in the continuing evolution of Taiwan’s gifted education programme – possibly even redolent of the apocryphal Chinese curse. Will they finally achieve equilibrium between excellence and diversity, or is that a bridge too far?



February 2013

Gifted Education in Taiwan: Part One


This post describes the development and current operation of Taiwan’s gifted education programme. It completes a tetralogy of studies of gifted education in the ‘Asian Tiger’ economies.


The UK’s attention is arguably over-focused on Hong Kong and Singapore, two relatively small English-speaking jurisdictions with which we have close political and historical ties. South Korea – a much larger country – is sometimes tacked on as an afterthought, but Taiwan is the oft-neglected fourth member of the club.

It performs creditably in PISA rankings but is outstanding in TIMSS (and to a lesser extent PIRLS). My own analysis suggests that Taiwan is particularly strong at the advanced benchmarks for high achievers in these studies, especially in maths and science.

Although there are many freely available online materials about Taiwanese gifted education, few are in English and those that have been translated are often difficult to understand. Recent comprehensive studies are particularly hard to find, with several inaccessible behind paywalls or because of the continuing problems with ERIC.

The post is divided into two parts:

  • Part One sets out the background and charts the historical development of gifted education in Taiwan during the Twentieth Century;
  • Part Two reviews more recent developments, immediately before and after publication of the pivotal White Book in 2007, highlighting several policy priorities and problems that the programme is seeking to address.

For the sake of consistency I have anglicised the American spellings in quotations.


Taiwan in a Nutshell

Taiwan is an island country in East Asia, located 110 miles off the coast of mainland south-east China, east of Hong Kong and north of the Philippines.


Locator Map of the R.O.C. Taiwan courtesy of josh-tw

Locator Map of the R.O.C. Taiwan courtesy of josh-tw


It consists almost entirely of the Island of Taiwan, once called Formosa. The state’s official name is the Republic of China (often shortened to R.O.C.), though the country is sometimes called Chinese Taipei, to distinguish it from the People’s Republic. The largest city is New Taipei City.

The R.O.C. was initially established on the mainland in 1912, but relocated to Taiwan when the People’s Republic was formed in 1949. The post-war Chinese Nationalist Government was eventually succeeded by a democracy.

The President is head of state and appoints a cabinet (the Executive Yuan) including a first minister (the Premier).

The Legislative Yuan, a single house legislative body, has 113 elected seats.

Taiwan has an area of 16,192 km2 and a population of approximately 23.3 million making it the 51st most populous country in the world. Some 15 million of the population are aged 0-14.

The economy is the world’s 19th largest. Per capita GDP (PPP), at $38,486, is broadly comparable with the UK’s.

The country is divided into five Special Municipalities, three Provincial Cities and 14 Counties..

taiwan roc political divisions labeled courtesy of ran english talk

taiwan roc political divisions labeled courtesy of ran english talk


Taiwan’s economic transformation is described as the ‘Taiwan Miracle’. Consistently high rates of economic growth over the past 30 years, on the back of technological development and strong exports, have rapidly increased its wealth. Investment in human capital has been critical to its success.

The currency is the New Taiwan Dollar. One thousand $NT is worth about £20 (almost $US 35).


Taiwan’s Education System

Responsibility for education in Taiwan rests with the Ministry of Education. The incumbent Education Minister is Wei-Ling Chiang.

There are currently nine years of compulsory education, comprising six years at primary (elementary) school (Primary 1-Primary 6) and three years at junior high school (Forms 1-3).

Senior high school (Forms 4-6) is presently non-compulsory but will become so from 2014.

Teachers are trained in specialised teachers’ colleges or on university-based courses. The same institutions provide professional development.

In the 2011 school year (August 1 2011 to 31 July 2012), there were:

  • 8,100 schools in all
  • 2,659 primary schools educating 1.46m learners and employing over 98,000 teachers
  • 742 junior high schools with 873,000 students and 51,000 teachers
  • 336 senior high schools with slightly over 400,000 students and over 36,000 teachers
  • 155 vocational schools for 366,000 students employing almost 17,000 teachers
  • 114 comprehensive senior high schools (accommodating academic and vocational tracks) with 84,000 students and
  • 188 pilot combined high schools for junior and senior high school students (the number of students and teachers is not given).

The Ministry website offers a different classification of senior high schools, distinguishing ordinary and comprehensive schools from ‘magnet’ and ‘experimental’ institutions. There are also junior colleges, with either 5-year or 2-year programmes. The 5-year providers admit students on completion of junior high school.

In anticipation of the extension of compulsory education, the Government announced in 2011 that education expenditure would increase to 22.5% of the national budget, adding a further NT$20bn.

The total education budget in 2011 is said to be NT$ 802.36 billion, or 5.84% of GDP (net of funding for private education) but another Ministry source says that:

‘In the 2010-11 academic year, the total education budget was NT$652.3 billion, of which preschool education accounted for 3.44%, primary education accounted for 26.52%, junior high school education accounted for 14.61%, senior high school education accounted for 16.05% (high schools 10.60%, vocational schools 5.45%), higher education accounted for 38.70% (college 0.77%, universities 37.93%), and 0.69% went to other institutions.’

The ROC Yearbook’s Chapter on Education provides useful background, offering this helpful diagram of the education system.


Taiwan education system - from ROC yearbook


Elementary and Junior High Schools

The commentary on the compulsory education sector notes that class sizes at elementary and junior high schools are currently 25 and 32 respectively, giving pupil-teacher ratios of 15:1 and 14:1 respectively. Primary and junior high schools are operated at district level and take pupils from a designated area.

The curriculum includes:

‘seven major areas of learning: languages, health and physical education, social studies, arts and humanities, mathematics, natural and life sciences, as well as interdisciplinary activities. Each school has its own curriculum development committee, which reviews teaching materials in light of the school’s particular approach and the needs of students. Some junior high schools offer technical courses to students in their third year of study, paving the way for their enrolment in vocational schools or five-year junior colleges upon graduation.

Languages constitute 20 to 30 percent of the overall curricula, with the other six areas accounting for roughly equal shares of the remainder. English is a compulsory subject from the third grade. Besides English and the official language, Mandarin, students from first through sixth grade are required to study one additional language spoken natively in Taiwan—Holo, Hakka or an indigenous language… Local language study is optional in junior high school.’

The Wikipedia entry on Taiwan’s education system offers further detail but may be somewhat outdated. In elementary schools the timetable typically runs from 07.30 to 16.00, except on Wednesday when school finishes at 12.00.

It says that, in junior high schools, the curriculum includes:

  • Classical and modern Chinese literature and poetry, composition and public speaking.
  • Maths, including algebra, geometry, proofs, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.
  • Essential English grammar
  • Science: biology (first year), chemistry (second year), physics (third year), earth science (third year) and technology (all years)
  • Social Studies including civics, history (Taiwan and China in first two years; world history in third year) and geography (Taiwan in first year, China and East Asia in second year and world geography in third year)
  • Home economics, crafts, fine art, music and drama
  • PE and outdoor education.

The Wikipedia entry emphasises that pressure remains intense to achieve the best possible outcome on entrance exams for senior high school, but the Taiwanese Government material gives a different and more up-to-date perspective.

It says that over 97% of students graduating from junior high school in the 2011/12 school year continued their studies. Forty-three percent continued to senior high school while the majority pursued vocational education in either a senior vocational high school or a junior college.

To be admitted to one of these post-compulsory options, students can either make an application or pass a Basic Competence Test comprising Chinese, English, maths, science and social science. The application route is being introduced progressively, while entrance exams are simultaneously phased out.

By 2014:

‘students will be required to sit for competitive entrance exams only if they wish to be admitted to selected schools or specialised programmes’.

Other sources suggest a somewhat different and longer timeline (see further coverage at the end of Part Two).


Post-compulsory Education

Ministry of Education material says that Senior High School education

‘is designed to cultivate physically and mentally sound citizens, laying the foundation for academic research and the acquisition of professional knowledge in later years…’

While Wikipedia adds:

‘In many high schools incoming students may select science or liberal arts tracks depending on where their interests lie. The different learning tracks are commonly referred to as groups. Group I consists of liberal arts students, Group II and Group III of science based students (the latter studies biology as an additional subject). Science based curriculum consists of more rigorous science and mathematics classes intended to prepare the student for a career in the sciences and engineering; the liberal arts track places a heavier emphasis on literature and social studies…’

Another source explains that, during the first two years, the curriculum is similar for all students and they do not specialise until the final year.

‘Core subjects include: Chinese, English, civics, the philosophy of Dr Sun Yat-Sen, history, geography, mathematics, basic science, physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, physical education, music, fine arts, industrial arts, home economics, and military training.’

In 2011, 94.67% of senior high school graduates went on to higher education.


Vocational high schools

‘serve to cultivate technical personnel with professional knowledge and practical skills, and to help students lay the foundation for their future careers.’

They tend to specialise in fields such as agriculture, business, engineering and nursing. Students work towards ‘national examinations for technical or vocational licenses’ required for employment in their chosen field. However almost 82% progress to higher education.

Comprehensive High Schools offer both academic and vocational options and students can select from amongst these before deciding whether to pursue an academic or vocational track.


2006.09.13 courtesy of Max Chu

2006.09.13 courtesy of Max Chu


The History and Development of Gifted Education

Drawing on the distinctions made in the material available online, I have divided the historical development of Taiwanese gifted education into four fairly distinct phases, each of 10 to15 years’ duration:

  • Earliest stages – 1962-1973
  • Development of experimental pilot programmes – 1973-1984
  • Expansion following the 1984 Special Education Law – 1985-1999
  • Development in the early years of this Century, publication of the White Book of Gifted Education in 2007 and subsequent progress.

The remainder of Part One covers the first two phases.


Earliest Stages – 1962 to 1973

The cause of Taiwan’s interest in gifted education was very similar to that in Hong Kong and Singapore: a determination to achieve economic growth through investment in human capital, given the limited natural resources available.

This was formalised in the outcomes of a Fourth National Conference on Education, which took place in 1962. The Conference noted the benefits to gifted learners and to Taiwanese society as a whole.

Some sources say that the earliest provision was developed by a small group of administrators in 1961 (others say 1962), though all agree that there was no formal plan and very little funding.

The Ministry mentions an early pilot for musically talented learners located in Guangren, a private primary school in Taipei. Another source has it that this:

‘began in a private primary school, Kuang-Jen, in Taipei in 1963. Kuang-Jen Primary School was founded in 1959 by the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Since the inception of the SMP in Kuang-Jen, it has come to be regarded as setting the standard for gifted music education.’

Guangren and Kuang-Jen are in fact the same.

Initial pilots for academically gifted learners in two Taipei elementary schools started in 1964. Gifted education began to emerge as a topic at academic conferences and the first research papers were published.

Four years later, when compulsory education was extended to include the three years of junior high school, special education legislation was also introduced which acknowledged the needs of gifted learners.

The Ministry of Education says that the first separate special class for gifted learners with ‘general abilities’ (see 1984 categorisation below) was introduced in 1971 in an elementary school attached to Taichung Normal Junior College (now National Taichung Normal College).

Pupils were selected to undertake experimental courses which supplemented their normal Chinese, maths and science curriculum. Even at this early stage there was emphasis on stimulating creativity.


Development of Experimental Pilot Programmes – 1973 to 1984

The history of developments during this period is heavily reliant on various papers attributed to Wu-Tien Wu, a former Director of the Special Education Center at NTNU.

Elementary School Pilots

In 1973, The Taiwanese Ministry of Education began a nationwide six-year pilot programme in elementary schools. Eleven schools began to offer separate classes for learners identified on the basis of IQ.

Evidently the pilot met with only mixed success. A 1982 paper by Lin and Wu ‘Gifted Education in the Republic of China ROC’ (Gifted and Talented International Volume 1.1) says:

‘Although it has not achieved the results expected by many people, the programme did call people’s attention to the needs of gifted and talented children.’

Another 1985 paper published by Wu, also in Gifted and Talented International (Evaluation of Educational Programmes for Intellectually Gifted Students in Junior High Schools in the Republic of China) adds that, in 1978, the Ministry of Education asked a team at the National Taiwan Normal University to evaluate the pilot as it then operated, in 18 classes drawn from six participating schools.

They were to focus particularly on academic achievement in Chinese and maths, intelligence, anxiety and self-concept. Outcomes were assessed against a comparison group drawn from ordinary classes in the same areas.

Overall, the conclusion rather damns with faint praise:

‘The result has been somewhat satisfactory’.

More specifically, the evaluators found a positive impact on achievement in Chinese and maths, while those in the gifted classes showed less general anxiety but higher test anxiety and had poorer self-concept.

‘Generally speaking the advantages of the gifted education programmes seemed to exceed their disadvantages’


Junior High School Pilots

In 1979, however, the pilot was extended to junior high schools. Wu and Lin explain that government guidelines were published in 1980, providing for redesign of the elementary school pilots as well as extension to the junior highs.

The guidelines set out four aims:

  • To study learners’ intellectual characteristics and creative abilities
  • To develop suitable curriculum and teaching methods
  • To support personal development (‘an integrated and healthy personality’) and so
  • ‘Determine a suitable educational system for gifted students’.

The guidelines specified that two full-time teachers should be deployed in every elementary school gifted class, and three in every junior high school class. No class should contain more than 30 pupils.

A separate class was to be provided where there were enough pupils who met the selection criteria. When there were too few pupils for this purpose, they should stay in their normal class but have access to a ‘special resource classroom’ where they might benefit from supplementary teaching and specially designed materials. Such resource classrooms were often operational after the end of the normal school day.

Participants should be identified through multiple criteria including teacher and parental recommendation, individual and group intelligence tests, as well as tests of aptitude and creativity.

One source suggests that pupils attending resource classrooms should be accelerated by one grade, especially in science, maths and languages, but there is no further reference to this.

Moreover, the guidelines advocated an ‘enrichment approach’ designed to expand learners’ knowledge and understanding. Teachers were encouraged to develop supplementary resources to complement the standard textbooks, to use creative teaching methods and problem-solving strategies. Additional activities – research, field trips, sport and recreation – were to be available during the summer and winter holidays.

Teachers were expected to undertake specialist training, while area-based expert ‘consultation groups’ were to support programme development and evaluation.

By 1981, one source says 36 elementary and 19 junior high schools were involved in these various pilot programmes involving over 3,000 learners. Another source gives different figures – 69 schools, 362 teachers and 5,055 students – while a third provides different figures again (these are included in Table 1 below)

Two evaluation teams visited twelve participating schools in the final year of the junior high school pilot. Eight of the twelve offered special classes and four had resource classrooms.

Six focused on ‘general intellectual development’ while four specialised in maths and science and two in languages.

Of the 1,000 students covered by the evaluation, 814 were in special classes and 274 in resource classrooms. The evaluators randomly selected comparison groups.

They were asked to assess:

  • Impact on achievement, creative thinking and personal adjustment;
  • The comparative effectiveness of special classes and resource classrooms; and
  • Obstacles to effective implementation.

They found that emphasis on additional enrichment declined as students approached their all-important entrance examinations for senior high school. Overall benefits were proportionately greater for younger students. Most schools tended to place too much emphasis on imparting knowledge and too little on cultivating creative, leadership and communication skills.

Some less motivated learners were permitted to remain in special classes and this caused problems, while on the other hand ‘homeroom teachers were reluctant to let the truly gifted go to the special class’.

Resource classrooms created more problems for administrators, including timetabling and deployment issues. Almost half of the teachers had no formal training in gifted education.

Parents were generally supportive but were ‘preoccupied with the idea that entering the best senior high school was the best thing for their children’. This placed pressure on the schools and influenced teaching.

Parents were also concerned that the resource class model imposed excessive workload because the children had to complete work for two teachers rather than one. Learners – including those attending resource classes – preferred the special classes for the same reason.


Other developments

Wu explains that pilot programmes were extended into senior high schools when a third phase was begun in 1982, but these were confined to maths and science. The elementary and junior high pilot activity continued alongside.

The Ministry of Education had already established a ‘Sunshine Summer Camp’ in 1980, run by the Special Education Center at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). It offered junior high school students from Taipei and its surrounding area a two week programme comprising university-based study, group counselling, problem-solving, leadership training, sports and recreational activities. Additional camps supported by various universities and colleges also developed during this period.

In 1983 the Ministry introduced a separate national talent search programme for exceptionally gifted pupils in maths, physics and chemistry. This enabled school age students to be admitted early to university without taking entrance examinations. Participants were selected following a week-long science camp at NTNU.

In the first round in 1983, 34 students from 9th Grade and 12 from 12th Grade were selected. By 1988, this had increased to 467 9th Grade and 211 12th Grade students. Almost 1,000 candidates attended the initial camps.

Also in 1983 the Ministry introduced measures to allow elementary school pupils to complete the curriculum a year early by skipping or telescoping grades. In the first year 40 pupils entered junior high schools early.

Support for those talented in music, fine arts, dance and sports had been expanded progressively since 1973, with continuing involvement from private schools. During that year, one Taipei elementary school and two in Taichung began to run separate classes for musically talented learners.

By 1980, funded music provision began to be extended to a few public senior high schools and, from the following year, similar provision was developed in fine arts, dance, and sports. Ministry sources add that students could for the first time obtain exemption from entrance examinations.

Special education centres were formed at two National Teachers Colleges and at NTNU (the latter in 1974) to promote and support the emerging national gifted programme. These were subsequently extended to eight provincial normal colleges. Such centres supported interaction between researchers and teachers.

In 1973 the Ministry also began to publish a Gifted Education Monograph (elsewhere called the Research Bulletin of Gifted Education). In 1981 NTNU launched its own periodical ‘Gifted Education Quarterly’.

In 1981, Lin and Wu highlighted some of the outstanding issues then facing Taiwanese gifted education. These included:

  • Improving knowledge and understanding of gifted education and developing positive attitudes towards gifted learners. There is concern that too much pressure is placed upon them.
  • Introducing a broader concept of giftedness, extending a predominantly intellectual focus to embrace leadership, creative and psychomotor skills.
  • Developing a system-wide approach to gifted education covering all sectors and addressing obstacles associated with inflexible examinations and grading systems.
  • Improving professional development for specialist teachers who typically attend course of 4-12 weeks’ duration. Teacher selection, course content and subsequent networking all need attention. Improved coverage in initial teacher education may also be needed.


Spirited Away courtesy of Direct Positive

Spirited Away courtesy of Direct Positive


Expansion following the 1984 Special Education Law


The Shape of the System

Wu is again responsible for much of the available analysis during this period.

On at least two occasions – in1992 and 2000 respectively – he utilises a framework first articulated by his compatriot Wang in a 1992 paper ‘A survey on related problems and teaching strategies in gifted education program in Taiwan’.

The breaks down the ‘operational system’ into three levels:

  • Supervisory level, including policy, legislation and guidance, responsible ‘administrative organisations and research;
  • Implementation level, including identification, placement, supply of teachers, curriculum, pedagogy and teaching materials;
  • Resource level, covering parental and community involvement and the contribution of the private sector.


Framework for analysis of Taiwan's gifted education Capture


I have adopted a similar framework for this analysis, adding material from other sources and highlighting changes of emphasis and detail between them. Wu and others devote significantly more attention to the first two of these categories, providing relatively little material about the ‘Resource level’.



Chapter 2 of the 1984 Special Education Law (SEL) was devoted to gifted education, setting out definitions, identification procedures, placement arrangements, curriculum design, support, teacher development and allocation of resources.

It formally divided Taiwan’s gifted learners into three distinct categories:

  • those with general abilities (the intellectually gifted)
  • those with scholastic aptitude in particular academic disciplines (maths, science, language etc) and
  • those with special talents (music, fine arts, drama, dance and sport)

Under the terms of the legislation, the first category above is called ‘gifted’ while the second and third are called ‘talented’.

The SEL added more flexibility to the 1983 acceleration reforms, enabling highly gifted learners to skip more than one grade at each level of the education system (primary, junior high, senior high and university).



In his 1992 paper (pp 415-424) Wu has relatively little to say about the supervisory level, but describes the different elements of the implementation level thus:

  • Identification: intellectually gifted learners are screened at school level through teacher observation, evidence of achievement and the outcomes of group intelligence tests. Those falling within the top 10% take several more group and individual tests (including the Stanford-Binet, WISC-R, Raven’s Matrices and Torrance Test of Creative Thinking). These are administered at the students’ schools but under the supervision of ‘the university guidance institute’. Although described as a ‘multi-assessment procedure’ it is clear that possession of an IQ measure above 130 is the basic selection criterion.


Identification process Capture


For those with artistic or musical talent, selection generally involves auditions and aptitude tests, though there seems an expectation that successful candidates will also possess ‘a higher than average IQ’.

  • Programme design: although overarching curricular goals are set by central government, gifted programmes are locally determined by schools with support from colleges and universities. Refinements are introduced in the light of monitoring meetings involving both teachers and experts. Examples of issues addressed include the design of follow-up and evaluation studies and the content of summer enrichment activities. There is strong emphasis on enrichment and use of ‘creative teaching methods’ such as peer-tutoring, debates, experiments and games. Students undertake their own research projects drawing on independent study. Teachers are facilitators and guides. Affective development is not neglected – Wu uses as an example arrangements whereby gifted learners provide peer tutoring to low achieving peers.

‘Consequently, gifted children develop not only a gifted mind but, more importantly, a tender and loving heart.’

Opportunities for acceleration have increased, including provision for students in school to take university science courses at weekends under the National Science Council’s College Pre-Enrolling Project.

  • Teacher development: Certification as a teacher of gifted education depends on completion of 20 hours of professional development. This may be accumulated through weekend, summer and week-long term-time courses. The Ministry of Education pays for Government staff and academics to access training and conferences abroad. It also sends teams to review practice in other countries.
  • Resources: Schools receive government funding to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in gifted classes and to develop teaching materials, upgrade classrooms and buy necessary equipment. They utilise trips to local libraries, museums and broadcasters. Nevertheless, many need to raise additional funds from commercial sources or through the parents’ association. This can mean that different schools have different levels of support, and that some gifted programmes are better resourced than other parts of a school. There is an increasing supply of books and materials from city or county-level education authorities and commercial publishers.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that Taiwan’s involvement with the international Olympiad movement dates from this era. From 1992 they participated in the 33rd International Maths Olympiad (IMO) and in the International Chemistry Olympiad (ICO). From 1994 they also took part in the International Physics Olympiad (IPO).

Selection for the science Olympiads was based on a national talent search undertaken by NTNU with Ministry of Education sponsorship. Candidates took part in a 9-day science camp and finalists attended a ‘semi-intensive’ training camp for one month before the competition.



In his 1992 treatment, Wu notes that several holiday programmes have been developed in the private sector:

‘For instances, the Chinese Youth Summer Camp, Audio-visual Library, Learning Camp, Computer Camp, Recreation Camp, and Chorus and Orchestra Clubs were among the programmes sponsored by these organizations in the past.’

Parental involvement seems to be confined principally to financial donations and voluntary activity.


Problems and Issues

In a 1989 paper ‘Cultivating Genius’ Wu sets out some of the issues being experienced midway through this period.

  • By 1989, the separate self-contained gifted class have become significantly more common than the ‘resource class’ approach, though the Ministry has recently concentrated on increasing the number of resource classes. Research has identified strengths and weaknesses in each model. Though parents tend to favour separate classes, these are more costly and some schools have insufficient funding to offer them. Evaluation suggests that the separate classes improve both academic achievement and creative thinking, but some experts believe that students ‘do not learn to adjust socially or interact smoothly with mainstream pupils’. On the other hand, pupils in resource classes ‘are often regarded as “unusual specimens” both by the teachers and by their peers’.
  • Continuity has become an issue since many learners in elementary-level special classes have no progression route into similar classes at junior high school. This can cause ‘a difficult readjustment’. Though a new junior and senior high school programme has been introduced, it has not yet been fully implemented.
  • Parents remain fixated on the senior high school entrance examinations, the results of which determine which school students can attend. These exams are:

‘highly structured affairs that reward diligent study of prescribed texts and prodigious feats of memorisation…Parents therefore do not want their gifted children to risk failure by taking class work not specifically designed to pass this key examination—better to follow the complex structured curriculum than be too creative and study materials “useless” for the exams!’

This attitude also inhibits teachers from using creative teaching methods.

  • The 20 credit hours required for certification of gifted education teachers is too little. Teachers are challenged by the speed with which their students ‘consume’ material they have prepared and ‘have every right to complain of overwork’. Because they must also show that special classes are worth the investment made by the school, many ‘push their pupils to struggle for first place in every academic contest possible’. The Government has taken steps to increase the supply of qualified staff, since class sizes of 30 are proving too big.

Although there are positive signs of progress – research is focused on improving teacher education and assessment of student attitudes; curriculum reforms are seeking to balance the requirements of the senior high school entrance exam against more interesting content – experts are pressing the Government to adopt a more robust long-term gifted education policy.

By 1992, Wu’s list of issues is slightly different, including:

  • A need to expand the programme to train those with different talents that contribute to society;
  • Developing progression routes to senior high schools that do not depend on the entrance examinations;
  • The evaluation of the wide variety of accelerative models that have emerged;
  • An expectation that expansion of the resource room model, rather than the special class model, will continue because it ‘has been supported by some educators and most administrators’;
  • A need to introduce more robust and systematic evaluations of gifted programmes;
  • A continuing need to secure an integrated approach across elementary, junior and senior high schools, and also the integration of pre-school programmes, learning from examples in the private sector.
  • Support for twice-exceptional students and
  • Giving top priority to ‘providing the gifted students with a conducive, ecological environment. Just as a sprout needs nutrients to grow, ecological resources are called for in order for the gifted to have their potential fully developed’.


The Size and Growth of the Programme

Tables 1 and 2 below show the rate of growth of Taiwan’s gifted education programme during this period. They are compiled from various different sources but all the figures agree (except the one marked *). However, as we have seen, there are at least three different versions of the earliest figures for 1981!

Table 1 shows that, whereas gifted students outnumbered their talented peers in 1981 and the proportions were broadly equal in 1984, the number of talented students grew more rapidly and subsequently became significantly larger.

It is also evident that, while increases in numbers were substantial in the 1980s and early 1990s, there had been a significant slowing of expansion by 1997.

1981 1984 1987 1991 1997
Gifted 3475 4490 6356 9846 10090
(+29%) (+42%) (+55%) (+2%)
Talented 2366 4347 7404 16167 22479
(+84%) (+70%) (+118%) (+39%)
Total 5841 8837 13760 26013 32569*
(+51%) (+56%) (+89%) (+25%)

Table 1: Numbers of Gifted and Talented Students 1981-1997


Table 2 shows that the number of gifted/talented students increased most rapidly in senior high schools over this period but, by 1997, elementary schools were enjoying a relatively faster rate of expansion.

1987 1991 1997
Elementary Schools 144 171
Classes 460
Students 7061 11860 15070
(+40%) (+27%)
Junior High Schools 117 142
Classes 344
Students 4999 10266 11334
(+105%) (+10%)
Senior High Schools 46 90
Classes 120
Students 1700 3887 6182
(+129%) (+59%)
Total Schools 175 307 403
Classes 506 924 1223
Students 13760 26013 32586*
(+89%) (+25%)

Table 2: Numbers of Gifted/Talented Schools, Classes and Students by Sector, 1987-1997


Other data snippets:

  • By 1987, Taiwan’s overall student population was around 3.6m, of which 3% were assumed to be gifted/talented, but only 13% of the latter were supported by gifted and talented programmes; by 1991, around 0.6% the total student population was supported in gifted and talented programmes.
  • In 1991 the balance between male and female participants in gifted programmes was 57% female and 43% male; by 1997, the differential had increased to 18% (59% female and 41% male).
  • From 1995 to 2000, the rate of increase in gifted students fell to around  3% per year, mainly because, according to Wu:

‘In the wake of recent increased demands for educational reform in Taiwan, public attention has placed much more emphasis on the special educational needs of children with disabilities than on the gifted/talented. Gifted education seems to have been left out and it is not even mentioned in the “Final Report of Educational Reform” (Executive Yuan, R.O.C., 1996). On the other hand, “education for the disabled” has been highlighted and very well funded.

This marks the end of Part One. In Part Two we shall explore the development of Taiwanese gifted education since the turn of the Twenty-First Century.



February 2013

Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-Up: Volume 10


Here, rather belatedly, is my latest review of @Gifted Phoenix Twitter activity.

The previous edition was published as long ago as 14 July, so this post covers over four months of activity.

I intend to publish approximately termly reviews henceforward – either three or four a year, depending on my level of industry (and Twitter activity) and your level of interest!

I have made some adjustments to reflect these new arrangements. Rather than attempt coverage of my entire Twitter feed, I have concentrated on drawing together material relevant to gifted education.

As far as wider education policy is concerned, I have included only those tweets that are pertinent to gifted education in England.

The review is organised as follows:

  • Global gifted education – I have divided this into two sub-sections, one covering the World Council’s activities, the other everything else.
  • Separate sections for Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Europe (other than the UK) respectively. The Americas is divided into three: Other Than USA, US National and US Local. The latter covers material relevant to states, cities, counties, gifted centres, universities and schools.
  • UK, again sub-divided into three: Gifted, Related Issues and Data.
  • Thematic, which also has three sub-sections: Twice Exceptional, Creativity and Innovation, Intelligence and Neuroscience.
  • Commentary, which is once more tripartite, containing subsections entitled Gifted Research, Academic/Gifted Education and Advocacy/Parents/General Interest.

I have exercised some discretion in placing tweets into categories. Some would fit in two or more different sections. Some of my categorisations, especially in the UK and Commentary sections, are also a little rough and ready.

The tweets in each section are organised so that linked material is together, but are otherwise in broadly chronological order. As ever, all the tweets are mine, though a handful are retweets or modified tweets originated by others.

The photographic accompaniment is also supplied by yours truly, collected on my last visit abroad. But where did I go?


Global Gifted Education


World Council/World Conference

WCGTC conference Auckland July 2013: earlybird registration for non-members falls NZ$ 174 to NZ$ 825 (£428)

The results of the 2012 International Chemistry Olympiad, just finished in Washington DC:

WCGTC is celebrating an International Week of Giftedness in August 2012 – and again in August 2013:

More about the WCGTC International Week of Giftedness:

More again about the WCGTC International Week of #Giftedness, which has its own hashtag #IWG2012:

The World Council Executive Committee (sans President) at their new HQ in Bowling Green Kentucky:

@wcgtc Do you support the African Council for Gifted and Talented as claimed here?

Breaking news: World Council 2013 Gifted Conference in New Zealand cancelled. Nothing here yet:

Nothing on the World Council site either about cancellation of the 2013 Conference in NZ:

NZ Gifted Conference 2013 scrapped due to lack of sponsorship; organisational differences with World Council:

World Council Gifted Conference has been cancelled at short notice for second time in succession

World Conference cancellation is a huge blow to NZ gifted education: – but it also begs questions …

With just 10 months before World Council conference runs, even US fallback locations will be hard to find:

Maybe the IRATDE Conference in Turkey could be rebranded as a joint World Council/IRATDE conference:

Look what I’ve found! Could the 2013 World Council Gifted Conference be moving to Dubai?

The site has now moved to a different URL: – Think this is the venue ICIE used in Dubai

WCGTC Conference 2013 has a byline and workshops (mostly Exec Committee members) but still no location

World council gifted conference in Kentucky USA as predicted  but Louisville rather than Bowling Green

World gifted conference dates moved to August 10-14. No other details on programme or host location:


Other Global

A timeline of developments and influential people in gifted education: – WARNING highly US-centric!

IRATDE’s 3rd International Conference on Talent Development and Excellence in Turkey, September 2013:

Review of and link to @gtchatmod’s webinar about #gtchat:

Did you know? #gtchat now has a blog! Sneak peek @  for chat summaries, links & news

Visit our new #gtchat Blog 4 chat summaries & news about upcoming chats at

IBO and World Academy of Sport offer a flexible Diploma to accommodate talented young sports stars:

The results from the 24th International Informatics Olympiad, just finished in Italy:

Facebook and Gifted Education listings: – thanks for including me!

Mensa for Kids is running an Excellence in Reading Award:

Mensa for Kids Reading Award booklist for Grades 9-12? – Curious. Would love to know the selection criteria

Pearson’s Project Blue Sky looks interestingly relevant to gifted learners:




More about sponsorship of Kenya’s gifted learners:

Messy end for an independent school for gifted learners in Kwa-Kulu Natal:

President Jonathan visits Jigawa State Academy for the Gifted, Nigeria: – background here




Other than USA

Caribbean Science Foundation is running a pan-Caribbean summer school for gifted students:

‘SO(bre)S(alientes Reloded’: The revival of a blog about gifted education in Mexico:

The Iberoamerican gifted education conference starts today in Buenos Aires Argentina:


US National

US NAGC view of the year ahead: Making a Difference with Small Actions:

Preview of US NAGC Convention in November:

Details of US NAGC’s Back to School Webinar Series (£):

Joy Lawson Davis has a place at the US NAGC Board of Directors’ table:

US NAGC’s Report on support for gifted disadvantaged learners: ttp:// – At first glance this looks rather pedestrian

Edweek on the NAGC report on gifted disadvantaged learners that I called pedestrian yesterday:

Will the National Association for Gifted Children’s (@NAGC) new paradigm be divisive?

Has Mariam Willis left US NAGC? Parenting High Potential Blog has been dormant for 3 months:

Unwrapping the Gifted’s report of Day 1 of the US NAGC convention:  – mostly Common Core

Excellent review of day 2 of the US NAGC Convention from Unwrapping the Gifted:

SENG’s National Parenting Gifted Week Blogtour details:

Catching up: the full roster of blog posts from the SENG National Parenting Gifted Children Week:

Update on SENG activities:

Article about the 2012 Davidson Fellows:

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to dish out $500K annually for talent development: – 1st recipient Renzulli Academy

National Consortium of Early College Entrance Programs just met – but no insight here into proceedings

Feature on the iGifted School, a US-based non-profit provider of after school activities:

Welcome to Right Side of the Curve – a new US-based online gifted education community:

I see Tamara Fisher, author of the Unwrapping the Gifted Blog, has joined Twitter as @thethinkteacher :

US Government tracker says, optimistically, that Grassley’s gifted bill has 1% chance of enactment:

Passing reference to gifted learners in Obama’s Educational Excellence for African Americans initiative

Education Next feature on selective ‘exam schools’ in the US: and a comment on same:

Extended Washington Post article on development of maths as ‘competitive sport’ in the US:

Three reasons why Americans ignore gifted children:

This Dropout Nation post says US gifted education is a legacy ‘of racialist thinking’ and should be ditched:

A critical commentary on the Chester Finn piece about US neglect of gifted learners:

‘Solving America’s Math Problem’ through better differentiation including for top performers:

More Advanced Placement controversy: and and

The ‘Asianification’ of selective US high schools: – a selection issue as yet largely ignored here in the UK?

Worrall et al on minority gifted students: – fails to state firm principle that ability is evenly distributed

US Needs to Focus Its Educational Efforts on Talented Americans (@JonathanLWai):

‘The smartest kid in the room’ – another current state of US gifted education article:


US Local

First part of a critique of gifted education in the Southern states of the USA:

Second part of that blog post on being gifted in the Southern states of the USA:

Michigan educators worry whether the emphasis on gap-narrowing there will disadvantage gifted learners:

It’s Time to Respect Our Gifted and Talented Students – a Delaware USA perspective:

Minorities are under-represented in Virginia’s gifted education programmes:

Gifted jobs: Virginia Association for the Gifted requires a PT Executive Director: ($35-40K)

The scary state of gifted education in Ohio:

Gifted education issues in Ohio:

A state of the state report on gifted education in Oregon USA:  – the ‘quiet crisis’

Your  Member Newsletter: Gifted Education News from MCGATE

The Gifted: Left Behind? (in Montgomery County):

A view of gifted education from the Chicago suburbs:

Ethnic bias in admission to NYC’s selective high schools and efforts to rectify that via the DREAM programme:

Can opening up NYC selective high schools help poor kids?

James Borland lays into NYC’s gifted education programme, and with some justification:

Finn says selective high school admission in NYC needs reform but dislikes ‘disparate-impact analysis’

Why the Naglieri test won’t make admission to NYC’s gifted programme more equitable:

More on what’s wrong with gifted education in NYC:

Gifted education jobs: MIT seeks Assistant Director of Admissions to lead on recruitment of talented students:

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth appoints new Director, though Stambaugh remains Executive Director:

Gifted jobs: William and Mary CFGE seeks Assistant Clinical Professor leading on publications/professional development

Belin Blank advertises its international credentials: and has updated its website

Belin Blank’s Colangelo is retiring imminently:

More about CTY’s Rural Connections Gifted Programme:

Looks like expansion at CTY given some of these new posts:

Gifted jobs: National Society for Gifted and Talented requires a Program Director based in Stamford CT USA:

CTD’s Summer 2012 newsletter on implications for gifted students of the Common Core:

September News from the Gifted Development Center:

Jonathan Plucker – the excellence gap expert – has moved to UConn’s Neag School of Education: Jefferson HS in the US is being sued over non-admission of gifted Black and Latino students:

Interview with the Director of the Institute for Talent Development at Northern Kentucky University:

Gifted jobs: Western Kentucky University requires an Assistant Professor with gifted education emphasis:

You can only be Professor of Gifted Education at Whitworth University if you’re a committed Christian

Gifted education jobs: Notre Dame of Maryland University seeks a specialist Assistant Professor:

Thomas Jefferson High School and the Search for Equity in the Nation’s Schools:

A bunch of Thomas Jefferson students have launched a social learning start-up:




More from the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Conference:

Malaysian 1st Lady’s remarks at Asian-Pacific Gifted Conference More on her involvement

Plug pulled on eagerly awaited gifted classes in China (Anhui province):

Mensa China’s chair joined ‘to land an intelligent boyfriend’: – old one couldn’t understand her jokes

S Korea, US and China lead the medals table at the 2012 International Maths Olympiad. This report from Vietnam

A useful outline of gifted education in Vietnam and other ASEAN countries by Kim Ngoc Minh:

Funding problems for gifted schools in Vietnam

Wow. Vietnam invests US$20m to improve quality of gifted education in rural and disadvantaged areas:

Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme (GEP) cracks down on questionable private tuition providers:

Outstanding Performance by Singapore at the 2012 International Science Competitions

A documentary and review about Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme (GEP):

Thoughts on gifted education in Singapore:

Interesting Singaporean parental view: ‘Let’s not hold back children who are gifted’:

A brief but fascinating insight into gifted education in North Korea:

An article on recent developments in Malaysia’s Permata Pintar gifted programme: (via @noorsyakina)

Looks like Malaysia plans significant further steps in its national strategy for gifted education:

Here’s that Malaysian Education Blueprint Document – plans for gifted education are on pp116-117:

Commentary on Malaysia’s new plans for gifted education:

Brief report on gifted education in Sarawak, Malaysia:

Malaysian DPM seems to be inviting international efforts to contribute to Malaysian gifted education:

A slightly different take on what the Malaysian DPM said yesterday about #gifted education:

Teach For Pakistan is launching the Pakistan Talent fund, an annual competition for talented young Pakistanis

Cramming is now less virulent in Taiwan because it has so many (some would say too many) universities:

A senior Filipino politician proposes a Bill to support gifted learners and those with special needs

Filipino House of Representatives passes Bill establishing local resource centres for gifted and SEN learners

Iran’s Ayatollah engages with the country’s gifted young people: – I find this rather disturbing

It’s the 55th anniversary of the Abai Kazakh Language and Literature Residential School for Gifted Children!

Arab Bureau of Education argues for Gulf-wide collaboration in gifted education: – Too many rivalries?

The Saudis have been to check out Gatton and WKU – Minister to follow in January:

Dhool Ke Phool – Neat Indian talent development model that blends X-Factor and support for most disadvantaged:



A mixed picture of threats and opportunities in NZ gifted education:

New Zealand’s undertaking a new national survey of gifted education More use than a dodgy Sutton Trust report

The latest edition of giftEDnewz from new Zealand:

Revised, updated version of New Zealand’s handbook on Meeting Needs of Gifted Students has been published at

The NZ Ministry of Education Gifted Handbook in alternative format (for those having trouble with the PDF):

Media coverage of release of updated NZ Handbook on Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students:

NZ Education Gazette article on revised NZ Gifted Education Handbook: – memorably calls one author ‘Roger Molten’

NZ Journal of Gifted Education Vol 17.1, featuring some gifEDnz conference papers:

Evidence of increased focus on Maori giftedness in New Zealand:

To be gifted and Maori:

Some support from NZ’s Labour Party for gifted education there:

Item about NZ’s Future U competition for gifted young thought leaders:

New NZ site on mentoring in gifted education: – developed as a student project

An insight into gifted professional development activity underway in New Zealand:

Gifted Resources August newsletter can be read online at

Gifted Resources Newsletter August (vol 2):

Gifted Resources September newsletter can be read online at

Gifted Resources October newsletter online at

A second October Gifted Resources newsletter can be read at

November 2012 Gifted Resources Newsletter from @jofrei

A new article by the Chair of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into gifted education:

A post by @jofrei on the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into gifted education:



Javier Touron blogs (in Spanish) about the imminent ECHA12 Conference:

Christian Fischer article ahead of ECHA12 in Die Welt (in German):

Interview with Peter Csermely mentioning European Centre of Talent Support:

Mission statement for the European Talent Centre:

Elsewhere on the gifted conference front, I can find out nothing more about the mysterious Polish event:

…Except that there is now a satellite event for East European experts in Hungary a few days later:

Details arrive of the Polish Gifted Conference, just under a week before it happens! Here’s the Programme:

@tanzania8 will present in Poland on UK good practice: Could you live tweet and share presentations Margaret?

Sweet FA from the Warsaw gifted conference. No presentations or tweets. All there is (in Polish):

Information about ECHA 2014:

Our Slovenian colleagues are to be congratulated on setting up an ECHA2014 Forum: – open registration

Smart Kids, Bad Schools – A Norwegian perspective (courtesy of Krumelurebloggen):

Irish Times piece on How to Make a Modern Superhero – mentions CTYI:

The autobiography of a gifted counsellor with Romania’s IRSCA Gifted Education Programme:

TES reports on a Finnish teacher’s book alleging that gifted students’ needs are neglected there:

Description of UYEF, the ‘Federation of Gifted Children Education’ in Turkey:

Article about the Enderun, an Ottoman school for the gifted (15th to 19th century):

CTYI students report on the CTYI experience:

Gifted education in Malta:

Los ninos de alta capacidad son el 3-5% de la poblacion?

Aqui­ esta la nueva entrada. Espero que is interese

Aqui­ estan las 10 claves para hablar de la identificacion. Saludos

Sobre la identificacion de los mes capaces

Cuantos alumnos de Alta Capacidad hay en Espana? Unas cifras para la reflexion via @jtoufi  rendimiento en PISA y talento.

Una Vision Grafica Del Rendimiento en PISA 2003, 2006 y 2009 (from @jtoufi ):

National Report on Identification. oy si aprendemos de los demos?

La excelencia nacional. Un informe interesante.

Los instrumentos de medida en la identificacion






Sutton Trust report on educating highly able pupils-but does it cut the mustard?

Ian Warwick’s dissects Sutton Trust Highly Able Report:  – Been there, done that already:

Summary of Sutton Trust Highly Able research: – rather spoiled by an inaccurate commentary at the end

@EducationElf I fear there is bias and misinformation in your commentary on Sutton Trust Highly Able research:

Apropos the IMO, here are the UK results from the 2012 Olympiad, because they won’t get reported here:

Good luck to Team UK, heading to Germany to compete in the International Geography Olympiad!

Arts Council PN confirming Sadlers Wells will run the new National Youth Dance Company for 16-19 year-olds:

LSU gifted education professor addressing Oxford Round Table event on Talent Development of Olympic Athlete:

Indy Leader uses the G word of sportspeople with zero embarrassment: – Linguistic discrimination

Martin Stephen pleads for the Olympic investment to be extended to our academically gifted learners too:

Meanwhile the Mail produces its annual ‘zoo exhibit’ story about a gifted child So predictable; so depressing

Does the British culture celebrate mediocrity and penalise success? Gifted education is part of the solution

Evidence of the huge variation in schools’ capability to support their highest attainers:

Article summarising Mujis research on the relative success of sixth form colleges in securing top A level grades:

UCAS Chief floats 1-10 A level grading with 9 and 10 pitched above A* to raise ceiling for gifted learners:

Gifted learners need flexibility within curriculum frameworks that tie learning to specific year groups:

Inter alia IFS notes case for action to narrow the excellence gap between poor and other gifted learners

New IPPR Report on Closing the Attainment Gap Notices the gap at top grades p16, but doesn’t really address it

Feedback link on DfE’s Dux awards page contains no feedback; Schools Network link’s moribund; no link yet to GT Voice:

Milburn’s Report lays into the Dux Scheme: (p 38) – that won’t please DfE

Of course independent heads will support Open Access if Government pays: But it’s politically rash and too expensive

Lampl’s still pushing open access – His other suggestion on fair access to grammar schools is more of a runner

Lampl wants Government to stump up 100s of £m to denude state schools of their most able pupils. Idiotic:

Apply between 7 and 30 September to be a Specialist Leader of Education with expertise in highly able pupils:

How seriously does England take education of its most able?  On PISA high achiever data (my analysis included)

Farewell then Mike Baker, a friend of gifted education:

Ian Warwick on KS2 Level 6ness: – Level 6 is of course slated to disappear by September 2014

More from Ian Warwick on ‘level 6ness’: – a concept with a very limited shelf-life

Moynihan says Government sports strategy fails to support talent identification or progression to elite sport:

Need to see detail of London Mayoral Gold Club of schools ‘to stretch the brightest pupils’ – what will it do?

Wall to Wall is preparing a Child Genius Show:

Why Do We Underestimate Our Most Able Pupils?  – Agree in spades with the final section!

Lampl still flogging his Open Access dead horse:  – Only a crazy or desperate party would add it to their 2015 Manifesto

Richard Garner in the Independent supports Lampl’s Open Access scheme Government and Opposition more sensible!

Oral PQ reply on steps taken by Government to improve attainment of most able pupils in maths: (Col 14)

Truss’s argument for investment in intellectual capital goes beyond STEM: it’s the case for gifted education:

Truss maths speech also cites lack of gifted young mathematicians Concerted strategy is needed to change that

It’s a small victory that this DfE press notice cites the disparity in high attainers’ PISA outcomes in maths:

Arts Council is to pilot a Music Industry Talent Development Fund:

Gender imbalance revealed in Cambridge Chemistry Challenge:

UK’s It’s Alright to be Bright Week is scheduled for 20-27 October 2012, details to follow:

On Giftedness and ‘It’s alright to be Bright!’- The UK celebrates a 2012 Gifted Awareness Week!-

It’s Alright to Be Bright Week is well underway:

I kid you not, GT Voice Board member Jonny Ball is to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing:

Apart from me all this lot still serve: – The item on my resignation has vanished – must repost

GTVoice Bulletin for October 2012:

Take the gtvoice survey:

I see Warwick University/IGGY’s offering scholarships for 2 gifted education PhDs (but they’re still in my bad books)

IGGY revitalisation press notice: – Targets to ‘reach’ 15K students in 1 year; 50K in 3 years (ie not members)

@iggywarwick: The beta version of our new website  Let us know what you think!

IGGY’s not new, dating from 2007. Useful resource, but won’t alone secure quality gifted education in schools

Jimmy Saville’s MENSA membership is quietly expunged. Compare 2010 FAQ: with new version:

I don’t want to labour the Savile/Mensa connection, but someone shelled out £160 for his Mensa scarf and tie:



Related Issues

More on Cambridge and contextualised admission: – Does it all boil down to confusion between ability and attainment?

Apparently a 5.3% rise in state school admissions to Cambridge, but I can’t find the source:

Peter Wilby suggests imposing a version of the Texas 10% model on Oxbridge: Right principles but details awry

Do you ever read a newspaper story and think ‘I told you so’: – impact of stalling A level grades on AAB grade HE entry

More evidence that AAB recruitment didn’t work out exactly as it should have done for many selective universities:

Higher report says A level students with AAB grades were projected to increase by 4000 but numbers stayed unchanged:

Statistically I’m unclear why a bigger cohort increases A level pass rate but reduces proportion of top grades

Here comes the ABacc: – basically ‘gold standard’ A level with choice limited, plus academic/service learning bolt-ons

KS5 performance tables already have A level AAB+, RG/Oxbridge destination indicator from 2013 – now ABacc measure too?

Interesting Ofqual research on comparative A level stretch and challenge: – though definition’s a tad basic

Cambridge’s post-16 maths project: – is actually £2.8m to strengthen NRich so nothing to do with A level reform

Why We Need Olympic-style Maths Academies: Forgets there’s funding for a tranche of 16-19 maths free schools

TES reports results of AQA further maths certificate offering A* with distinction:  – see

It won’t be straightforward to add top-end stretch and simultaneously eliminate tiering from a single son-of-GCSE exam:

Son of GCSE to be graded with 1-6 (7 a fail) with 5-10% limit on grade 1 (norm or criterion-referenced unclear):

If only the percentage achieving the top EBC grade is fixed that discriminates unfairly against high attainers

The brakes will be applied to GCSE results as well as A levels: Disproportionate impact on top grades again?

Thankful for small mercies? It seems that O level mark 2 will be takeable in Spring 2016 after one year of study

EBC consultation document shows early entry in core subjects will be impossible in 2016 after all (para 1.4):

Blistering attack on EBC proposals, including idea of a cap on percentage achieving top (all?) grades:

Irresponsible early entry reporting – Can be right for gifted learners but only those secure in A*/A should be entered

Wilshaw’s comments on early entry to GCSE pre-empt a report to be published shortly. Ofsted press notice at:

The Mail and Smithers should temper their enthusiasm for GS until they see FSM pupils’ HE destinations data next year

Answer to the question of how to make grammar schools more socially inclusive isn’t necessarily more grammar schools:

Doubt Brady will ever get new 11+ grammars into a Tory Manifesto, but that doesn’t stop him endlessly trying:

Graham Brady is in broken record mode about grammar schools – has nothing new to say:

Redwood on selection:  – Presumably Brady and Daley contributions come later

Kent is looking for a ‘less coachable’ 11 plus test: – but less coachable is still coachable. Half measures.

Why would you set up a determinedly mixed ability free school and still select 10% of pupils by aptitude? Contradictory

Ministerial statement on the Olympic sporting legacy: (Col 36WS): a bit thin on school PE where ‘more needs to be done’

Nrich has had a makeover:

Sutton Trust press notice accompanying the report of their recent Social Mobility Summit:

Hodgson and Spours on ‘squeezed middle’ in the attainment spectrum: – Is Government overly focused on top 30%?

Barber IPPR essay fails to recognise how Asian Tiger gifted programmes help drive achievement AND innovation



330 of 2164 schools and colleges sent no pupils to RG universities in 2009/10; 1395 sent none to Oxbridge:

Slight increase in Cambridge applications; slight fall in Oxford applications – doesn’t tell us much:

Percentage of students achieving 3+ A levels at A*/A fell from 13.1% to 12.5% (Table 1b):

In 2011/12, 33,154 students gained 3+ A*/A grades at A level:  (Col 200W)

Overall UK GCSE results: A* grades down 0.5% on 2011; A*/A grades down 0.8% on 2011; A*-C grades down 0.4% on 2011:

Percentage of pupils making 3 levels of progress from KS2-4 increased by 3.7% in maths but decreased by 4.2% in English

23.3% of pupils achieving KS2 L5 in English failed to make 3 levels of progress by KS4: (Table 1d)

20.4% of pupils achieving KS2 L5 in maths failed to make 3 levels of progress by KS4: (Table 1d)

23.3% of pupils achieving KS2 L5 in English failed to make 3 levels of progress by KS4: (Table 1d)

2012 Performance Tables to show AAB A level grades but not KS2 L6 results (but L6 counts in progress measures)

KS2 SFR shows that in 2012 11% of those achieving L3 in KS1maths managed only 1 level  level of progress to L4

But KS2 SFR also shows that 14% of those achieving L3 in KS1 maths achieved L6 at KS2:

KS2 SFR shows that in 2012, 16% of those achieving L3 in KS1 English managed only one level of progress to L4:

KS2 SFR shows that around 900 pupils achieved L6 in reading and  3% achieved L6 in maths:

KS2 SFR shows L5 maths up from 35% to 39% in 2012, a significant increase on the previous 3 years:

KS2 SFR shows L5 reading up from 43% to 48%, restoring most of a big 7% dip in 2011:

KS1 SFR shows much bigger FSM gaps at L3 than at L2 across all of reading, writing, maths and science:

KS1 SFR shows 1% increases in L3 TA in Reading, writing, S&L, science and 2% increase in L3 TA in maths






Great blogpost on being twice-exceptional: – Required reading for a certain Ms Teather I would suggest

Twice Exceptional Newsletter 26 July 2012:

Twice Exceptional Newsletter 13 August 2012:

Twice-exceptional Newsletter 4 September 2012:


Creativity and Innovation

The tension between schooling and creativity from a gifted perspective:

How lucid dreaming can support creativity and innovation:

10 Suggestions for Raising Creative Kids: – I would personally omit number 6!

Identifying the Creative Child in the Classroom:

Informative extended article on creativity (especially musical creativity) and the brain:

Creativity and Chaos:

Does social rejection fuel creativity? – Low need for conformity; high need for uniqueness. Recognise that profile!

Interesting article on the components of creativity:

Creativity and IQ – what is divergent thinking and how is it helped by sleep, humour and alcohol:

Another version of the constituents of creativity:

Maybe Gifted Underachievers are More Creative:

Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body, from @sbkaufman


Intelligence and Neuroscience

How do cognitive abilities change over the lifespan? Number sense as an exemplar:

Short Time article on recent ‘genes for learning’ studies:

The (limited) contribution of brain imaging to distinguishing intelligence:

Intensive practice in reasoning skills can change the brain – Does tuition have a value beyond mere rehearsal?

On whether neuroscience supports free will or determinism:  (warning: you may need to read this 7 times)

How early social deprivation impairs long-term cognitive function:

Are great leaders born or made? Do they need intelligence and creativity?

Evidence that adult brain structure changes as a consequence of learning:

Cogmed working memory training: does the evidence support the claims?

The relationship between genes and intelligence is still far from understood:

Another piece on the relationship between genes and intelligence:

More from Willingham on working memory training:

The prevalence of ‘neuromyths’ amongst UK and Dutch teachers:

Why social and mechanical reasoning are mutually inhibiting:

Perfect Saturday reading – an academic paper about Einstein’s brain:





Gifted Research

Seeking participants for research on gifted kids and their hobbies

The impact of genes on athletic performance: – a brief review of research evidence

Algebra for All Harmed High Achievers, Study Finds:

Working paper on Conscientiousness, Education and Longevity of High Ability Individuals by Peter Savelyev:

The value of deliberate practice (as opposed to practice per se) in achieving (musical) excellence:

The impact of self-regulated learning (from Ericcson’s expert performance perspective): (via @sbkaufman)

Top Maths Achievers Spread Unevenly Across Schools – Ed Week report on a (£) academic paper:

Review of a recent French book by Lignier – A Sociology of Gifted Children:

Gifted and Talented International edition with Persson’s article on cultural bias in research and responses:

@JonathanLWai on a (£) Gifted Child Quarterly edition devoted to responses to that Subotnik et al article:

You can access Subotnik’s target article free but these Gifted Child Quarterly responses are sadly $20 a time:

The Entire “Rethinking Giftedness” Debate – from Gifted Child Quarterly

Thanks to @sbkaufman for publishing the full Gifted Child Quarterly edition on Subotnik et al’s paper:

A critical Koshy paper on English primary gifted education which, on a quick skim, is very curate’s eggy:


Academic/Gifted Education

A gender dimension to the Flynn effect? Mr F promotes his new book:

Interview with James Flynn: and his article in Wall St Journal:

An interview with June Maker, speaking at the Asia-Pacific Conference:

The concept of Optimum Intelligence – and what happens when you’re outside those boundaries:

Some complex thinking aloud about distinctions between high IQ and genius: – don’t think it’s that simple!

An interview with @sbkaufman

A restatement of the nature/nurture balance in development of genius:

If expertise has such limitations does that undermine gifted education theories predicated on its development?

The changing nature of expertise: – has implications for expertise-in-development models of gifted education

Feature on Olympic talent development based on work by Rita Culross at LSU:

CTD at Northwestern on flipped classrooms:

Belin Blank’s Colangelo on high attaining learners’ progression to teaching as a career:

Part 5 of Belle Wallace’s gifted blog on developing a problem-solving pedagogy

Final Belle Wallace article in series of 6, on ‘Whole Brain Based Learning’: – not sure this one quite works

Nine ‘research-supported facts’ about gifted education: – some are contestable though…

The relative impacts of harmonious and obsessive passion on performance:

The relationship between ability and motivation:

Learners need  knowledge as well as resilience. More commentary on Tough’s book:

A bit more follow-up on the Paul Tough book:

Hirsch on Tough:

Even more ‘true grit’ (and its impact on student achievement):

I thoroughly commend this blog post about a gifted driven model of teaching and learning by @headguruteacher

Interesting post incorporating Sternberg presentation on assessing creativity, common sense and wisdom

Review of Finn and Hockett’s ‘Exam Schools’ and the merits of balancing excellence and equity:

Another review of the Exam Schools book:

From the Curry School of Education Blog – I share this perspective on social and emotional needs

Camilla Benbow gifted education article:  (I reckon she has the best name in gifted ed btw)

The Pesky Persistence of Labels from @sbkaufman

Duke TIP blogpost on academic self-concept:

Q. What can we learn from international best practice in gifted education?: – A. Much from careful scrutiny

Paula O-K takes a sensible middle way on social and emotional dimensions of giftedness:

Links between child prodigies and autism (summary):

Impact of openness to experience on cognitive ability:

In which Brink Lindsay, author of Human Capitalism fails to take on board the Smart Fraction argument:

Everything you ever needed to know about prodigiousness (and more):

Restatement of an old question – do objective standards (of excellence) exist in the arts?

Long Subotnik et al article in Scientific American: – the eminence trajectory remains the weak link

10 Lessons on Gifted Education – Part 1 (by @RichardCash)

Valentine Cawley argues that gifted people suffer as a consequence of the Dunning-Kruger effect:

The arguments for and against detracking:

WCGTC 2013 Conference post on highly proficient readers:

World Conference 2013 blog on Technology: – High time for gifted educators to enter the 21st Century

@ByrdseedGifted proffers an example of a ‘fuzzy problem’ for gifted learners:

How black gifted students are ‘living between two races’:

Catching up: Mainstreaming effective gifted education practices:

More ways to use Twitter in gifted education:



Advocacy/Parents/General Interest

Nicole Kidman – a Brief Profile of High Ability and Complexity:

Are we doing enough to support the parents of gifted children?

More valuable advice about parenting a gifted child:

Everyday Glimpses of Giftedness:

Catching up: ‘why is my gifted child so anxious all the time’:  (causation/correlation health warning)

Catching up: a blog post on gifted labelling:

What should we do about gifted and talented pupils? Do they exist? New blog post

Catching up: The Smartest 1%: Do Americans Value Intelligence?

Catching up: Advocacy Groups for Parents of Gifted Learners:

50 Essential Links for the Parents of Gifted Children  Has transformed the very English Gifted Phoenix to Kiwi! (no 28)

Catching up: Gas station without pumps cocks a snook at National Parenting Gifted Children Week:

Catching up: A post about Raising Gifted Children:

Pondering the Olympics from a gifted perspective:

Why Gifted Teens Should be Sponges Not Spongers:

Wouldn’t it be Weirder if I Didn’t Think my Child was Gifted?

Blog post on The Value of Exclusive Gifted Programmes:

Why Are All the Smart Kids Cheating (an inaccurate headline but worth reading anyway):

US comparison of academic v sporting success Raises big questions about support for elite academic performance

A comparison of gifted education and varsity athletics:

All kinds of smart: applying lessons from the Olympics:

Online education for gifted homeschoolers:

Sibling rivalry: Blog post – Life Among the Gifted

The Talent Myth:

Ideas on the causes of negativity towards gifted learners and gifted education:

Insights into gifted adults in the workplace:

Raising the floor but neglecting the ceiling:

Daniel Coyle offers some tips on talent development:

Courtesy of @sbkaufman the correlation between national chocolate consumption and number of nobel prizewinners

Bullying and the Gifted:

An article advocating IQ testing of gifted children:

A contrary view about the value of IQ testing:

Strategies for helping gifted children back to school:

How does one discuss giftedness with a gifted learner?

New post on Gifted Resources blog: virtually attending the ECHA conference

Can’t find a school for your gifted child? Start your own:

Grades and gifted learners

Young gifted and neglected:

Gifted Exchange on tuition for tests giving entry to gifted education programmes: – a can of worms

Do teenage gifted writers have sufficient opportunity to engage their imagination in school?

From the editor of Concord Review: why are we afraid to show off our brightest students?

Withholding appropriate education from a gifted child is educational neglect:

Against Accelerating the Gifted Child:

In which I respond to nearly 200 @NYTMotherlode comments re: acceleration in gifted education:

The advantages of acceleration:

Inductive learning for gifted students:

Things I’ve Learned About Parenting a Gifted Child:

The Highly Distracted Gifted Child:

A Prezi on Talent Identification and Development in Sport:

Universal Traits of Giftedness – – there are of course no such thing!

Leave gifted children alone: – I think he actually opposes hothousing rather than support

The 2 worst words in gifted education, parts 1 – – and 2 –

How to Recognise the Parent of a Gifted Child:

Stacie says ‘Shut up about what a burden your gifted child is’:

Holding back gifted learners:

Differentiating between gifted and high-achieving students:  – Better imho to treat latter as subset of former

Is there an emotional intelligence equivalent of the Flynn Effect?

Ten myths about gifted students and programmes for the gifted:

New post at GPS, “Just My Imagination”

New post at Gifted Parenting Support, “Accentuate the Positive”

New post at GPS, “Supporting Your Child’s Gifted Teacher”:

New post @GPS, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting? The Unexpected”

New post on GPS, “Nurturing the Global Nature of Giftedness”

Check out our latest gtchat blog post on the ECHA12 Symposium @  – Thanks Lisa!

‘Is there a place at table for parents’? from Gifted Parenting Support:

New Gifted Parenting Support post from @ljconrad  on standardisation:

New post on our #gtchat Blog, “The Middle School Years”

Gifted Resources Blog post about #gtchat

Couldn’t make #gtchat this week? Check out our blog  for  summary & links!

Missed Friday’s #gtchat ? ‘Collaboration, Not Confrontation” Transcripts:

Giftedness as a Special Educational Need, chat transcript:

Transcripts of the last 2 #gtchats with guests van Gemert and Housand respectively: and

Transcript of yesterday’s #gtie chat on gifted education research: – Thanks so much for referencing my blog!

Transcript from tonight’s chat, Essential Websites on Giftedness:  (and thanks for the reference)

Transcript of When Parents Push Too Hard

Some #IWG2012 blog posts: and and and

Another selection of #IWG12 posts: and  and and

A 3rd selection of #IWG12 blogposts and  and and

A further selection of #IWG12 blog posts: and and

A 5th set of #IWG12 blog posts: and and and

Today’s selection of #IWG12 posts: and  and and

Couldn’t fit these #IWG12 posts into the last round-up: and

Sunday’s batch of #IWG12 posts: and and and

….and one last one:

A final (?) #IWG12 post: and one that perhaps should have been:



November 2012

Gifted Education in Israel: Part Three


This is the final part of a full-scale review of Israeli gifted education.


  • Part One provided background on Israel and its education system before charting the development of Israeli gifted education up to 2006 or thereabouts.
  • Part Two considered how Israeli gifted education has developed over the last five years and its condition today.

Part Three takes a closer look at some specific initiatives and institutions that play a prominent role in the Israeli national programme as it is now.

It begins by describing Amirim (which featured towards the end of Part Two), moving on to look at mostly university-led courses in maths and science.

It also reviews a handful of important services supporting disadvantaged gifted learners and a couple of unique Israeli programmes that are not strictly domestic gifted education, but are closely related to it.

There is a substantive section devoted to the activities of the Israel Center for Excellence in Education, including the Israel Arts and Science Academy, which falls under its control.

This is followed by an overview of other specialist schools and organisations and various providers of professional support.

Finally, I offer a personal assessment of the impact of the full panoply of Israeli provision.



Amirim is based on Renzulli’s Enrichment Triad Model. The programme covers primary, lower and upper secondary schools, exposing learners to content not found in the normal school curriculum.

The aims are to:

  • Support excellence in schools, teachers and learners;
  • Develop an ethos and culture that supports the achievement of excellence;
  • Increase educators’ capacity to develop excellence in learners; and
  • Develop activities that enable learners and educators to set and achieve targets for excellence.

Each district is advised how many schools can participate in the programme, but the schools are selected locally. Each school appoints a co-ordinator and teachers to participate. The teachers undertake a training programme.

The Amirim ICT project may be what is described by another source. If so, this is led by the Centre for Technology Education and Cultural Diversity (TEC). The Division for Gifted Students jointly funds the project with the Kibbutzim College of Education Technology and the Arts.

Around 100 learners from Grades 5 and 6 are involved, drawn from nine schools around the country, including Jews, Arabs and Druze. They communicate through a social network and work in multicultural teams. A face-to-face conference is held for all participants at the end of the project.


Programmes for Gifted Learners in Maths and Science

There are many different providers of programmes for students gifted in maths and science, several being accelerative programmes offered by universities.


Tel Aviv University

There is a brief English language description of the maths provision at Tel Aviv University dating from 2008, while the Hebrew web page is here.

A set of Acceleration Programmes in Mathematics (APM) began as early as 1970. Pupils aged 13-15 were selected for participation by their teachers. Many of the participants completed an undergraduate degree, some even a postgraduate degree, by the age of 18.

In 1987 the University began to offer a course for 12-17 year-olds called ‘Mathematics for Excellent Students’ with two parts, each taking four hours a week over a single semester. Students completing both parts were entitled to begin the first year undergraduate course at the University.

Tel Aviv University also hosts a Dov Lautman Unit for Science Oriented Youth established in the School of Education in 1981, which has an ambitious programme of activities relatively little of which is described in English. At least one receives support from the EU.


Bar Ilan University

Bar Ilan offers an English language page about its support for gifted learners (the Hebrew site is here.).

It provides an enrichment course for learners in Grades 6 and 7:

‘intended for students who are interested in studying exciting, stimulating subjects in mathematics, most of which are not included in the regular study programme in schools; and also as preparation for the programme for youth gifted in mathematics.’

Participants attend the course for two hours a week in the afternoons, after school.

The gifted programme is for students in Grades 8-10 and has the following aims:

  • Preparing students for the matriculation examination in maths at the end of the 10th grade.
  • Integrating 11th and 12th grade students Bar-Ilan’s undergraduate maths courses.
  • Enabling students to complete their degree within 3 years, ending one year after the 12th grade, requiring a year-long postponement of military service.

Participants attend a four-hour session weekly. The programme now runs at 20 different centres. Some 2,300 students were enrolled in 2006/07 (more recent data is not provided) and 60 teachers are involved.

Some 1,300 students completed the course as 10th grade students ‘in the last five years’. An online article describes the experience of one participant.

This programme seems to be slightly different to another Bar-Ilan project, also described online, which is called ‘A Fostering Programme of “Doctoral Students for Math”’.

This has as its objective the development of:

‘leadership in math among youth in development towns and suburbs who excel in their high school studies by accelerating them toward their university studies in the sciences and mathematics.’

Participants are selected in Grade 7 and during Grades 8-10 they undertake 30 three-hour sessions a year based in special centres:

‘The programme provides several routes:

(a) Matriculation examination at the end of the tenth grade and continuation of studies at Bar-Ilan University;

(b) admission to Bar-Ilan University to continue studying maths with the matriculation in mathematics determined by the marks received in the two core courses at the university — “Linear Algebra” and “Infinitismal Arithmetic”;

(c) admission to Bar-Ilan University to continue study in maths with the matriculation exam coming during the 11th or 12th grade or

(d) return to school to take the maths matriculation exam at the end of the 11th year and continuing studies at Bar-Ilan in the 12th year.

‘Infinitismal Arithmetic’ is a one-year course comprising four hours of lectures and two hours of ‘drill’ weekly.

In the period between Grades 11 and 12, students can take a special concentrated five week course for four hours a day ‘Introduction to Grouping Theory and Analysis’” This is equivalent to a full year of study. They may then:

‘complete the baccalaureate degree in mathematics as a primary subject (24 annual hours of lecturing and 10 hours of drilling), meeting all the requirements in two years and, in some instances, even less time.’



At Technion, the Israel Institute of Technolgy, in Haifa, the Mathematics Department hosts the Noam Outstanding Youth Center which offers:

  • A Maths Summer Camp for 20 outstanding students in Grades 9-12, selected on the basis of school recommendations and interviews. Participants are divided into four groups and study number theory and encryption.
  • A summer workshop on ‘Games, Luck and Probability’ for learners in Grades 6-8 at lower secondary schools.
  • The ‘Grossman Math Olympics’, a competition for students in Grades 10-12 as well as those undertaking military service. There are cash prizes and  tuition fee waivers for those who choose to take up a place at the Technion.
  • A ‘Math Riddles Course’ which uses many questions posed in Maths Olympiads, open to adults with an interest as well as upper secondary and university students.
  • ‘Math Circles’, a weekly after school enrichment class for lower and upper secondary students, run by Technion undergraduates and postgraduates.
  • ‘From a High School to the Technion’, another programme allowing students in Grades 10-12 to study courses contributing to an undergraduate degree and to be admitted to the University on that basis.

Another international summer programme is run via World ORT which recently announced that it is launching a $35m ‘Anieres II World ORT Engineering/Technology Scholarship Programme for ten annual intakes of around 60 disadvantaged teenagers:

‘The students will enjoy a special residential programme for the final three years (four years in the case of those from overseas) at school, including extra-curricular studies at the internationally renowned Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and, if necessary, ulpan. Those who make the grade in final exams will study engineering at the Technion for four years with the added benefit that they will receive academic credits, which can be applied towards their degree, for all courses successfully completed in the high school component of the programme.’

I believe ‘ulpan’ is a Hebrew language-learning programme. The press release says $15m of the $35m cost has been supplied by a philanthropist and $18m by the Israeli Government. The remaining $2m is to be paid by students. It is not clear how disadvantaged learners will be able to find around $3,500 each.


Ben-Gurion University

The Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center is based in the Physics Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and provides opportunities for about 8,000 learners in the southern part of Israel.

Established in 2007, it is administered as part of the wider Madarom Programme a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Rashi Foundation. One aim is to support and develop gifted learners. There is a strong emphasis on astronomy – the centre is named after Israel’s first astronaut.

One element is designed to foster scientific leadership in astronomy and physics. Each year some 150 upper secondary students receive leadership training and training in science education. They subsequently serve as guides and counsellors for other activities undertaken by the Center. They meet regularly as a cohort throughout the school year.

Once ex-participants have completed their military service they qualify for academic scholarships and act as tutors to the next cadre of participants in the programme.


Weizmann Institute

The Weizmann Institute of Science has an educational arm, the Davidson Institute (so-called because it is supported by a $35m endowment from Bill Davidson.

This is not to be confused with the entirely separate Davidson Institute in the US, founded by Bob and Jan Davidson.)

Davidson provides a range of after-school courses in maths and science, some of them designated specifically for high achievers. Its ‘Science by Mail’ and ‘Math by Mail’ courses are available internationally and targeted at ‘talented and curious children in Grades 3-9’. Participants study four in-depth topics each year.

It also offers the annual Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute (ISSI), a month-long programme for 70 highly-talented recent upper secondary school graduates, plus an annual safecracking tournament for teams of 17-18 year-olds who must build a safe that only they can open.


Haifa Sunrise courtesy of chaim zvi


Open University

It is also possible to take courses with the Israeli Open University while still at upper secondary school. These are courses originally designed for undergraduates and, unusually, are not confined to maths and science.

In principle at least, students can enter courses in maths, science and engineering, but also in the humanities ( Jewish studies, history, literature, linguistics, music, art history, cinema, philosophy) and the social sciences (political science and international relations, sociology, communication, education, psychology, economics, management and accounting).

Courses are offered at one of three levels:

  • Open level – general introductory courses which may require prior knowledge obtained in upper secondary school;
  • Standard level – subject-specific courses which build on open courses and
  • Advanced level – comparable with third-year undergraduate courses at other universities. Some require preparation of a paper during or after the course.

Upper secondary students may undertake Open University study in normal classes alongside adult students. Others may be part of dedicated study groups or study centres where numbers are sufficient to permit this.

The website says that, while hundreds of upper secondary students undertake Open University courses, only a handful have completed an undergraduate degree, while a ‘few dozen’ have managed the first half of an undergraduate degree.


Programmes Supporting Disadvantaged Gifted Populations

Ariela Foundation – Maof and Star

The Ariela Foundation supports learners from the Ethiopian minority, of which there are some 120,000 resident in Israel, targeting:

  • The top 20% of lower and upper secondary school students from Tel Aviv,Jaffa, Gedera and Ness Tziona through the Star Programme and
  • Learners who demonstrate high ability in one or more fields through the Maof Assistance Programme, a ‘nationwide initiative to promote excellence amongst outstanding youngsters through ongoing personal mentoring and long term tailor made assistance’.

Participants may join the programme in primary school and continue until university. The support provided to each participant varies but might include: financial aid, a scholarship, tutoring, coaching and mentoring, access to after-school enrichment and guidance and counselling. All participants undertake voluntary work.


College for All

Despite its name, College for All runs centres:

‘Throughout Israel’s economically distressed areas for children who possess potential for individual and academic excellence. College for All aspires to nurture and promote excellence in children and youth with social, family and economic circumstances that would otherwise hamper their potential for success.’ 

College for All was established in 1999 and now supports 25 centres throughout the country and over 1,500 learners. It employs 500 or 600 undergraduate students (the sources differ on the number) who teach learners once a week, receiving a scholarship or academic credit in return. Fifty qualified teachers are also involved.

The College website claims that Israel experiences the widest social gap between rich and poor amongst developed western countries. There are over 800,000 children and young people living below the poverty line, of which 100,000 (so 12.5%) have ‘unbounded potential for excellence’. This target group seems to comprise those identified as high achievers at primary schools.

Learners with high potential benefit from:

‘A top quality, socially-minded curriculum over the course of 10 years – from 3rd to 12th grade – thus assisting them in reaching their full potential, broadening their horizons, developing their academic capabilities and deepening their social conscience.’

Every learner has access to 16 hours a week of tuition in maths, English, IT and verbal skills as well as homework support. The website mentions:

‘Special classes in mathematical theories; English and language skills; science and nature; study skills; creative writing; environmental studies and literacy, as well as creative extracurricular programmes including: comics; art; photography; music; theatre and personal and group empowerment activities.’

Participants also benefit from social and cultural enrichment activities and are expected to serve as volunteers within their local communities. From lower secondary school onwards there is a personalised approach designed to help each learner ‘overcome their personal obstacles and difficulties’. Undergraduates act as mentors and role models.

The website claims as evidence of success the fact that its ‘first class of graduates achieved a 97 point average on their high school matriculation exams’. Nothing is said of subsequent cohorts.


Two Unique Programmes

Although strictly speaking outside the scope of this post, I want to devote some attention to two fascinating initiatives that are closely linked to the national gifted education programme.



Talpiot is the Israeli armed forces’ talent development programme, launched in 1979.

Israeli students completing high school are required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, typically for two years (women) or three years (men). The IDF tests all students in Grades 11-12 to inform decisions about placement.

Those who score in the top 5% are invited to undertake a programme that combines basic military training, officer training and completion of a degree. Applicants are sifted and up to 200 attend a final selection process overseen by former graduates.

According to Wikipedia, Talpiot cadets undertake a science degree in either physics and maths or computer science at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Academic study is interspersed with field training in different parts of the IDF. The total course takes three years and four months. Graduates are ranked first lieutenant and progress to specialist positions. They undertake six additional years of service.

The annual intake is said to be around 50 cadets, but this November 2011 report from IDF’s own website says that the current class of 40 graduates is the largest class in the programme’s history. A few women are successful.

An earlier Wall Street Journal story dating from 2007 describes the programme as ‘secretive’ – the journalist complains that officials would not describe the military elements of the programme – and its premiss is that Talpiot has ‘created an unforeseen by-product — a legion of entrepreneurs that has helped turn Israel into a technology juggernaut’.

Critics note that only a handful of participants have achieved senior rank in the IDF. Although in the early years, many remained in the armed forces or shifted to academic positions, that is no longer the case. One of the programme’s founders is quoted:

‘He doesn’t mind that graduates are getting wealthy, but says that if they aren’t working in the country, “Israeli money should not be invested in them.”’

But a Talpiot graduate poses the opposite argument:

‘Though most graduates aren’t involved in defending Israel, their role in the country’s economy is just as important to Israel’s survival. “What we are doing is generating new ideas and solutions,” he says. “That is very difficult to wipe out in a war.”’


NAALE Elite Academy

Another original programme is the NAALE Elite Academy, which supports Jewish young people from the diaspora to attend an Israeli upper secondary school.

Established in 1992, the programme has supported over 13,000 or over 20,000 participants since its inception (depending on the source).

It is funded by the Ministry of Education and the Jewish Agency for Israel – there is no charge for participants beyond the initial $500 registration fee. Students have all their living and Israeli travel expenses met, as well as the cost of flights to and from home at the beginning and end of the programme.

Participants attend Israeli upper secondary schools throughout Grades 10-12. Initial courses are taught in English, but teaching is conducted entirely in Hebrew by 11th Grade. Some 20 hours a week are dedicated to learning Hebrew in Grade 10.

Participants can be placed in either secular or religious schools – 26 schools participate in the scheme. They board at their schools but are allocated a bilingual host family who offer ‘home-away-from-home hospitality during Sabbath and school holidays, and a warm and caring environment’.

In order to qualify, applicants must demonstrate academic ability and emotional maturity. They undertake a series of selection tests – in English, Hebrew and maths – as well as a psychological test. This is followed by a series of interviews. However, 60% of applicants are accepted.

Up to 30% decide to return to their countries at the end of Grade 10, but nearly all who complete Grade 11 continue into Grade 12. Some 90% of these achieve the Bagrut (they receive special dispensation for recently acquired Hebrew language skills).

Once students have completed the course, they can decide to stay in Israel. Some 85% of those completing the programme stay and transfer to university or undertake military service. Of the 15% who return home, over half return to Israel within a year.

This recent news article features NAALE.


Jerusalem Israel City Hall Complex courtesy of jaime silva


Israel Center for Excellence in Education

The Israel Center for Excellence in Education is a big player, providing a huge range of programmes and also the Arts and Science Academy.

Interestingly, one source describes the Center as ‘a staunch critic of the Education Ministry’, although it collaborates with it over the provision of many enrichment activities..

The Center describes its goal as:

‘To foster the concept of leadership, excellence and public responsibility throughout the entire educational community.

The Center for Excellence challenges bright and motivated students in every segment of Israel’s population.’

The website divides its work into five discrete areas:

  • The Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA) – which is described as its flagship programme and is outlined in the next section;
  • National Programmes, which include Excellence 2000 (E2K) – already mentioned in Part Two.
  • Professional Development
  • Special Initiatives and
  • International Activities


National Programmes

Within the suite of national programmes, five carry an Excellence 2000 imprimatur. The overview explains that the original programme was for lower secondary schools and was styled Mitchell Excellence 2000. Provision was extended to elementary schools via Skirball Excellence 2000 and subsequently to upper secondary schools via E2K High School. There are also E2K School-Wide and E2K City-Wide programmes.

Mitchell Excellence 2000 is the largest of these, described by the Center as:

‘The most comprehensive programme dealing with highly motivated and excelling students in the school system’.

From Grade 5 onwards, some 10,000 participating pupils in over 250 schools access enrichment classes focused on experimental sciences and mathematical thinking. They are taught by some 1,700 teachers who are trained through the Excellence Educators’ Institute (see below).

Skirball Excellence 2000 is designed for pupils in Grades 5-6 while the E2K High School is for Grades 10-11. Both were introduced in communities already served by the Mitchell Programme.

The School-Wide model is intended to: ‘enhance science skills and promote excellence throughout the entire grade level in selected schools’ so is not specifically a gifted programme. The City-Wide model is a community-wide extension of the whole school model. The website claims an extensive waiting list of cities waiting to join.

The website carries a 2006 evaluation by the Szold Institute which provides further insights into this family of initiatives.

It describes the overarching goals as:

‘(1) grooming excellence, encouraging creativity and educational leadership among students while providing equal opportunity to all segments of the population;

(2) grooming the student as a thinking, initiating and creating person;

(3) posing challenges to the students and encouraging depth and realisation of potential;

(4) providing the students with the tools for developing scientific and mathematical thought;

(5) enhancing student motivation to understand natural phenomenon [sic] through research and experiment;

(6) providing the students with professional tools and knowledge in the arts and encouraging and grooming self-expression;

(7) encouraging the student to strive for excellence and advance to higher academic levels;

(8) empowering teachers and assisting in changing teaching patterns so that research, experiment and teacher guided self-study are integrated; and

(9) strengthening the local school system as a result of strengthening and integrating the strive for excellence in students and teachers participating in the programme’.

There are four components: staff training, a learning programme focused on subjects not normally encountered in the school curriculum, supplementary enrichment activities and a residential summer camp at IASA for pupils completing Grade 8.

Excellence 2000 began in 1998, but originated in an earlier Discovery Programme which operated from 1988 in a smaller number of schools as a 3-year intervention for Grade 7-9 students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Discovery had four specific objectives

  • ‘To create enriched environments in disadvantaged communities that will provide opportunities for the discovery and nurturing of talent potential that otherwise might not surface.
  • To identify and nurture educationally students from disadvantaged communities who have potential for giftedness and leadership but have not had the cultural or educational advantages needed to develop their abilities.
  • To make the striving for excellence a goal of local educational systems.
  • To increase the pool of applicants for the Israel Arts and Science Academy.’

Participants were identified in the 7th Grade through teacher nomination, standardised test data, academic performance, or other relevant evidence. Students were taught in informal groups of 12-16, undertaking two 90 minute sessions each week, one on mathematical thinking skills and the other covering a scientific topic. Between five and seven special activities in music and art were also offered throughout the year and also two day-long field trips were also included. By the end of the programme in Grade 9, participants would compete for admission to the Academy on an equal basis to other candidates.

At the time of the evaluation in 2006, Mitchell Excellence 2000 was operational in 150 schools involving some 8,000 students. At this stage the Skirball model was being piloted in 20 primary schools and the High School model in 10 upper secondary schools.

Participating pupils were originally identified by their teachers using five criteria: high achievement, high learning potential and willingness to face new challenges, curiosity and creativity, determination and motivation and commitment to complete the programme. However, a screening test and interview process was subsequently introduced. Around 10% of learners were taken into the programme, taught in classes of 15-20.

Courses are focused on science and maths, with two hours a week typically allocated to each. Half of the four-hour weekly provision is during the school day and half outside it. Standard study units have been developed. Participating pupils may also tutor other children in their school. Each participating school must undertake three wider enrichment activities annually.

Each teacher must undertake 56 hours of compulsory training annually including a three-day summer programme at IASA and 4 one-day sessions. The evaluation refers to a new experiment in school-based training to be introduced in 2007.

Some central activities have also been developed including the Ilan Ramon Space Team Programme, a series of online challenges and a competition to design and build an invention.

The evaluation also refers to the extension of Excellence 2000 to immigrant learners, particularly those from Ethiopia and the Muslim states of the former Soviet Union. In 2006 there were 11 groups nationally, with a plan to start up 13 more in 2007.

The programme has also been extended to the USA, via the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and 100 other American schools are involved.

Though rather dated, this 2001 article offers some further insight into the pupil experience of E2K.

Other national programmes listed on the website reference some of these additional central initiatives:

  • The Space Team Programme – an additional session of two hours a week covering astronomy and astrophysics with support from the Asher Institute for Space Research at the Technion.
  • The Science Adventures Programme – a combination of field trips and school-based activities built around a theme. About 45 different themes have been developed and are offered annually.
  • Young Detectives Club – enabling participants to work on real-life cases in Israeli Police forensic science laboratories and study electronic data protection in collaboration with Microsoft Israel.
  • Gildor Family Projects and Inventions – participants address a real-life problem. The 2012/13 challenge is ‘Developing and constructing a ‘smart’ system for the prevention of train and motor vehicle collisions’. They compete to produce inventions that assess creativity, design, effort and functionality. An annual report on the competition is published.
  • Summer Camps – week-long events blending small group sessions and workshop activities for pupils in Grades 7-8. An annual report is again produced, but the most recent dates from 2010.
  • Opportunity for Excellence – which may be the evolution of the support for immigrant students mentioned above. It supports Ethiopian, Kavkaz and Bucharian pupils in lower secondary schools.
  • The Science Maze – an interactive puzzle-based experience for children of all ages and adults.


Professional Development

The website says the Excellence Educators’ Institute has developed:

‘47 different training tracks spanning elementary through high school levels in the areas of experimental science, mathematical thinking, technology, leadership skills and more’.

The Institute offers national and regional workshops designed for new or experienced teachers, for those engaged in pilot programmes and those in international programmes.

National workshops are of 3-5 days’ duration and based at IASA. All workshops are accredited by the Ministry of Education. The most recent annual report outlines provision in 2011. Some 2,000 participants are recorded, but many are multiple registrations so the number of individuals involved will be far lower.

The Center also runs an Education Advisers Course in collaboration with the Davidson Institute and the Ministry of Education. The purpose is to secure a cadre of ‘School Excellence Advisors’ enabled to:

  • ‘Lead the school team, particularly science teachers, in all excellence related issues, by creating and leading projects for the school’s outstanding and general student population.
  • Serve as an advisor to outstanding students.
  • Serve as a focal point for classroom teachers seeking guidance and enrichment in dealing with this special group of students.’

The 2006 Szold Institute evaluation once more provides further detail. Schools nominate a member of staff to undertake this role who then undertakes a two-year (168 hour) course.

The content includes: subject expertise and leadership skills but also:

‘development of regional excellence leadership teams, teaching and guiding excelling students, development of teacher excellence guidance skills, new models for running project in the school and tools for handling difficulties and obstacles.’

Curiously, subject expertise can only be in science – biology, chemistry or physics. This provision was introduced in 2005.


Special Initiatives

There is an ‘Annual Carylon Conference’ which:

‘brings together educators,members of academia, and world renowned specialists from Israel and abroad who share particular expertise in the field of education for highly able students.’

But the link takes one to a page headed ‘The Raphi Amram Center for Creative Excellence (RACCE):

‘One of the stated objectives of RACCE is to provide expertise in dealing with highly able, talented teenagers through special symposia and teacher training institutes. To serve that goal, the Center for Excellence, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education’s Department of Gifted Students, has hosted conferences for more than a decade.  Each conference since 1998 has included the Raphi Amram Memorial Lecture.’

And there is also another page referencing the Herzliya Conference on Israel’s National Strength, I think because it features a presentation to the 2008 Conference on Excellence as a National Value and to the 2007 Conference on Enhancing Excellence in Education (in Word).

A newspaper article provides further detail of the relevance of gifted education – and E2K specifically – to the 2007 Herzliya Conference. I can find no reference to any significant initiative emerging from the Conference, however.

This section also carries brief details of the Center’s online provision:

‘Virtual learning classes are broadcast live to all participating schools using basic internet infrastructures displayed on an overhead projector…Teachers in the Virtual Learning Programme go through intensive training presented by the Excellence Educators Institute. Within the framework of this training they gain on-line experience in orchestrating an on-screen classroom environment.’

Despite the reference to Virtual learning, it seems that this provision is deliberately low-tech.


International Activities

This section of the Center’s portfolio includes:

  • E2K provision in Chennai India via HeyMath!

Some 45 E2K study units have been translated into English, while a training course has been developed for bodies undertaking a co-ordination role abroad and for trainers of local maths and science teachers who will run the programmes.

The ‘E2K International Learning Community’ encompasses online forums and the online learning outlined above. There is also an ‘international riddle of the month’.


Mediterranean Sea Apolonia Coast Israel courtesy of vad levin


The Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA)

IASA accommodates some 200 students drawn from across Israel and claims to draw on all its communities, regardless of ethnic and religious background. The school first opened in 1990, located on a campus in Southern Jerusalem.

There is very little about the actual operation of the School on the Center’s own website, which concentrates on external activities. These include an Exploration Camp, enabling 100 Grade 8 students to experience IASA for nine days over the summer break. This Report on the 2011 Camp gives a sense of the programme.

There is a section about the Gildor Project Week, described as the highlight of IASA’s academic year, in which students undertake their own research projects. A Community Service Programme is also mentioned which takes place every Tuesday afternoon throughout the academic year.

The Academy has over 1,000 alumni. It runs a programme enabling immediate graduates to undertake a year of voluntary public service, taken up by almost 40% of those graduating.

A lengthy paper on ‘Learning Dilemmas of Curriculum Development at IASA and its Influence on Students’ Concepts of Learning’ appears in Volume 22(1) of Gifted and Talented International (June 2007) but, despite being co-authored by an ex-headteacher, provides relatively little tangible detail about the operation of the Academy. Even Wikipedia is little help.

Another source is more useful. It defines IASA’s objectives as:

  • ‘To create a unique educational environment for the nurture of exceptional talent potential in science, mathematics, music and the graphic arts.
  • To nourish cognitive, affective, social and creative excellence.
  • To learn about curriculum, teaching, creating a learning environment and other elements of nurturing excellence.’

The Academy aims to offer four elements of learning:

‘1. First-class education in specific fields of talent. This element aims at nurturing students to become extraordinary performers and/or producers of ideas in their chosen field of specialisation.

2. General core studies and interdisciplinary studies. This element aims at broadening the cultural perspectives of students and enhancing mutual sensitivity and appreciation between science students and art students by providing ample opportunities for cross-fertilisation across these disciplines.

3. Opportunities to serve the community. This element pertains to the relationships between the students, the school and the community. It is designed to enhance a sense of responsibility and commitment to the community. In addition, the community provides a laboratory and resources for out-of-school enrichment.

4. Nurturing of values. This element emphasizes a general humanistic orientation and commitment to Israel and to the Jewish people’.

The Academy has a Curriculum Development Unit which has produced its own customised curriculum, taking full advantage of the flexibilities permitted by the Ministry of Education, and also specialises in software and multimedia learning units.

The interdisciplinary focus is important:

‘The Academy does not provide watered-down science courses for its arts students or low-level “appreciation courses” for science students. Rather, its curricular efforts focus on providing opportunities for high-level interdisciplinary experiences that bring out the basic, integral relationships of science and arts in non-contrived ways. In addition, the Humanities curriculum provides opportunities for intensive study and discussion of important moral, ethical and aesthetic issues.’

The staff includes full-time teachers in the core subject disciplines, part-time teachers who are specialists in their fields and counsellors who oversee the residential activities.

All students live in the Academy, even if their homes are in Jerusalem. The pupil population is said to be entirely representative by socio-economic background as well as ethnic/religious background.

The Center for Excellence through Education carries a survey of alumni undertaken in 2007 which, though it provides much interesting data, fails to confirm this statement.

A second source is a 2011 article in the Jerusalem Post penned by a history professor at McGill University whose daughter attended the Academy. He describes IASA as an ‘oasis of excellence’ within a desert of mediocrity:

‘Tragically, an Israeli epidemic of mediocre teachers, undisciplined students, unsupportive parents, unyielding bureaucrats and unchallenging curricula is spawning many dysfunctional classrooms and failing schools. Although we also see fabulous teachers, stimulating classrooms and well-run schools, the educational mediocrity my children have experienced has been our greatest disappointment in Israel. Shrieking teachers, wild classrooms and pointless tests demoralise students.’

In his view it is ‘a magical mix of Zionist summer camp and Harvard’. He confirms that fees are subsidised for those from relatively poor backgrounds and quotes the Chairman of the Board:

“This commitment to excellence in all dimensions is an expression of our Zionism…When we founded the school twenty years ago, excellence was a dirty word in Israel, considered elitist. Today, Israelis – and people around the world – look to us, and to Israel in general, as a centre of excellence.”


Photographer takes a photo on the shore of the Dead Sea courtesy of vad levin


Some other Key Institutions


Young Person’s Institute for the Promotion of Creativity and Excellence

YPIPCE (link is to a website entirely in Hebrew) was founded by Erika Landau and is based at Tel-Aviv University. Her approach emphasises motivation and creativity, which have not featured strongly in the Israeli process of identifying gifted learners until recently.

Landau’s website says her Institute was founded:

‘as a nonprofit association, about thirty years ago to help talented and gifted children to cope with their problems within a society that could not accept those who could not “conform”: those children who asked more questions, who got easily bored because they caught things easily and quickly’

Another source describes its role as:

‘To provide educational enrichment opportunities that augment the regular school programme. The aim is to provide a framework within which the child learns to enjoy the personal search for knowledge.’

The Institute provides a range of workshops – up to 100 per semester – in science, social science, arts and humanities. The sessions take place after school. About 800 learners are involved each semester. The Institute’s site also says that enrichment classes are offered in 80 subjects for children aged 5-15. Most teachers are lecturers, either at Tel Aviv University or the Academy of Art.

It also works with a cohort of between 350 and 500 Tel-Aviv children from culturally deprived backgrounds who attend workshops on creative, scientific and social thinking.

Over 35,000 learners have participated in Institute programmes (the Institute’s own site increases this to nearly 40,000 and says the institute was founded 43 years ago, so in 1969). Some 40% of teachers are former students. The annual budget is about US $400,000.

During the summer, the Institute offers a Creative Activity Month, involving visits, discussions, symposia and so on. The Institute also offers summer in-service training on the nature of giftedness and creativity and identification processes, as well as one-off lectures and seminars. Parental workshops are also provided.


Jerusalem Academy High School for Music and Dance

The Academy High School of Music and Dance is based on the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem. Founded in the 1960s, it provides lower and upper secondary education through a curriculum which combines the standard curriculum and specialisation in either music or dance.

Students are taken from all over the country and there is residential provision for those living outside Jerusalem. There is a special course for the most outstanding learners which enables them to progress to the neighbouring undergraduate Academy in the final year of upper secondary school.

Within the dance programme, students learn about the history of dance, dance  music and anatomy. In the neighbouring Conservatory they practise classical ballet, modern and jazz dance and improvisation. Upper secondary students specialise in either classical ballet or modern dance.  All pupils undertake at least two performances on the professional stage annually.

The Department also provides two performances for other Jerusalem schools. Each class holds an open session annually for parents, friends and teachers.

Within the music programme, students pursue musical history, theory and analysis. The majority study an instrument or singing at the neighbouring Conservatory.

The Conservatory provides professional training in music and dance for 4-19 year-olds (so has many younger pupils who do not attend the High School). All together there are 700 enrolled.

It hosts a specialist centre for piano performance which runs the Young Piano Master Project (YPMP), designed to develop excellence in young pianists. Participants meet together fortnightly for three hours from 4.30-7,30pm for lectures, masterclasses and workshops.


Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts

This High School was founded in 1959. Named after a cellist who emigrated from England in the 1920s, it too draws students from throughout Israel to its campus in Givatayim, a small city east of Tel Aviv. Up to 15% annually are from immigrant populations, while others are from disadvantaged backgrounds or disabled. Students are selected on the basis of audition and interview.

They specialise in one of six areas: classical music, jazz, classical ballet and modern dance, drama, visual arts and film. The school has its own full symphony orchestra and big band, as
well as a range of smaller ensembles and troupes.

The website mentions:

‘plans to expand our academic and artistic programmes to include specially gifted students from other sectors of Israeli society: ultra-orthodox,  Arabs and Druze.’

But these are dependent on securing the necessary funding. It is clear that the buildings have some shortcomings and the school is heavily reliant on donations for its survival.


Wingate Institute

The Wingate Institute is located south of the city of Netanya. It is the country’s national centre for physical education and sport and was founded in 1957.

It incorporates a training school for coaches and instructors, a centre for research, sports medicine and physiotherapy, a pedagogical centre, an elite sports unit and a Centre for the Development of Sport Giftedness.

The latter was established in 1991 and trains elite young athletes in judo, swimming, volleyball and tennis.

A document dating from 2007 adds table tennis to this list and gives the number of students as 90. Meanwhile, the Hebrew version of the website gives the number as 100 aged 12-18, adding basketball, triathlon and table tennis to the list of sports, making seven in all.

It is not clear from the English language pages whether these students also undertake their schooling at the Centre, but the Hebrew version suggests that, while students are resident at the Centre, they attend a nearby school. Students undertake about five hours of sports training daily. Part of the cost is borne by the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport.


Havruta High School for Leadership and Culture

Havruta High School was founded by the Israel Center for Youth Leadership ICYL). The Center describes the High School as its cornerstone. It is a private day school, located east of Netanya, which opened in 2009. Its capacity is 600.

The School’s mission is:

To nurture leadership characterised by an outward growing sense of responsibility: responsibility for our own choices and actions, responsibility to our family, to the society in which we live, to our nation and to the world.’

An article dating from 2009 in the Jerusalem Post describes the project in development. Teachers were hired a year before the school opened so all could receive preparatory training. All have Masters degrees or Doctorates. Howard Gardner is a member of the School’s advisory board.

The School’s location is:

‘at the outskirts of Neveh Hadassah. A “youth village” housing upward of 300 children, Neveh Hadassah caters to children at risk, kids from broken homes, children who come to Israel as unaccompanied minors, along with various special-needs cases. Havruta officials hope that their students might begin honing their leadership skills by reaching out to the Neveh Hadassah children.’

It operates a needs-blind admissions process: one-third of the students admitted in the first year received scholarships averaging 75% of fees.

The 2009 article suggests fees will be around NIS 2,900 per month (£466) – a high level compared with other Israeli private schools. One of the school’s goals is that 50% of the intake will receive scholarships.

(However, the Hebrew pages of the website suggest the fee may have been reduced to NIS 2,330 a month exclusive of travel and meals; also that currently some 40% of the intake receive scholarships.)

The admissions process is described thus in the 2009 article:

‘Prospective students will complete and submit an application form. If their applications are successful, they will then be called in for the first of a series of interviews with school staff. If those go well, recommendations will follow. To round out this assessment – more qualitative than quantitative – grades and test scores will also be considered, but as the smallest piece of the overall puzzle.’

The curriculum follows national requirements but emphasises the development of thinking, learning and social skills. The School offers an ‘early college programme in the liberal arts, in association with Bard College’ in New York State, USA. This enables students to achieve an Associate in Arts degree.

It operates the Harkness Method and provides a four-year Social Engagement Programme. One day each week is dedicated to Israeli society. The students undertake fortnightly visits with alternate weeks used for planning and review. There is a four-year thematic cycle:

‘During the first year students become familiar at first hand with Israeli society, through a series of visits, involving encounters and dialogue with young members of the many Jewish and non-Jewish religious, cultural and ethnic groups in the country…. The second year is devoted to learning about institutions and centres of power that that affect us all; political and judicial institutions, the business community, mass media, local government and the non-profit sector…During the third year students follow in the footsteps of our rebirth as a sovereign nation – from the holocaust, through the pioneers and founding fathers of Israel, to the crucible events of our contemporary history. Through moving encounters with prominent figures and places of our recent history, students will be challenged to think about their own generation’s role in ensuring the continuity of our people. The final year of study, in similar experiential fashion, will focus on bridging differences and conflicts within Israeli society and in Israel’s relations with the Diaspora.’

Several other institutions are mentioned online but it is not always clear whether they still exist. Others provide relatively little information about their operations or offer it exclusively in Hebrew.

A recent news story covered the establishment of a new school for the gifted in Beer Sheva – the Saryl and Stephen Gross Maof School for Excellence.

The story says that the school will enrol 500 learners from Beer Sheva and the Negev, but will have the potential to double in size. The building cost NIS 8m and was:

‘initiated by Federation CJA Montreal, the Beer Sheva municipality, the Ministry of Education and the Rashi Foundation who managed the project. Saryl and Stephen Gross from Montreal provided more than half of the funding for the project’.

It becomes clear that this is not actually a school but an enrichment centre for children in Grades 3-10 drawn from 65 schools in the area.


Gordon College

Gordon College of Education in Haifa has already been mentioned for its long-standing role in teachers’ professional development.

It operates a Center for the Promotion of Giftedness and Excellence, providing training for teachers and a weekly enrichment programme serving over 450 learners in Grades 4-6. It also holds an annual conference on Giftedness and Excellence, though I have been unable to source any record of proceedings.


The RANGE Center

The RANGE Center – The Interdisciplinary Center for Research and Advancement of Giftedness and Excellence – is based in the Education Department at the University of Haifa. There are three staff: a Head of Center – Roza Leikin – plus an Academic and an Administrative Director.

RANGE comprises a research and a research implementation section. The former investigates giftedness and its cultivation. The only study mentioned is focused on ‘general cognitive abilities, neurocognitive activity and creativity related to exceptional mathematical ability’.

The implementation section is a collaborative venture with Haifa municipality, providing out-of-school programmes for learners in Grades 8-9, who undertake upper secondary courses in maths, science, art and neuroscience. The Hebrew website lists five current courses and a further 17 to be offered in the future.

The website mentions that the Education Department offers a Masters programme in the Education of the Gifted and Talented which includes courses in gifted education research, personal and affective characteristics, creativity and giftedness, social justice and giftedness, teaching the gifted and curricula for gifted students.

The course seems to exist (though the link is broken) but it is not clear from the English translation whether it remains a separate MA, or simply an option in part of a wider MA in Counselling and Human Development.

The RANGE website also mentions that, subject to funding, its future plans include personalised e-learning enrichment courses and a programme supporting students in Grades 11-12 to undertake their own research projects. The Center also plans a series of lectures for teachers and parents.


Gifted Expertise Center

The Gifted Expertise Center is a consultancy run by Hava Vidergor, a lecturer on the Certification Programme for Teachers of Gifted Students at Oranim College and a teacher at the Oranim Gifted Education Center.

The Center offers access to a team of international experts – Renzulli, Reiss, Sisk, Yamin, McCluskey etc – who offer support in designing gifted programmes, programme implementation and evaluation, professional development, tailored solutions for individual learners and the use of Renzulli Learning Systems. The website carries the ICIE logo, so is presumably an offshoot of that operation.

The professional development offer consists of seven 4 and 8 hour workshops to develop teaching strategies and five curriculum models workshops covering Schoolwide Enrichment, Integrated Curriculum, Parallel Curriculum and Vidergor’s own ‘Multidimensional Curriculum Model’.. These can be combined to provide a complete 60-hour programme.

The website advertises the imminent publication of a book ‘The Practical Handbook for Teaching Gifted and Able Learners’, edited by Vidergor, Harris and Yamin and again carrying the ICIE imprimatur.


Szold Institute

The Henrietta Szold Institute has already featured in this post by virtue of its involvement in the testing of gifted learners.

Its website also mentions two specific research programmes:

Eureka – the Cross Cultural Model for Enrichment and Talent Nurturance is designed to expose submerged talent in science, technology and the visual arts. Participants are selected from ‘a marginal cultural / socio-economic background’ and supported throughout primary education. There are two stages, called exposure and immersion.

All children in Grades 1 and 2 are:

‘Exposed to a supportive learning environment that provides them with hands-on experiences in science and art. Teachers receive in-service training on how to use the enriched science and art curricula in an experiential manner and on how to evaluate student behaviour and work’.

From Grade 3 onwards, the subset who have been identified as gifted ‘explore in depth their talent area in special programmes’, while the remainder continue as before. At the end of each school year, those whose performance and motivation improves sufficiently join the gifted programme until the end of primary school.

An in-depth review of Eureka (which is rather old, dating from 1997) is available here.

The Ministry of Education’s Mentoring Programme, which is undertaken by the Institute on its behalf and was referenced earlier in this post.

‘During this experience, students are exposed to cutting-edge knowledge and skills, develop new capacities and acquire tools for coping with challenges posed by their field of studies. This experience is intended to assist the students in consolidating a professional identity in preparation for choosing a future career. The programme’s goals are:

(1)  To fulfil highly gifted student potential in the areas of their interest.

(2) To familiarise students with the complexity of work carried out by professionals who are at the forefront of their fields.

(3) To foster an ethical and social awareness and responsibility in accordance with values of Jewish philosophy and tradition.

The programme’s implementation is monitored by a formative and summative evaluation, which concentrates on…progress and outcomes, as well as…talented students’ identity formation.’


Judean Desert 2 courtesy of chaim zvi


What is the Impact?

I have not unearthed a completely reliable estimate of the total cost of this enormous spectrum of activity, or even the proportion shouldered by the Israeli taxpayer. One 2010 OECD publication gives a figure of NIS 8.25m per year (about £1.3m) but this must be a significant under-estimate, unless it is the budget of the Ministry’s gifted education department.

The translated spreadsheets on this page appear to suggest that the Ministry alone commits some NIS 19.7m of its NIS 36bn budget to gifted education (there are two separate budget lines – one translates as ‘gifted children’ (NIS 13.641m); the other as ‘gifted youth’ (NIS 6.047m). If these figures are correct, then government expenditure alone is closer to £3.1m.

Since the Ministry’s website says that its programmes are benefiting 45,287 learners (12,895 gifted and 32,392 outstanding) this implies expenditure of roughly NIS 435 (£69) per learner.

Whether or not these figures are accurate, there is no doubt that Israel is thoroughly committed to investment in its human capital and – some might argue – actually concentrates disproportionately on its gifted learners.

Such investment should be generating a significant return, especially since it is so heavily focused on the STEM sector. Indeed, it is hard to escape the conclusion that STEM is over-dominant in Israeli gifted education, and that there is a clear ‘pecking order’ which favours those with mathematical and scientific ability over those with different talents to offer. This may be beginning to change, but is so thoroughly embedded that it will take some time to secure a more balanced offer.

Rather worryingly though, Israel’s performance in PISA 2009 would suggest that the impact of this enormous investment on student achievement has been fairly marginal at best.

The overall scores left much to be desired:

  • Israel’s mean score in the reading test was 474, 19 below the OECD average, making it 36th of 64 countries
  • In maths it scored 447, 49 points below the OECD average of 496 and 41st in rank order of countries
  • In science it managed 455, 46 below the OECD average of 501, again finishing 41st in rank order.

One might expect the performance of high achievers to be significantly better, but this analysis from the Taub Center (p333) shows the average level of achievement across both the top 5% and the bottom 5% across all three tests in 25 OECD countries.

Israel comes last of all for the bottom 5%, but also no better than second last for the top 5%:




It is not as if this is a recent dip – a temporary aberration. Another Taub Center publication illustrates graphically that there is a longstanding issue, supported as much by TIMSS daya as by PISA.



And if we look at achievement on the separate PISA 2009 tests at the higher levels, it is clear that there is relatively little difference between those and the mean scores.

  • In reading, 6.4% of Israelis achieved level 5 and 1.0% achieved level 6. The OECD averages were 6.8% and 0.8% respectively. This places Israel 18th  of 34 OECD countries at Level 5 and 10th equal of 34 at Level 6 (the latter is equal with the UK). So far, so good, but
  • In maths, 4.7% achieved level 5 and 1.2% achieved level 6. The OECD averages were 9.6% and 3.1% respectively. This places Israel 31st of 34 at Level 5 and 30th of 34 at level 6.
  • In science, 3.5% achieved level 5 and 0.5% achieved level 6. The OECD averages were 7.4% and 1.1% respectively. This places Israel 30th of 34 at level 5 and 25th of 34 at Level 6.

Ironically, given Israel’s disproportionate focus on maths and science gifted education, the best results comparatively speaking are in reading! This may serve to reinforce the existing imbalance in favour of STEM provision.

Although Level 6 rankings tend to be higher than those at Level 5, suggesting that the very top performers do slightly better comparatively speaking, the differences are small – and Israel is comfortably outpaced by the likes of Austria, Belgium, Chile, Estonia, Iceland and Slovakia.

While some of this disappointing performance can be attributed to the sizeable difference between the achievement of Israeli students from relatively advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds – and the underperformance of Arab students compared with Israeli students – it is inescapable that the overall figures are not a ringing endorsement of Israel’s gifted education.

This is of course only a single indicator with its own significant shortcomings – and one can point to alternative measures, such as Nobel Prizes per capita or the Global Innovation Index  which show that Israel punches well above its weight when it comes to adult achievement.

Nevertheless, the PISA results are so poor that there is an extremely strong case for an urgent root-and-branch examination of Israel’s support for gifted and talented learners – as part of its wider commitment to educational excellence.

I would expect that loud alarm bells are already ringing but, if the PISA 2012 results show negligible improvement, the clamour will surely become impossible to ignore.



November 2012

Gifted Education in Israel: Part Two


This is the second of three instalments in an extensive review of Israeli gifted education.


Part One provided background on Israel and its education system before charting the development of Israeli gifted education up to 2006 or thereabouts.

This second part of the trilogy considers how Israeli gifted education has developed over the last five years and its condition today.

Part Three takes a closer look at some specific initiatives and institutions that play a prominent role in the Israeli national programme as it is now.


Implementation from 2007-2008

It is not straightforward to piece together the history of the subsequent implementation of the 2004 steering committee’s proposals, though interesting insights can be gleaned from a rich variety of sources.


The Official View

The Division for Gifted and Outstanding Students carries a link to a 2008 presentation in English by Rachmel .

This begins with an anglicised version of the Department’s vision:

‘The division for gifted and outstanding students aspire to lead a culture in which excellence is a central value. In our vision personal excellence and human commitment and sensitivity to community exists simultaneously. We are committed to the creation of flexible and dynamic learning environments, which will enable pedagogical conversation challenge and creation of new knowledge .The actualisation of “the environment to which we aspire” means that students and teachers are equal in their curiosity and in their commitment to repeatedly take each other to new fields of knowledge.  This will develop new possibilities for both teacher and pupil and create patterns of instruction and education that encourage continuous regeneration.’

The taxonomy of provision is now separated between gifted and outstanding students, as heralded by the steering committee’s recommendations (numbers participating in 2008 are included in brackets):

Gifted (13,692)

  • 89 Special classes for the top 1.5% operating within normal schools, now in 24 primary and secondary schools in nine large cities (3,212)
  • Pull-out programmes for the top 1.5% located in Gifted Centres in 52 cities and towns (6,733)
  • Specialised secondary schools – the Israel Art and Science Academy (IASA) plus an unnamed ‘School combining Jewish and Science studies’ and academies of art and music (number not given)
  • Afternoon enrichment classes in 30 cities and towns (2,947)
  • The Virtual School, providing 10 semester-long online distance learning courses (350)
  • Academic accreditation (450)

Outstanding (12,263)

  • Special school-based programmes called ‘Amirim’ (see below) to nurture excellent students and develop a wider culture of excellence in schools (2,500)
  • Special programmes conducted through regional Gifted Centres (number not given)
  • Afternoon enrichment classes in 30 localities – for the top 5% only (3,803)
  • Special community programmes ‘An anchor to community’ (Referred to as ‘NGO – Excellence- 2000’:(5,960)

The presentation runs through the new tripartite definition set out by the steering committee and provides a single pyramid diagram to illustrate the national implementation plan:



Continuing previous themes, the overall programme is once more characterised as a national network comprising regional, NGO, urban and school-based activities.

The forthcoming work programme, consequent on the new direction, includes:

  • Expanding the existing frameworks and tracks (these are listed as concurrent enrolment, monthly youth seminars, personal mentoring, super-gifted provision, distance learning and annual seminars);
  • Extending student screening for specialised schools;
  • Developing new curricular units;
  • Development of in-service teacher training (the 224 hour course requirement), training for expert professionals, student counsellors and local and district   co-ordinators;

The law for gifted education has not yet progressed beyond ‘the first hearing’.

Other sources add interesting context and detail to this official statement from the central government perspective.


Gaps in Professional Development

First there is a paper from September 2007 reflecting on the proposed development of a new course as part of undergraduate teacher education at Beit Berl College.

The writer, the Head of the School of Education, emphasises that he wants a course to equip teachers to work with gifted learners in mixed ability settings rather than in special classes for the gifted.

He notes that there are no full academic programmes of this kind ‘but only partial courses, usually within the framework of in-service training’, yet this is a universal training need.

His proposed course would:

‘not only open a unique department in an Israeli academic institution, but it would also broaden the scope of the Ministry of Education’s projects for gifted children, which mostly concentrate on one day a week of enrichment (outside their regular classrooms), or other programmes of this kind. For Beit Berl College, it was important for its identification with excellence, but most importantly, the programme we suggested was supposed to be a common department for the School of Education and the Arab Institute at Beit Berl.’

The writer proceeds to summarise the internal arguments for and against the proposal, demonstrating that discomfort with support for gifted education is very much alive in parts of the Israeli education system.

Although the programme was finally approved, the writer concludes:

‘Even though the programme for training teachers for gifted children was sent to the Ministry of Education in April 2007, to date (November 2007) we did not receive any comment or reaction from the Ministry. This is inductive [sic] of the entire situation.’

There is now a Department for Excellence in Education at Beit Berl which ‘provides professional development for teachers of children with high abilities and develops innovative programmes tailored to the unique needs of gifted pupils’.


Too Few Gifted Disadvantaged Learners

A further critical perspective is captured by a January 2007 newspaper article which claims that gifted education in Tel Aviv is ‘mostly for the rich’.

It notes that, of the 98 children in the primary school programme at the Graetz School – the only one in the City – 89 are from the city’s ‘well-off northern and central districts, while only nine come from the poorer southern and eastern districts’ – and five of the nine live in ‘relatively well-off neighbourhoods’. Meanwhile there is limited provision in the Arab sector.

The paper attributes this squarely to the test-based identification process:

‘Since 1984, the Henrietta Szold Institute (the National Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences) has been responsible for identifying gifted children in Israel. The findings published here indicate that the institution’s screening tests discriminate in favour of children from higher socioeconomic levels in communities with large gaps between rich and poor.’

The response from the Ministry suggests that the new policy will improve matters, but changes cannot be made under the current selection process:

‘”It’s not possible to institute affirmative action for children from south Tel Aviv,” the director of the Education Ministry’s Department for Gifted Students, Shlomit Rachmel, said. “We work in accordance with local norms, not on the neighbourhood level. If there is a big gap between groups of gifted students, a heterogenous [sic] group will be formed that will change the essence of the programme. We are preparing to develop a range of tools that will examine not only learning ability but also motivation and creativity, and using them, we will reach the population that is underrepresented in the gifted programmes.”’

It is not made clear how changing the means of identification will tackle the problem of heterogeneous groups however.

The article continues:

‘The Head of Tel Aviv’s Department of Primary Education, Hani Broderson, is not comfortable with the current situation… “The problem is that all of Tel Aviv is a single testing area, despite the great difference among the neighbourhoods. Together with the Education Ministry, we have considered ways to increase the representation of students from the south of the city. One possibility was to define the gifted students from the south separately from those of the north and to guarantee a place for them at Graetz, but then it turned out there were large gaps between the two groups.”’

The story suggests a rather inflexible approach to local identification, especially when one recalls that the steering committee suggested such distinctions might be made ‘in the school or the locality’.


Student Satisfaction

A 2008 study ‘Satisfaction With School Among Gifted Israeli Students Studying in Various Frameworks’ (pp39-50) by Vidergor and Reiter reports the results of a survey of 229 gifted learners studying in separate classes and pull-out programmes (including some who had dropped out) and 140 other students at the same primary and lower secondary schools.

The study was undertaken in the light of a recent increase in dropout rates amongst gifted students in lower secondary schools. It observes:

 ‘Dropping out of a gifted programme in Israel is mainly associated with pullout programmes at gifted education centres. There is a tendency for gifted elementary or junior high school students to choose to stop their studies at the centre and return to the regular classroom. From that point on they are not involved in any gifted programme. They can be identified in many classrooms around the country, but the exact number of pullout programme dropouts is not available.’

The results showed that students outside the pull-out programmes expressed the highest overall satisfaction with school, though only slightly higher than those within them. Not surprisingly, the dropouts expressed the lowest satisfaction. There were, however, variations in five identified dimensions of satisfaction.

Further analysis of the reasons for dropout showed that 80% had dropped out after 6th grade, although 70% of those said that they were satisfied with the programme they had left. The most cited reasons were: too much work (‘school overload’) (50%) and lack of interest (37%).

The authors note that pupils experiencing pull-out one day a week find it hard to make up for the day of normal school they have missed while also performing well in the pull-out sessions:

‘This is exacerbated by the fact that there in [sic] no system or person in charge of facilitating or bridging the gap between the two…Thus, a situation where gifted students are forced back to the regular classroom and left with no programme to nurture their abilities and talents, affects their academic and general self-concept as they grow older…. measures should be taken to develop a suitable programme at the regular school to accommodate their needs.’

Such criticism suggests that Israeli gifted educators have fallen into the trap of loading more work – rather than more challenging work – on to their gifted learners. Moreover, the blend of pull-out and regular provision is not properly co-ordinated, while dropouts are assumed no longer to require gifted provision.


A Regional Illustration

A blog post from July 2008 offers a different perspective, outlining the development of a regional gifted programme in the city of Kiryat Malakhi. The centre, one of 51 says the post, replaces another which closed down a few years beforehand.

Given this situation, the organisers decided to begin recruiting in Grade 4, adding an additional grade each year. Pupils identified as within the top 1.5% of learners come to the centre for a full school day every Tuesday, followed by those in the top 5% who attend an after-school programme from 4.00-6.45 PM. There are 30 sessions a year.

Twenty-eight attended the former session in 2007 and, in 2008, 52 from Grades 4 and 5 are expected to attend. The after school session began with 40 Grade 4 pupils and will expand to at least 60 pupils for Grades 4 and 5.

The part-time director is a teacher from a local secondary school who spends about 25% of her working week undertaking the role. She co-ordinates a team of teachers who run the sessions, which focus primarily on science and creative thinking.

Some of the courses for the school-day cohort include marine biology, artificial intelligence, robotics and heroes in films through history. The after-school classes include astronomy, biochemistry, game theory and code-breaking.

The centre hopes to expand its provision to cater for the top 20% of learners over time.


Gender Imbalance

A final snapshot is provided by a report on gender imbalance in the gifted programme. The post reacts to the fact that the Ministry of Education is introducing new requirements for creativity and motivation into the screening process, which may serve to rectify the existing gender imbalance, in favour of boys, as selected through the current screening test.

It considers whether such a change is justified, noting that Rachmel has pointed out that:

‘Girls generally score higher than boys do in the advanced levels of Mathematics and Physics in matriculation exams, as well as in academic studies’.

It concludes that changing the admission criteria is not itself a case of positive discrimination but is intended to eliminate the need for positive discrimination which currently exists, by virtue of the fact that girls have previously been admitted with a slightly lower grade than boys.

Bethlehem Wide View courtesy of Jeff Cushner


Implementation from 2009 to 2010

I can identify two primary sources of information about progress in the final years of the last decade:

  • A paper by Rachmel and Nevo called ‘Education of Gifted Children: A General Roadmap and the Case of Israel’ which seems to have been published in 2009 as part of a book called Creativity in Mathematics and the Education of Gifted Students; and
  • A paper by Rachmel and Leikin called ‘Education of Gifted Students in Israel: General and Mathematics Education’ which appears in a 2009 volume of Gifted Education Press Quarterly.

The former is built around the assumption that:

‘When a nation or an organisation makes a strategic decision to establish a large-scale programme for the education of the gifted, it has to follow a certain roadmap that includes several crossroads; at each crossroad a choice must be made between several options.’

The first part of the paper sets out the different decision points in this roadmap.

Two interesting facts are communicated in passing: first, that the Ministry’s Department has been renamed again, this time to the ‘Division of Gifted and Excellent Education’; and second, that a team is still preparing that long-awaited legislation, which is now expected to be passed in 2010.

The treatment of decision points confirms that Israel:

  • Defines the top 1% of each cohort as ‘gifted’, but the next 4% (ie the cut-off is at the fifth percentile) are now called ‘excellent’ rather than ‘outstanding’. This is applied ‘somewhat less stringently’ in rural and disadvantaged areas (perhaps suggesting that widening the identification process has had relatively little effect).
  • The focus remains on ‘general scholastic aptitude (IQ)’ though there is expected to be future emphasis on mathematical, artistic, creative writing and IT-related ability. This again sounds much less developed than the 2005 steering committee recommendations might have suggested would be the case some four years on.
  • Selection is still based on ‘performance on group intelligence tests’ – so the introduction of motivation and creativity criteria has yet to take place.
  • Programmes are provided predominantly for 8-18 year-olds. Provision is offered in four formats recognisable from the previous descriptions: special classes, one-day-a-week enrichment, after-school enrichment and e-learning (ten e-learning courses are again mentioned). We learn that ‘In the future, gifted children will be accepted as “young” research assistants at the universities, working with the faculty in the laboratories’.  In addition, students can also attend university courses and receive academic credit for them. Apart from the Ministry’s courses there are also ‘deeper and/or accelerated and/or entirely new special courses’ (This reference is not explained.)
  • Programmes are designed to nurture ‘independent thinking, creativity, critical thinking, and specific knowledge’. Moreover ‘Israeli policy makers in the area of gifted education declared repeatedly that the ideal gifted adult should demonstrate social commitment to the community, the country, and to human values. In all classes and centres for gifted children, the students are required to participate in community projects’.
  • Most teachers of gifted learners are now said to hold the ‘teachers’ certificate with specialisation in the area of giftedness’ requiring 240 hours of study spread over two years.
  • Surprisingly, ‘no advanced research and evaluation has been conducted in the area of education for gifted children in Israel. Efforts in this area will be doubled or tripled in the next five years’.

The second paper considers:

Recent trends in Israeli gifted education. The steering committee’s policy is outlined. However, the Ministry’s own expectations are also articulated:

‘The main expectations from graduates of gifted education programmes are in the achievement spheres relevant to students’ talents. These expectations include excelling as adults in philosophy, science, technology, art, literature, law, business and other fields. In each field the graduates of the programmes are expected to manifest perseverance, creativity and originality, curiosity, intellectual courage, intellectual or artistic integrity, the ability and desire to continually learn and develop, the ability to think under conditions of uncertainty, the ability for multidirectional thinking, efficient consumption of information, and a broad perspective and awareness of ethical implications. Graduates of programmes for these students should be socially committed people, with a high level of morality and humanity.’

Distinctions between the Israeli approach and that of other countries. This treatment of definitional issues varies from that immediately above, stating that the Ministry recognises:

‘General scholastic ability, usually determined by IQ test; artistic talent, including music, visual arts, dance, and writing arts; specific scholastic fields of excellence, including, for example, mathematics, computers, languages; and talent in sports’.

The text reverts to the former terminology when distinguishing between ‘Gifted’ and ‘Outstanding’ students. However, both the top 1% and the top 5% must ‘also meet the criteria of motivation and creativity above the cohort median’.

The top 5% are to be defined on a local basis again described in terms of  ‘the outstanding students in the school or the locality’(so contradicting some of the reasoning in the article about imbalance in the Tel Aviv gifted population above) while the top 1% are defined on a national basis. The super-gifted are also described in the terms used by the steering committee.

Identification is based on a portfolio approach involving: ‘questionnaires for preschool teachers; observation in preschool; questionnaires for teachers, parents and students; portfolios; achievement tests; school grades; intelligence tests; tools for evaluating motivation; and tools for evaluating creativity’. (So here we are also back to the newer approach.)

Provision is based on a combination of acceleration, extension and enrichment, depending on the needs of the learners, the nature of the programme they are undertaking and the skills of their teachers (this is the steering group’s formulation).

A section on Issues in Israeli gifted education outlines the various frameworks. We learn that:

‘The Ministry of Education sponsors several specialised secondary schools that nurture specific talents such as music, performing arts, visual arts, and sciences in unique programmes. These schools are selective, accepting students who possess an above-average general scholastic ability, and exhibit excellence in a specific field.’

There is also reference to:

‘interdisciplinary youth conferences which focus on concepts, such as time, changes, and relativism from different perspectives. These conferences are open to all gifted and outstanding students.’

It then moves on to discuss teacher training:

Unique pedagogical training is required for teachers who teach these students. Professional development programmes for the teachers of the gifted include treatment of the theoretical perspectives on giftedness and excellence, issues in identifying outstanding and gifted students, cognitive components of excellence and giftedness, social-emotional components of excellence and giftedness, issues in defining and identifying creativity, learning and cognition, models and methods of instruction and nurturing outstanding and gifted students, special populations among outstanding and gifted students, and instructing them as a unique profession. The objective is to reach a point where teachers who wish to teach in these unique programmes must receive in-service training which will grant them a certificate as a master teacher for teaching outstanding and gifted students.’

Finally there is a more general and discursive section on gifted education in mathematics.

The apparent contradictions and differences between these two approximately contemporaneous treatments suggests a system in transition between the old and the new – and perhaps also some confusion during the transition process.

As before a variety of secondary sources add useful detail to the official descriptions.


Hints of Internecine Struggle

A 2009 article in the Jerusalem Post bears the strapline ‘Pressure on the Education Ministry to expand its definition of child giftedness is only slowly bearing fruit’.

Following a potted history of gifted education this makes a distinction between ‘classic’ definitions of giftedness based on IQ and ‘multi-dimensional’ approaches embracing a wider range of abilities, proceeding to explain some of the confusion we see reflected in the documents reviewed above:

‘Interestingly enough, the debate between this side and the IQ-focused “uni-dimensionalists” has been going on within the Education Ministry itself. Aware of changes in gifted education elsewhere in the world, the ministry has twice accepted the recommendations of panels urging broader definitions of “giftedness,” in 1988 and 1995. For various reasons, including perhaps inertia, nothing came of the recommendations, and the ministry has continued to define giftedness solely by IQ. That may be about to change, though, according to Shlomit Rachmel, head of the Department for Gifted Children. “We are now on the verge of a big change. We have developed new screening tools that will include above-average motivation and creativity. Since 2005, we have been developing a new definition that defines the gifted student as one who has cognitive skills, motivation and creativity at the highest percentile.” Those changes, according to Rachmel, are set to be implemented in about three years.’

So, in 2009, following four years work, the Ministry predicts that the new system will be in place by 2012, having taken seven years to introduce. Slow progress indeed.

In the meantime, the IQ-based approach remains in force. As noted above, it is based on a process conducted by the Henrietta Szold Institute, Israel’s national institute for research in the behavioural sciences.

The first screening exam is administered to all children in their primary schools, usually in 2nd grade The hour-long test contains multiple choice tests in maths and reading. The top 15% of scorers take a second battery of IQ tests at local centres administered by the Institute. This identifies the ‘gifted’ with IQs above 135 and the ‘super-gifted’ with IQs above 155. Students can take tests to enter programmes at a later stage.

Rachmel estimates that, by this point, there are about 15,000 learners in the Ministry’s programmes and explains how the three main frameworks are implemented:

‘All over the country, we have the same screening process, the same definition of gifted and the same frameworks. But there are localities that have their own preferences. But it’s always a dialogue with us. Some localities prefer the pull-out programme – the one-day-a-week enrichment programme. Other localities prefer the full programme – the self-contained classes. Pull-out programmes are most popular at the elementary levels, and self-contained classes are most popular for junior and senior high levels.’

The article also reveals that the 240-hour two-year in-service training provision for teachers selected to teach gifted classes by their principals, is conducted at five centres around the country: Tel-Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, the University of Haifa, Oranim College and Gordon College.

This training is also available to specialist teachers conducting the enrichment programmes, while non-teacher ‘experts’ appear to be trained locally.

Criticism of the gifted programme as a whole is summed up thus:

‘Perhaps the major bone of contention, as previously noted, has been the ministry’s insistence upon defining giftedness exclusively on the basis of IQ. Other criticisms are variously social, economic, political and cultural. The process of identifying and selecting gifted children has been attacked for the relatively high percentage of girls and low percentage of Arabs and “peripheral” groups, like Ethiopians. Other critics claim that while gifted education programmes may be scattered around the country, two-thirds of them are concentrated in Tel Aviv and the country’s centre. Gifted education has also been disparaged as education for the rich, with critics identifying a variety of programmes in affluent North Tel Aviv, while finding none in the city’s impoverished south.’

There is also criticism of the fact that the system focuses over-much on excellence in STEM subjects:

‘However multi-talented or multi-gifted a child might be when he enters the system, he tends to be focused on a very narrow range of technical fields when he comes out the other end.’

Objections to the terminology are articulated by Hezki Arieli, Director of the Israel Center for Excellence through Education (which runs the Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA)):

‘Arieli says, “We deal more with ‘excellence’ than with ‘giftedness.’ We are talking about excelling students that are bright, motivated and highly-abled. We are not measuring it by IQ. For us it is much more about proven ability as well as high motivation and curiosity.”’

And also by Ra’anan Avital, CEO of the Israel Center for Youth Leadership, which runs the Havruta High School for Leadership and Culture:

‘”The Education Ministry’s definition of ‘gifted’ is an IQ of 135 and above. What we’re looking for are things like motivation, ability, leadership potential and other things that someone with a very high IQ wouldn’t necessarily have.”’

But the story ends on an upbeat note:

‘Despite the confusing and sometimes contesting variety of frameworks, programs, schools and educational philosophies, if your kid has the “right stuff,” there is probably something here for him or her. One thing is certain, though. If you grew up in a country where you were told “you’re too damned smart for your own good,” you have come to the right country to raise your smart children.’


Haifa Port courtesy of Chris Yunker


Too Much STEM

The reference to an over-emphasis on STEM apparently originates in a study by Inbal Shani from the University of Haifa referenced briefly in another article. Shani surveyed 800 gifted and other students to assess psychological differences between them.

She found that, while gifted learners have higher self-esteem in respect of their academic achievement, they have lower self-esteem in relation to physical and social skills. Moreover:

‘“Society identifies the gifted child with high intelligence and is often hasty to identify this intelligence with specific subjects, especially exact or prestigious sciences,” says Shani. “The maturing children are quick to adopt this identity, renouncing the process of building self-identity.

“It is a paradox,” she adds. “It is the gifted – who are often multi-talented – who tend to limit the realization of those very talents into specific fields. Instead of selecting from many options open to them, they limit themselves to applied or prestigious subjects.”’


The Experience of Gifted Minorities

Another article focuses humorously on the experience of being parent of a gifted Arab girl in East Jerusalem:

‘The school year was getting closer, but attempts to locate the Department for Gifted Children in East Jerusalem proved futile…We learned that apparently there once was a programme for gifted children in East Jerusalem but it was discontinued and then renewed, but it’s not clear where it is and what exactly it does…In contrast to the Arabs, the gifted Jews have a school of their own, a detailed Web site listing the classes planned for the coming year, the names of the teachers, an adviser, a principal, a motto and above all an address…

Meanwhile, on the other side, those 20 Arab children will apparently receive a room for one day during the high-school vacations, on condition of course that the school isn’t destroyed before the beginning of the school year…

 I made a brief phone call to the school for gifted Jews and I received a polite and courteous response informing me that yes, Arab pupils who received the notice from the Ministry of Education can study with the Jews. Now as a mentally healthy father, I considered what would guarantee a better future for my daughter: gifted Jews or gifted Arabs? After all, what is the definition of a gifted Arab child from East Jerusalem? Someone who will be asked to show identification to the Border Police before he is of legal age? Jews and being gifted go together. No question about it. They probably test the Arabs a year later for security reasons. Probably during the year that the child missed they taught all the shits from third grade the secrets of the atom. Never mind, I thought to myself as I registered her for the gifted Jews’ programme, in the final analysis I have always been in favour of conventional weapons.’

On a similar theme an October 2010 article reveals that a new test is to be introduced to identify gifted learners of Ethiopian origin. Instead of the Szold Institute, the identification process will be undertaken by Feuerstein’s International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP).

This is because:

‘The ministry has acknowledged that the tests generally used to identify gifted children are culturally biased as they depend on the students’ knowledge of Hebrew.’

The report says that the Education Ministry approached Rabbi Feuerstein’s Center a year previously to seek their help. The plan was for about 300 Ethiopian children in Grades 2-3 to complete initial tests, 130 of whom would then be assessed further with about 60 accepted into gifted enrichment programmes and, subsequently, gifted classes. However, although the project should have been underway, ‘the agreement between the ministry and Feuerstein’s centre has not been finalised’.

A subsequent article in December 2010 says that the Ministry of Education had planned a programme to identify ‘a few dozen’ gifted Ethiopian children from amongst 300 children in grades 2 and 3 spread across four communities.

The learners would then attend separate workshops and enrichment classes.

This article claims that the decision to go ahead had been taken six months previously (in Summer 2010). However, for some reason, this partnership with ICELP required ‘special authorisation’ which was unaccountably delayed. Testing was to have been undertaken in early September 2010, so the programme could begin after school holidays.

There is brief reference to a pilot programme on the Feuerstein Institute website, so it presumably proceeded eventually:

Pilot programme for the identification and empowerment of gifted Ethiopian pupils in the schools: This project is designed to identify gifted pupils from the Ethiopian community and provide them with suitable cognitive empowerment, thus enabling them to bridge the cultural differences and participate in the national programme for gifted students.’

This is not the only provision for gifted young Ethiopians. An organisation called the Ariela Foundation operates a MAOF programme provides personalised support for learners through to university entrance (described in Part Three).


Provision for the ‘Super-Gifted’

An article which appeared in October 2009 refers to the introduction of a programme for the ‘super-gifted’ cohort said to have been designed by the President of the Weizmann Institute.

Fifteen students from grades 10 and 11 receive personal training from a ‘world-renowned’ scientist provided on one day every two weeks at the institution at which the scientist is employed, and are brought together as a group three times a year. According to the report, the students were identified through teacher recommendation from amongst those with an IQ of 155+.

Also from this period, there is an Executive Summary of a study of the first cohort of the Legacy Heritage Mentoring Programme, a ‘national mentoring programme to identify and nurture highly gifted adolescents from all the regions of Israel’, supported by the Legacy Heritage Fund and administered by the Szold Institute.

This has some similarities with the programme described above and may indeed be the same. Mentors worked on their area of expertise with their allocated students for a five hour session every two weeks. Four conferences for all participants were also held during the year.

The first, held at Weizmann, enabled the participants to establish relationships with their mentors and agree a ‘contract’. The other three involved discussion of ‘difficulties and over-burden’ and subject-specific ethical dilemmas. A final conference will be held in December 2010, sponsored by the Minister of Education. Participants will present their work and parents and mentors will also relay their experiences of the project.

All participants developed a product, such as a research project or musical composition. The study reports that 14 of the 17 participants completed the programme. The three dropouts cited overload as the cause. Most of the 14 felt the programme had improved their knowledge and independent learning skills. The majority felt it had helped them to deal with related ethical dilemmas.Overall the programme is judged successful.


Professional Development Reforms

An article from 2010 by Vidergor and Eilam is available online within Volume 25(2) of Gifted and Talented International. Called ‘Curriculum Transformation: The Israeli Teacher Certification in Gifted Education’, it explores differences between the formulation of the training programme and its delivery.

The introduction reveals some of the thinking behind the planned legislation (which has yet to be enacted):

‘The steering committee…has asserted that teaching and education of gifted constitute a unique pedagogical domain that requires a special framework of training. Therefore, they stressed the need for a legislative procedure that will result in The Gifted Act, which will establish special certification and professional development programmes intended for both regular school teachers, and teachers who teach gifted students.  As a result, five centres were established in Israel (prior to completion of legislative procedure) offering a certification programme for the first time.’

The Ministry assigned nine coordinators (two per centre and one for the fifth) and, except in the final case, one was responsible for the first year of training, the other for the second year.

A co-ordinators’ forum, including an academic consultant and national programme co-ordinator, meets with the Ministry each month to monitor progress but ‘the Ministry has not yet worked out a role description for coordinators’.

The steering committee ruled that:

‘Training should focus on pedagogical knowledge to cater for the cognitive and emotional needs of gifted and talented children. Training will focus on teachers getting acquainted with theoretical issues in gifted education in general, as well as the specific Israeli experience.  It is suggested that working procedures would be devised bearing the unique needs of the gifted population in mind, and guided reflective practicum would be included in programmes.’

The programme is intended for teachers holding a first degree and is expected to provide additional certification, with ‘in the near future’ the option of a Masters degree. It will combine theory and practice in four distinct stages:

‘(a) acquaintance with theoretical aspects of teaching gifted like: definition of giftedness, identification, cognitive and social aspects, brain research and learning processes, characteristics and development of gifted child, curriculum planning, teaching strategies, assessment, and characteristics of unique frameworks;

(b) acquaintance with the field involving observations and interviews followed by discussions. This stage will be introduced while studying first stage theoretical aspects;

(c) designing and formalising suitable working strategies guided by professional and expert teachers focusing on  cognitive, social and emotional needs of gifted students; and

(d) supervised practicum followed by team and individual discussions reflecting on teaching experience.’

An interview with Rachmel confirms that the training was developed on the basis of a review of similar provision worldwide. The five programmes were established over a three year period and:

‘a decision was made in 2009 that completing a certification programme will be obligatory for new teachers of gifted, or those with less than 10 years of experience, by the year 2014.’

Monitoring through the forum led to programmes being ‘reviewed and changed constantly’. A number of findings follow about the difference between design and delivery and a series of practical recommendations are offered.


Bahai Garden courtesy of chaim zvi


The Current Position: 2011 onwards

The first substantive source about the current state of play is another English language paper on the Ministry’s website ‘To Which We Aspire: Unique Pedagogies for the Gifted and Excellent’ which is liked to a conference given in April 2011.

This begins with a description of the work of what is once more termed the ‘Division of Gifted and Outstanding Students’ (presumably having completed its flirtation with ‘Excellence’ as an alternative to ‘Outstanding’).

The Division’s vision and ‘image of our graduates’ repeats material above. This is followed by a set of six broad aims:

  • ‘To instil and lead a culture which places excellence as a central value.
  •  Providing a response to the special needs of the community of gifted and outstanding students, and to bring about a maximization and full expression of their talents and abilities within the framework of the public education system.
  • Development of the cognitive aspect of the students – developing varied thinking skills at a high level, and the skills needed in the consumption of knowledge and its creation. In addition, instilling and developing modes of thinking for the purpose of handling complex problems and situations of uncertainty.
  • Developing the emotional, value and social aspect amongst the students – development of tools for expressing feelings, assertiveness and self-esteem. Development of social involvement and leadership skills. Development of inter-personal communication, the ability to work in team and to recognise the value of the group. Development of personal and social responsibility and sensitivity to moral issues.
  • Management of pedagogic knowledge including up-to date materials and professional literature and
  • Initiation of practical research.’

The Division’s activities are divided into seven broad areas:

Operating a system for identification and referral of gifted learners

Operating the ‘frameworks’ for gifted learners – six are listed:

  • Local and national centres for gifted and outstanding students
  • Classes for gifted and outstanding students within normal schools
  • A virtual school  for gifted and outstanding students in lower secondary schools, provided in Hebrew and Arabic
  • Guidance by academic mentors for the ‘super-gifted’
  • Symposia for students from classes for gifted and outstanding students
  • National scientific conferences

Operating special programmes for outstanding students. Four of these are mentioned:

  • ‘Amirim’ (see above) to foster learners in primary and lower secondary schools and develop school-wide excellence
  • After-school enrichment activities
  • Programmes to integrate ‘high school students in academic studies at university’
  • School- based maths and science programmes

Professional development activity through ‘academic programmes’, ‘professional development programmes’ and ‘special training for students in teachers colleges’ plus publishing materials and running conferences

Programme design and evaluation and budgeting

Provision for ‘special populations’– described as involving coordination of the identification of immigrant and bilingual students and those with learning difficulties, and also developing programmes for Ethiopian children

Foreign relations, including collaborating with partners worldwide, offering courses on Israeli methods for overseas visitors and hosting study visits.

 Research and development, which mentions several new areas of work including:

  •  Setting core curriculum guidelines for gifted programmes
  • Developing social science programmes for outstanding with subject superintendents.
  • Creating a database to support research into effectiveness of the overall programme
  • Developing and piloting programmes for highly able children at  kindergarten
  • Developing ‘pedagogic standards’ for programmes
  • Supporting outstanding trainees in teachers’ colleges
  • A ‘Future Scientists’ programme initiated by the Israeli President
  • Creating ‘virtual databases’

The description of the virtual school makes clear that participants now select one course per semester consisting of 12 study units and a face-to-face meeting.

The options for integration of university study are provided either at Open University Branches or at Tel-Aviv University. Participants can secure credit for all or part of an undergraduate degree which, in the latter case, they complete following military service.

The ‘super gifted’ mentoring programme is the one we have encountered above: students are paired with ‘world-renowned mentors’ who guide their research and train them in ‘areas of knowledge ‘. Mentees meet mentors fortnightly and participants meet together three times a year.

Three specific types of enrichment programmes are mentioned:

  • ‘Community Anchor’ – designed to support the top 20% in each primary school selected on their teachers’ recommendations.
  • ‘Amirim’ again for participants selected by their teachers which utilises the  Enrichment Triad Model: ‘the students choose courses in various areas of knowledge, and an additional course in the social-value area. The courses are written by the teachers in the school and are taught by them. These teachers undergo three years of training in teaching outstanding students.’
  • Special schools for the arts:

‘The fostering of gifted and outstanding students in the fields of the arts takes place in special schools in Israel that specialise in one of the arts: music, dance, plastic arts, cinema and theatre. The schools accept students from all over the country. The studies include focusing on the area of art in which the student excels, general studies mandated by the Ministry of Education, as well as enrichment studies combining the various disciplines. The study frameworks place emphasis on creativity, the development of artistic skills, giving personal expression and development of critical thinking. The students are also guided in additional areas, including: dealing with competition, the development of healthy ambitiousness, deepening social values and encouraging contributing to the community.’

A second key source is one of the chapters in ‘International Horizons of Talent Support 1’ published by the Hungarian Genius Programme. Israeli coverage is on pages 121-144.

A few interesting additional details are supplied about the wider development of Israeli gifted education. It is clear that identification is still undertaken almost exclusively through intelligence tests even though:

‘major efforts have been made over recent years by the Ministry to include motivation factors and other personality characteristics into the identification of talent’.

The second round of IQ tests – the test battery measures ‘linguistic, mathematical and spatial abilities, abstract thinking, memory, analytical and generalising skills’.

However, Arab students have undertaken different tests since 2009, designed and administered by the Karni Institute enabling them and other immigrant children to be tested in their mother tongues.

Because early identification is disadvantageous to those who are late developers, another assessment is also available before entry to upper secondary school – a cognitive test generated by the Karni Institute. The ICELP assessment of Ethiopian children is also mentioned.

A new statistic is provided:

‘Talent development managed by the state reached 12,538 children in 2009, 63% of them were instructed in pull-out centres, 21% in special classes, 8% in distance education and 3% via acceleration (e.g., university studies started earlier)’

But the chapter is devoted mostly to the work of the regional ‘pull-out’ centres providing enrichment activities. It says there are 53 of these (up from 52 on previous counts). Fourteen of these are solely for Arab learners. Altogether they support over 6,000 learners.

Classes at the centres are typically 75 minutes long. For the day a week in-school sessions, the day starts at 8.30am and involves three or four lessons. There are typically 12-18 learners per class.

Although there are no examinations, plans are afoot to accredit learning undertaken in the centres.

Centres are free to determine their own courses, but must observe the core curriculum recently introduced by the Ministry. Further details are not provided.

Most teachers are part-time and may work at several different centres. The Ministry issued a decree in 2010 requiring all teachers working in the centres or in gifted classes in schools to have the postgraduate qualification, with effect from 2014/15. Teachers with at least 10 years’ experience are exempt however. (This may be the long-awaited legislation referred to in previous sections.)

A ‘pull-out’ centre at Karmiel in northern Israel is reviewed in more depth. The centre serves 290 learners in Grades 3-9. Of these, 190 attend the school-time sessions for gifted children (including 50 Druze students taught separately in Arabic) while 100 come to the after-school sessions for outstanding learners. There is no transfer between these groups, unless fresh testing supports the case.

Karmiel is one of six centres in the Northern Region. There are monthly regional meetings and an annual 3-day training course for centre directors.

The gifted provision has been in place for 15 years but that for outstanding learners was introduced only in 2008. Funding comes principally from the state and the town, but parents pay a contribution fixed across all such centres.

Karmiel takes children from some 30 schools. It busses children to and from the sessions. Relationships seem stronger with parents than they are with the schools, though efforts are made by centre staff in both quarters.


A Presidential Programme

The Israeli President’s Future Scientists and Inventors initiative is briefly outlined in this document. It makes clear that the purpose is to increase the flow of talented young people into STEM-related careers. It was introduced in 2009 to:

‘Promote science and technology excellence in Israel, while contributing to narrowing the country’s social and economic gaps.’

Programme planning and development was undertaken by the Rashi Foundation

A 4-year pilot began in July 2009 with 50 students, but the intention is to reach 600 students, with 100 students at each of six academic institutions involved.

Participating students are recruited from the top 0.5% of students in 9th Grade, identified through psychometric testing focusing on ‘scientific and cognitive skills’.

The document is not very clear about programme content, though it reveals that courses are being established at the Technion and Weizmann Institute of Science.

The steering committee for the Programme has established core objectives:

  • At least 80% of graduates will be admitted to the Israeli Defence Force’s Academic Cadets or to one of its elite technology or intelligence units.
  • At least 90% of graduates will successfully earn an undergraduate science or engineering degree while the remainder will graduate in other fields such as medicine and education.
  • At least 90% of those who achieve a first degree will continue to complete ‘a graduate or post-graduate degree in a related subject’.
  • Within ten years of completing the programme, at least 80% of participants will be employed as scientists, engineers or researchers.
  • Within 10 years of completion, at least 80% of participants will be involved as a volunteer in a social or community project.
  • Within 15 years of completion, at least 30% of participants will be ‘start-upentrepreneurs in the high-tech industry’.

More information is available on the Rashi Foundation website. There is a 4-year course beginning at the end of Grade 8 and continuing until the end of Grade 12. Each year there are 20 weeks of courses and workshops, holiday schools and a 3-week industrial placement during summer.

Participants undertake:

  • Additional advanced studies in physics, biotechnology, computer science, electronics, robotics, biology, chemistry, aeronautics, nanotechnology and applied mathematics.
  • Practical training to develop innovation and invention skills including teamwork, creative thinking, project planning and management.
  • Team work to solve real-world problems.

The aspiration to expand to 600 participants is scaled back here to adding ‘200 students over the next two years’.

This 2011 article covers the inauguration ceremony for the programme.


Flamingo in a Salt Lake 2 courtesy of Menashri


Further Support for Gifted Immigrants

Volume 26(1) of Gifted and Talented International contains a 2011 paper on Gifted Immigrants and Refugees in Israel by Rosemarin which focuses on those from Ethiopia and Russia.

It notes that, in 2005, just one of 32,000 Ethiopian students was identified as gifted. Hence in 2008 the Ministry announced a pilot programme after which new identification procedures would be established. However, the paper says such procedures are not yet in place. It notes that, by contrast, many more Russian immigrants are highly motivated and academically successful.


‘Super-Gifted’ Graduates

In 2012 a rash of stories appeared about the first graduates from the ‘super-gifted’ programme. This is an example. It provides little useful information other than that 18 students completed the programme.

Interestingly, the Summer 2012 edition of Gifted Education Press Quarterly (pages 7-13) features an article about ethical issues by Hanna David of Tel Aviv University (part of the Advisory Panel for this periodical) which criticises the exposure of participants in this programme to media publicity:

 ‘…The wide exposure of these “super-gifted” children included personal and familial private details of the 14 identified youths. Details were given about their parents’ marital status, many of which they would rather have kept unrevealed, the financial situation of the family, the religious views of each parent, or the ethnic origin of the children (all minors). These students were exposed not only unethically, but also to such a level that would have been considered illegal in most countries…

The misuse of the children’s names and photos, and the unexpected way in which some of their families were exposed in the media are unethical… Even the use of the term “super-gifted” is highly problematic… all researchers have been quite convinced that using this term might have a negative influence!’

This prompted a brief critical response from Rachmel in the Autumn 2012 edition which throws some further light on the operation of her Department:

‘The article is one sided, full of inaccuracies and does not reflect the policies and practices of identifying and nurturing gifted students by the Ministry of Education. For instance, the area of giftedness does have legal constraints and rules which are specified by the Director General of the  Ministry of Education and was revised in 2010.’

Furthermore, the policies of the Division for Gifted and Outstanding Students are designed together with a steering committee, comprised of experts from    the major academic institutions in Israel and professionals from the field, including experts in psychometrics (Professor Baruch Nevo), in counselling  (Professor Zipi Shechtman), and in various curricular areas. Furthermore,  every gifted programme has a psychologist or a counselor on staff who specialises in working with gifted students and their family.’

David’s counter response is interesting because of the suggestion it contains that drop-out rates from the Ministry’s programmes are unacceptably high:

‘In some of the gifted classes operating 6-days a week, less than 50% of the children invited actually participate. In the enrichment programmes, the dropout rate is quite high and increases every year. For example in my home town, Rishon Leziyon, about 200 grade 3 students participate in the class operating once a week for the gifted, but more than 80% of them drop out by grade 9.’


Translated from the Ministry’s Website

Because there is nothing in English on the very latest position, the information below is gleaned from the Hebrew pages on the Ministry’s website, as viewed through Google Translate. Given this source, some inaccuracy may have crept into the detail that follows.

The list of Divisional responsibilities is broadly unchanged, but there is one new addition – affirmative action programmes for gifted girls and associated research.

There is also reference to a pilot programme supporting talented children in kindergarten which operates in three locations. It seems that an evaluation is in progress which will determine whether such provision will be rolled out.

A statistical table is published showing participation in different elements of the programme, presumably as of 2012:

There are now 12,895 gifted learners within the programme (the table says 12,705 which may suggest that some learners are undertaking two or more different elements):

  • 513 students  are in gifted classes in primary schools – there are 21 such classes located in five schools;
  • 1,036 students are in gifted classes in lower secondary schools and 1,017 in upper secondary schools making 2,053 in all. It looks as though there are 26 classes in lower secondary schools and 43 classes in upper secondary schools;
  • The number of Gifted Centres now totals 55 – there is a list here – 8,548 learners attend the centres – 6,711 attend 38 Jewish sector centres and 1,837 attend 17 Arab sector centres;
  • 15 students are participating in the mentoring programme for ‘super gifted’ learners;
  • 800 students participate in the virtual school, 680 divided between five courses in the Jewish sector, and 120 divided between two courses in the Arab sector.

There are 32,392 outstanding learners within the programme:

  • 5,325 attend the gifted centres;
  • 400 are involved in the pilot Kindergarten provision;
  • 20,000 participate in the Amirim project and 108 in an associated Amirim ICT project (see Part Three);
  • 5,800 are within an Excellence 2000 maths and science programme (see Part Three);
  • 44 a part of a project connected with Feuerstein (which may be the one for Ethiopian learners)

In addition, 184 teachers have undertaken the full gifted education training programme at six centres and a further 1,019 teachers and other staff have received training (the majority for involvement in the Amirim Programme).


Here ends Part Two of this post. Part Three outlines several initiatives, including those mentioned in the last section, which have not yet featured in this review, as well as several key organisations and institutions that deliver aspects of Israel’s national offer for gifted learners.



November 2012


Gifted Education in Israel: Part One


This post is a full and detailed review of Israeli gifted education.

It is divided into three parts:


  • Part One provides essential background on Israel and its education system before tracing the historical development of Israeli gifted education;
  • Part Two examines more recent developments (over the last five years) and analyses the current state of Israeli gifted education;
  • Part Three reviews key programmes, initiatives and institutions which contribute to Israel’s considerable national effort in this field. It also offers a brief assessment of overall impact



Desirous of an update on Israeli gifted education, I attended a session at the 2012 ECHA Conference featuring Shlomit Rachmel Director of the Division for Gifted and Outstanding Students at the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Unfortunately the Programme erroneously calls her Rachmel Shlomit but, even more unfortunately for me, she failed to put in an appearance. We were told she had ‘gone home’.




Perhaps she was in high dudgeon, mortally offended by the slip in the programme but, more likely, she had more pressing matters to address. We were never told.

So my curiosity was piqued but not fulfilled. This led me to trawl through the huge amount of information available free of charge online – even to struggle with the vagaries of online Hebrew-English translation – with a view to publishing this primer.

If you spot any factual errors in my treatment, please don’t hesitate to use the comments facility to set the record straight. Given the vast number of sources utilised in this post, it would be surprising indeed if one or two facts had not gone astray. For the most part, however, I believe this is an accurate and reliable record.

(Commentators may want to give me the benefit of the doubt over the next section however, since I’m aware that this is disputed territory – pun very much intended – and even the most careful choice of language inevitably favours one party over another. I have tried to interpret the facts as objectively as possible.)

Incidentally, I have anglicised the American spelling in the quotations that appear throughout this post.



Israel became an independent country in 1948.

It is situated on the south-eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel currently occupies the bulk of the Golan Heights and the West Bank including East Jerusalem. (Responsibility for governance in the West Bank is divided, while the relationship with Gaza is both complex and disputed: the two together are referred to as the Palestinian Territories.)



Israel gives its population as 7,993,200 at September 2012. Of these, 75.4% are Jewish, 20.6% are Arab and the remainder – some 318,000 – includes several small minorities including Ethiopians, Armenians, Assyrians and Circassians.

The national land area is variably defined, depending on the inclusion or otherwise of the occupied territories. Including the West Bank and Golan Heights, the total area is 2,799,000 km2. There are seven main administrative districts divided into 15 sub-districts (two of which are Golan and the West Bank).

Jerusalem is the largest city, with a population of 778,000 (but this includes East Jerusalem). Other large cities are Tel Aviv (393,900) and Haifa (265,600).

Israel is a Parliamentary democracy. A single chamber legislative body, the Knesset, has 120 elected members. The Prime Minister is the head of government and the President is head of state. In 2011, Israel was the world’s 40th largest economy, with the world’s 26th highest per capita GDP of $30,975.


The Israeli Education System

There is surprisingly little information available in English online about the Israeli school system. The brief commentary that follows is gleaned from about six main sources.

Israel defines three tiers within its school system:

  • Primary (aka elementary) schools, including grades 1-6 for ages 6-12
  • Lower secondary (aka middle or junior high) schools, including grades 7-9 for ages 12-15
  • Upper secondary (aka high) schools, including grades 10-12 for ages 15-18.

Schooling is mandatory and free from age 6 to age 18. High school graduates typically progress to compulsory service with the armed forces – three years for males and two years for females.

In 2011/12, there were:

  • 2,459 primary schools (1,955 Jewish and 504 Arab) educating 922,252 learners (659,996 Jewish and 248,287 Arab);
  • 708 lower secondary schools (549 Jewish and 159 Arab) educating 269,087 learners (190,294 Jewish and 78,793 Arab);
  • 1,634 upper secondary schools (1,341 Jewish and 293 Arab) educating 373,749 learners (287,292 Jewish and 86,457 Arab).

Some 9% of middle and secondary schools are boarding schools.

There are four types, or ‘tracks’ for maintained schools:

  • State schools (Mamlachti) which the majority of pupils attend
  • State religious schools (Mamlachti dati) catering for Orthodox Jews
  • Ultra-orthodox Independent schools (Chinuch azmai) which concentrate on the study of religious literature
  • Arab and Druze schools which teach in Arabic and feature Arabic history and culture and Islam or the Druze faith.

In 2010, 57% of pupils in public sector schools were in state and state-religious schools, 16% in ultra-orthodox schools and 27% in Arab and Druze schools. There were also five integrated Arab-Jewish schools and a relatively small private sector.

There are nine universities: Ariel University Center of Samaria, Bar-Ilan, Ben-Gurion, Haifa, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Open University, Technion, Tel Aviv, Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition there are many other general and specialist higher education institutions, including over 20 teacher education providers.

The Ministry of Education lays down a broad national curriculum framework for schools but each:

‘may choose from a wide range of study units and teaching materials, provided by the Ministry of Education, which best suit the needs of its faculty and pupil population’.

One source says that, in primary schools:

  • The first two grades focus primarily on reading, writing and arithmetic;
  • Geography, history and science are introduced from grade 3; Arab schools also introduce Hebrew at this stage;
  • Foreign languages are introduced in grade 6, typically English or French; and
  • Religious education is compulsory throughout

Meanwhile secondary schools:

  • Divide students into academic and vocational tracks;
  • Within the academic track students follow a general course prior to specialising in the final two years;
  • Within the vocational track students pursue ‘technical, maritime, domestic or business studies’

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides further detail on these vocational options:

‘Technological schools train technicians and practical engineers on three levels, with some preparing for higher education, some studying toward a vocational diploma and others acquiring practical skills. Agricultural schools, usually in a residential setting, supplement basic studies with subjects relating to agronomy. Military preparatory schools, in two different settings, train future career personnel and technicians in specific fields required by the Israel Defense Forces; both programs are residential, one open to boys only, the other is coeducational. Yeshiva high schools, mainly boarding schools, with separate frameworks for boys and girls, complement their secular curricula with intensive religious studies and promote observance of tradition as well as a Jewish way of life. Comprehensive schools offer studies in a variety of vocations, ranging from bookkeeping to mechanics, electronics, hotel trades, graphic design and more.

Youth not attending one of the above schools are subject to the Apprenticeship Law, requiring them to study for a trade at an approved vocational school. Apprenticeship programmes are provided by the Ministry of Labor in schools affiliated with vocational networks. Lasting three to four years, these programmes consist of two years of classroom study followed by one/two years during which students study three days a week and work at their chosen trade on the other days. Trades range from hairstyling and cooking to mechanics and word processing.’

For the majority of students however, the ultimate outcome of secondary education is the matriculation certificate or Bagrut. According to Fulbright:

‘The current list of subjects which all candidates for the Bagrut must be tested is as follows:


Desert Wildlife courtesy of yonajon

 Required Subject  Minimum Study Unit Level Required
Civics 1
Bible 2
Hebrew Literature 2
Hebrew Grammar 1
Hebrew Composition 1
History 2
English 3
Mathematics 3
TOTAL – Required Subjects 15


Pupils may choose to devote more of their programme of studies to the above subjects and be tested at a level higher than the minimum required.

In addition to the required core subjects, each candidate for the Bagrut must be tested in one or more elective subjects, determined in keeping with the pupil’s interests and the course offerings of the high school in which he/she is enrolled.  Elective subjects are tested at the 3, 4, or 5 unit levels…

Pupils who intend to undertake academic degree studies at an Israeli university or college after graduating from high school need to prepare themselves to be tested in English at the 4 unit level, and in Mathematics at the 4 or 5 unit level. Typically students take at least one elective course at the 5 unit level. Entrance requirements vary depending on the field of study, and certain faculties require more than one course at the 5 unit level.’

A Taub Center Report adds:

‘As of 2009, 80 percent of Israeli 17-year-olds were enrolled in the 12th grade at State schools, with approximately 72 percent taking the matriculation exams. Forty-six percent earned a matriculation certificate upon graduation from upper secondary school, and 39 percent received a matriculation certificate that enables them to apply for further studies at institutions of higher education’.

Primary and lower secondary teachers complete a three-year teachers’ certificate or diploma, or a four year programme leading to a combined degree and teachers’ diploma. Upper secondary teachers must have an undergraduate degree and a teachers’ diploma. These can be obtained in a combined four-year programme or in succession, the diploma taking a year to complete.

Primary teachers are Ministry of Education employees, but secondary teachers are employed by their local authorities. In 2009/10 there were 49,717 staff employed in Hebrew sector primary schools and a further 17,844 employed in Arab and Druse primary schools. The comparable figures for secondary schools are 56,756 and 13,159 respectively.


The Historical Development of Israeli Gifted Education

The material that follows is a patchwork quilt compiled from a variety of different online sources. The sources do not always agree exactly, but rarely is there sufficient evidence to support triangulation, so on occasion I have had to exercise some judgement in determining the most reliable source and the exact meaning of ambiguous terminology.


From the 1950s to the 1980s

The education of gifted learners was being discussed within Israel’s education ministry as early as 1958. By 1961 the first residential programme for gifted disadvantaged teenagers had been established. By the late 1960s a variety of after-school enrichment activities were in place and, in 1971, a school for gifted learners was opened in Tel Aviv.

At roughly the same time a study commissioned by the education ministry recommended that it should have a Department for Gifted Children to steer national policy and development. The Department, established by its first director Dan Bitan, became fully operational in 1972.

Its immediate priority was to expand and co-ordinate the existing enrichment activities. By 1981 a network of enrichment centres was supporting over 5,000 students aged 6-17 (an estimated 30-40% of those eligible within Israel).

They offered courses in sciences, arts and humanities taught mostly by university lecturers and were funded by a combination of Ministry grant, support from the provider or sponsor and tuition fees charged to parents.

An expert committee appointed by the Ministry advised that the enrichment centre network should be further expanded and that the Department should also introduce separate pull-out classes for highly gifted learners within their existing schools, as opposed to separate schools for the gifted.

Initial pull-out classes were introduced in selected Tel Aviv and Haifa primary schools at grades 3 and 4 where learners accessed a specially constructed curriculum.

In the mid-1980s, the Department for Gifted Children was under the leadership of Blanka Burg. Its declared purpose was:

‘To identify the most able pupils on a countrywide scale, to develop teachers’ sensitivity for the needs of special pupils in their classes, and to provide proper framework and content, which will enable such development.’

By the late 1980s Israel had developed a separate programme of study for highly gifted learners throughout Grades 3-12. This incorporated elements of enrichment, extension and acceleration (though little early specialisation). Teachers were specially selected and trained.

A 1988 publication notes that the country had experimented successfully with in-school enrichment programmes which students attended for six hours a week.

  • Over 15 institutions were providing after school enrichment at primary level – students attended special courses twice a week in the sciences, humanities and arts. These were provided by universities, museums, libraries and similar organisations.
  • There were also 13 special classes for highly gifted learners. Admissions testing was undertaken in Grade 2 and successful learners required a mean IQ of 143. Classes began in Grade 3 and continue until either Grade 6 or Grade 12.
  • The curriculum in special classes included topics such as astrophysics and electronics. There was also emphasis on ‘integrating the different domains of knowledge’ and divergent thinking. The curriculum was flexible and, although there was some acceleration, the Ministry did not encourage it.
  • There was increasing emphasis placed on identifying disadvantaged and ethnic minority gifted students and there are boarding schools for able disadvantaged learners whose home circumstances are difficult.

In 1988, Goldring, Milgram and Chen produced a paper for the Ministry ‘Toward a coordinated educational policy for gifted and talented children’. This reviewed current provision and offered recommendations for the future direction of gifted education.

It proposed moving away from an identification process based solely on IQ testing, the introduction of a differentiated curriculum and personalised pedagogical strategies. Although these recommendations were accepted they were not implemented.


Rain in the Golan Heights courtesy of vad levin


The 1990s

By 1994, the Ministry’s Department for Gifted Education has acquired an extensive list of responsibilities:

  • Testing children throughout the country
  • Establishing unique enrichment frameworks
  • Holding in-service training courses and seminars
  • Instructing teachers and field-workers
  • School visits and establishing supervision and guidance for programme coordinators
  • Publishing guidance including a programme handbook and monthly bulletin
  • Supporting the testing and placement of new immigrant children
  • Support for Arab, Druze and Bedouin gifted children
  • Contact with professional bodies in Israel and overseas
  • Budgeting and allocating budgets against enrichment frameworks
  • Providing committee membership and administrative support

A steering committee has formulated goals for the various subject-specific enrichment frameworks supported by the Department incorporating cognitive and affective dimensions as well as social values.

Three types of enrichment programmes are on offer: afternoon extra-curricular activities, weekly programmes and special classes within students’ regular schools.

  • The afternoon extra-curricular activities are offered once a week, typically by a university, college or community centre. Learners choose two activities from a menu of options not normally encountered in the school curriculum. Such provision is targeted mainly at Grades 3-6, but programmes continue until Grade 9 in areas where there is no separate provision for lower secondary students. Access is for learners who score in the top 3% in examinations for their age group.
  • The weekly enrichment programmes are provided in a district or regional centre and are also targeted at Grades 3-6 and continue until Grade 9 where there is no alternative provision. The nature of the programmes vary depending on the needs of the students, the area served and the teachers’ expertise. A committee of programme directors monitors the overall provision.
  • The special school-based classes enable highly gifted learners to be taught in separate classes throughout primary, lower and upper secondary school. Students continue to participate in wider school activities and form relationships with peers outside their class. The curriculum is based on the normal school curriculum but with elements of faster pace, a variety of teaching methods and joint teaching with university staff. In some parts of the country such classes begin in Grade 7 and children access weekly enrichment programmes in the primary sector. But school-based classes operate in seven different regions throughout the country. They are open to those who score in the top 1% in examinations in their area (rather than the top 1% assessed on national norms). Students can enter and leave the class at any point, though the dropout rate is described as ‘quite low’.

The Department’s preference is to offer these frameworks across Israel to enable gifted learners to access them according to their needs, but there is not full choice between all three options in every locality because of organisational and budgetary constraints. An evaluative survey is currently under way.

There is no specific coverage of gifted children in normal teacher training so the Department provides in-service training for selected gifted education teachers. It offers one-day seminars, subject-specific and age-specific courses, courses on the social needs of gifted learners and training in new pedagogical techniques.

In 1995 the Ministry of Education’s Chief Scientist – one P Nesher – reviewed existing arrangements and recommended broadening identification processes, removing nationwide IQ testing and introducing identification of domain-specific abilities.

These recommendations were approved by the Ministry but headteachers and teachers were concerned whether they could be implemented in practice. In the event, the new methods were delayed and a transitional year was to be used to develop implementation tools and procedures. But this did not happen and so the old methods were once more retained.

An interesting footnote is provided by this record of a January 1999 meeting between Schlomit Rachmel (then Acting Director of the Department for Gifted Children) and the UK Parliament’s Select Committee on Education and Employment, which was conducting its own enquiry into Highly Able Children in England.

This reveals that:

  • Israeli parents find the term ‘highly able’ more controversial than ‘gifted’; the Department for Gifted Children is reported to be critical of ‘the fashion of inclusion’ (ie differentiated provision within normal classes).
  • All children in grades 2-4 are tested in maths and comprehension. Of these the top 15% take a series of five optional psychometric tests to establish the top 3% eligible for the enrichment programmes overseen by the Department. Schools can recommend that learners outside the top 15% should be put forward for psychometric testing. Parents receive letters about the tests and the results.
  • The tests require improvements, currently in train. Amongst the 3% there is a gender ratio of 2:1 in favour of boys and few learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is corrected to some extent by setting a lower threshold for girls and varying the overall threshold by district, but relatively advantaged learners are still over-represented.
  • Support for Arabic learners was introduced in 1993, with the introduction of Arabic-medium tests and 13 dedicated enrichment centres. Bedouin, Druze and East European populations are also supported.
  • Enrichment programmes provided for one afternoon weekly are accessed by 37% of the identified top 3%. Participants benefit from peer relationships, receive greater stimulation and derive positive self-esteem, but the contrast makes their other four school-based days less fulfilling (actually they are “wasted”);
  • In-school classes for gifted children can more accurately be described as ‘schools within schools’, since they typically cater for at least 100 pupils, divided into classes of 20-25 (compared with an average Israeli class size of 40. Fewer than one-fifth (20%) of the 3% gifted population attend such classes, which are perceived as more successful than the afternoon enrichment option.


Israel Landscape courtesy of AntoniO BovinO


From 2000 to 2004

In 2002, Rachmel and a colleague published an article in the Proceedings of ECHA’s 8th Conference (pp 113-116) which describes some leadership programmes included in the menu promoted by her Department which serves over 12,000 gifted learners in Grades 3-12.

Primary school programmes include:

  • One designed by the Hillel School in Ramat Gan (a central Israeli city) to  help gifted learners fulfil their academic and social leadership potential while promoting volunteering, accepting and respecting diversity, responsibility, personal and social commitment and empathy toward others. The aim was to match learners’ capabilities and interests with the needs of their local community. Activities included creating a library, designing learning games for peers and adopting a local special school.
  • At Tel-Hai College in the north of Israel, pupils worked alongside older people in the community to develop dramatic activities and stage productions.
  • Within Jerusalem’s Ofek programme, learners produced and broadcast a radio programme on the public broadcasting channel featuring youth-related themes such as ‘children of divorced parents, being different, and internet addiction’.

A lower secondary school in Petach Tikya engaged students in communities of enquiry to explore literary themes such as adolescence, fears, and the birth of a sibling. They produced a portfolio of their own stories, poems and videos.

The paper also describes projects in which educators support students to produce research papers for matriculation and others that tackle real-life problems in the local community.

Students at Jerusalem’s Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem (see Part Three) worked with community leaders to transform a nearby ravine into a public park. Meanwhile, students in ‘the High School Near the University in Jerusalem’ (probably the Hebrew University Secondary School) were working with two Arab schools in Nazareth on a project to reduce prejudice and increase tolerance towards others.

A second paper in the Proceedings, by two staff from the Gordon College of Teacher Education, reports on teacher training at this time. Key points include:

  • The identified gifted population (3%) follow one of three learning frameworks: ‘classes for gifted children in regular schools, one day a week of enrichment outside the school or special enrichment groups after school’.
  • But there is no framework for the preparation of gifted education teachers. Some students may undertake a one-semester course, but most receive no training at all and have no experience of teaching gifted children.
  • Gordon College introduced a training course in 1998 intended for teachers with three years’ experience recommended by their principals. The 224-hour course was provided over one year, with eight hours of sessions per week.
  • Topics addressed include:

The gifted child – cognitive, social and emotional aspects, giftedness and gender, stereotypes and the gifted, methods of identification and frameworks for the fostering of the gifted.

Curriculum development for gifted children – theoretical models for integrative approaches, demonstration and practice in the development of interdisciplinary programs for gifted children.

Information technology – developing skills in seeking, classifying and organizing information.

Creative and inventive thinking – developing thinking strategies, meta-cognition, technological aspects and initiatives.

 Developing imaginative resources and curiosity – learning via riddles – the question and problem as the center of learning and as a legitimate motivational technique (instead of solution and knowledge), creating interest and developing curiosity, and encouraging achievement.’

Participants also visit schools and work within the learning frameworks, typically via the enrichment groups supported at Gordon College.

  • A survey showed that most participants were mid-career teachers aged 25-56. Some 70 % taught in primary schools. Two thirds said they took the course to ‘improve their teaching in the regular classroom or to teach gifted children in a normal school’. Some 10% said they wanted to teach in the gifted frameworks and 3% were simply pursuing ‘personal and professional advancement’.
  • 40% of graduates from the course work on gifted children’s programmes in normal schools, 30% have developed such programmes in their schools while the remaining 30% continue teaching normal classes but report that ‘their lessons have become more challenging and are constructed with an interdisciplinary approach that emphasises thinking and creative aspects’.

A third paper describes support for gifted learners in ‘mixed ability’ classes provided at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University Secondary School. In fact, these arrangements involve: ‘Highly gifted children (IQ above 140) study[ing] together with talented pupils (IQ above 110) in a one to one ratio’

There are also some rather rambling ‘Meditations on the Realisation of an Educational Vision: Israel Arts and Science Academy’. They do reveal that:

‘During the 2001-2 school year, the school’s 207 students came from 112 communities. Almost 10 % of the students are Arabs, almost 10 % come from Orthodox junior high schools and over 20 % are immigrants…over 80 % of the students receive considerable scholarships through our needbased [sic] financial aid system…’

Finally there is a description of a series of activities offered by the Weizmann Institute:

  • Math-by-Mail for learners throughout Israel in Grades 3-10. Mathematicians set problems at four different levels for learners to solve at home. Five sets of problems are issued each year, translated into Russian, English and Korean.
  • A four-week international summer residential programme for 75 pre-university science students who work on research projects in twos and threes, supervised by postgraduates and scientists.
  • A two-week residential National Science Workshop for outstanding Israeli upper secondary school students again built around research projects.
  • A parallel two-week Science, Music and Art Programme for 60 14 year-olds with potential to excel in those fields. The purpose is to build connections between the three disciplines. In the morning there is interest-based study in groups; in the afternoon there are interdisciplinary workshops.
  • Maths Olympiads for lower and upper secondary students respectively, plus a physics tournament for five-person upper secondary school teams.
  • The Arrow (the Hebrew equivalent is an acronym for ‘young researchers’) for a group of scientifically talented learners in Grades 10-12. Those in Grade 10 receive ‘a broad overview of modern scientific research’ through five intensive two-day sessions. They subsequently undertake a long-term research project which can be submitted towards matriculation. This programme was piloted in Tel-Aviv High School and went national in 1999.

A more contemporary account of Weizmann’s provision is included in Part Three of this post.

Two further publications are available from around this time, both by Rachmel and colleagues within the Department for Gifted Students.

The first is called ‘Opportunities for Realisation of Potential in Science and Technology in Gifted Programs in Israel’.

This distinguishes three types of opportunity: acceleration, enrichment – provided in the curriculum and as extra-curricular activity – and utilising science and technology to serve the community.

Following a brief outline of gifted provision, the article lists the goals of Israeli gifted programmes as:

The cognitive dimension:

‘Developing specific skills and abilities in various talent areas, in line with individual needs and interests.

Enhancing the ability to consume information critically and effectively. Strengthening the tendency toward strategic thinking.

Encouraging divergent and inter-disciplinary thinking.

Developing the ability to cope with uncertainty and deal with complex problems.

Enhancing the ability to produce knowledge in various fields of interest’

The social dimension:

‘Enhancing moral decision making.

Developing awareness of moral and social dilemmas.

Strengthening sensitivity toward others.

Developing the ability to work in teams.

Accepting the need for autonomy, while maintaining reasonable limits for freedom.

Developing social interest and commitment to society’.

The personality dimension:

‘Developing persistence in performing tasks and postponing satisfaction.

Enhancing commitment to tasks.

Encouraging originality.

Enhancing curiosity.

Encouraging daring to express unusual, out of the way ideas.

Enhancing personal initiative.

Developing competency, which includes knowing what I am capable of, comprehending how I can make a difference and how I can cope with stereotypes.’

The paper reports considerable reluctance to pursue acceleration:

‘for fear that acceleration may cause difficulties in their social and emotional development by increasing the already existing gap between their social and cognitive development. Therefore, grade skipping and early entrance to the university for full academic studies are rarely performed and then, only in individual cases.’

Nevertheless, the Department introduced a programme in 2000/01 with the Open University in Israel for students in grades 9-12 who already study in separate gifted classes.

The course is designed to provide enrichment during the school day, develop independent learning and problem-solving skills, develop social skills through interaction with gifted peers and provide the opportunity to secure an undergraduate science degree while still in upper secondary school.

Participating students attend sessions at an Open University Campus, initially one course of 3-4 hours per semester and then two courses if they wish. These take place during the school day. They complete units of study during course time and undertake independent study tasks requiring 4-5 hours’ work. There is an examination at the end of each semester.

In 2000/01 97 students in Grades 9 and 10 began the course and 77 continued into the second semester. In 2001/02, 104 students enrolled in the first semester. Most opted for maths and computer science courses. In the first year the majority completed the course successfully but several organisational issues were identified.

The second course type described is interdisciplinary enrichment. A range of robotics courses are outlined , all involving the design, building and testing of a robot.

The third type is illustrated by:

  • A ‘country of water streams’ project, developed with the Ministry for the Quality of the Environment. The aim was to monitor the air and water quality across Israel. Gifted lower secondary students undertook the work in their areas, sharing and analysing the information they had collected online. Students met together at intervals to learn about ecology and biology.
  • The Young Entrepreneurs Project, built around establishing a company, developing and marketing a product. This operated in two self-contained gifted education classes.
  • The I Can Also Do Project: a competition to develop models or prototypes of products to support people with disabilities.


Judean Desert courtesy of chaim zvi


The second paper is entitled ‘Science Education Programmes in Israel via Distance Learning’. It describes online science classes.

The introduction refers to the established gifted education frameworks and also ‘two special schools’ (one is presumably the Israel Arts and Science Academy).

But there are few enrolments in these frameworks in rural areas:

‘In these communities, the additional enrichment opportunities provided under the auspices of the Department are rather limited due to the distance from institutions of higher learning; and, in many cases, because of difficult economic conditions. Hence, there is a gap in learning opportunities offered to gifted students in large urban areas as opposed to those living in small, remote communities.’

Distance learning provides such learners – who may feel isolated in their schools – with the opportunity to connect with peers of similar ability elsewhere. It also ‘leads to higher quality work than in heterogeneous groups where gifted students are few and far between’

The courses were developed with three aims:

  • To offer intellectual challenge, encouraging learners explore subjects in greater depth, and to demonstrate commitment and responsibility for learning.
  • To provide distance learning ‘as a basis for future learning’ and
  • To develop an enjoyable learning experience within the context of lifelong learning.

They were designed to stimulate independent learning and enable students to utilise a range of learning styles, to develop an interdisciplinary perspective on science and utilise university experts to expose students to unfamiliar methods of scientific investigation and analysis.

The report suggests that such distance learning options were first developed around 1994:

‘During the first eight years of operation of the internet site, we focused on scientific surveys and complex units in a broad variety of fields of knowledge which were written by academic experts and suited to gifted students, grades 7 and up. Subjects such as cellular telephones, the problem of the rain forests in Brazil, or a literary analysis of the Harry Potter series had a tremendous number of hits. Each survey was accompanied by questions for thought, links to additional sites dealing with the same subject, referral to relevant illustrations and animations. Likewise, the writer of the series facilitated discussion groups and answered questions for a period of two months from the date that the survey was placed on the site. Every month, we put a new survey on the site.’

….we made a decision in 2002 to change the concept of the internet site. It was clear that in order to meet the needs of the gifted students, especially in the periphery, the activities had to be organised systematically and a virtual school had to be established. Four courses were prepared by experts from academia and from the Department. We approached seventh to ninth grade students in the special centres and there was a great show of enthusiasm. The choice of relatively older students was based on professional considerations. These students usually master the necessary technological skills, know English well and are ready for independent learning. We limited the number of students in each course to 30, in order to facilitate feedback and formation of a virtual community.’

This later virtual school approach was piloted from 2002 to 2004 in partnership with Tel-Aviv University and Israel’s Center for Educational Technology.

The courses offered included the senses, artificial intelligence, the history of maths and environmental ethics. They were designed to stimulate divergent and higher order thinking, to examine scientific concepts from philosophical, psychological and social perspectives, to make inter-disciplinary connections and address ethical issues.

Each course was divided into 12 units, each published online on a weekly basis. Courses comprised an introduction, supporting texts, links to online resources and tasks for participants to complete. Instructors provided online feedback on the tasks with an additional 1-day face-to-face meeting per course. Following feedback after year one, the instructors set aside discrete time and offered extra support to learners who needed it. Student forums were introduced and students and their parents received progress reports and a final report card.

Initially the target group consisted of students from self-contained lower secondary gifted classes who undertook the courses during school time. In the second year, it was expanded to all gifted lower secondary school students from across Israel, with students participating on a voluntary basis.

In the first year of the pilot, 50% of 115 participants completed the courses. In the second year there were 155 participants, 71% completing the first semester courses and 88% the second semester courses (possibly as a result of the introduction of enhanced support for participants).

The results demonstrated that:

‘with adequate individualised support, distance learning can provide a challenging, yet rewarding independent learning experience to gifted students, especially to those in the periphery who do not have access to many other resources. In line with the objectives of the courses, further consideration is needed on how to enhance intellectual meeting and team work among students from different schools who communicate via the internet. In line with the findings concerning in-depth study, another issue to consider is whether to promote more exposure to various content areas, or to in-depth investigation in specific areas of interest, supported by mentors.’


The 2004 Reforms

2004 marked a watershed in the development of Israeli gifted education. The key source of information is a lecture given by Rachmel in Korea in June 2005 ‘The Policy For Promoting Gifted Education in Israel 2005’.

The purpose of the lecture is to:

‘Present the new policy for promoting gifted education in Israel, as set out by a steering committee, whose recommendations were adopted by the ministry administration in September 2004. These serve as part of the general reform that is planned to take place in the education system in Israel over the coming five years.’

The lecture includes a taxonomy of existing provision which is slightly different to those above. It references:

Three ‘unique morning frameworks’ – special classes in schools, weekly enrichment days and now a residential school – for the top 1-1.5% of performers in  national tests. Learners are selected by age group and locality (so not according to national norms).

  • Special classes operate in five primary and 15 secondary schools. The curriculum, though based on the standard curriculum, includes elements of enrichment, extension and acceleration. In secondary classes students undertake an additional option involving academic study at higher education level (concurrent enrolment).
  • Weekly enrichment days are pull-out sessions offered at regional centres. Organised transport is provided. Some provide for Grades 3-6, others for Grades 3-9 and some for Grades 3-11. Some centres have mixed populations while others provide separately for Jewish, Arab or Druze learners. Content does not feature in the normal school curriculum. The framework is permissive and provision varies widely, depending on the number of pupils and their needs, the location of the centre and the skills and preferences of the leader and teachers.
  • The residential centre is the Israel Arts and Science Academy which, though established by a private foundation, is part funded by the Government. Entrants must demonstrate ‘an above-average general scholastic ability, excellence in a specific field and the necessary social skills’.

Afternoon enrichment classes for those in the top 3% of performers on universal national tests administered in Grades 2 or 3. These are after-school programmes for Grades 3-6. Pupils take two classes a week selected from a menu.

Private frameworks not administered by the Government. They provide in-school enrichment or after-school enrichment classes and ‘operate (almost) exclusively in affluent residential areas’. Such frameworks have not been mentioned in previous descriptions.

A steering committee, chaired by Baruch Nevo of Haifa University, was appointed in January 2003 and reported in July 2004. It was asked to consider all aspects of support for gifted pupils from first principles and made a series of fundamental recommendations.

The steering committee is supportive of a diverse range of providers while noting that:

‘Without government aid it will be impossible to identify gifted and talented children in peripheral areas, underprivileged neighbourhoods, new immigrants and more.’

It therefore recommends

‘Placing these frameworks under government pedagogic supervision and extending budgetary assistance to them according to criteria that are to be established.’

This should help to secure equality of access, so countering social inequality, while introducing quality assurance across the full range of provision, so improving the overall quality of state education.



The committee established five basic principles to underpin future gifted education:

  • ‘Israel’s human capital is the primary quality resource at its disposal in facing the challenges of the 21st century. Investing in developing the talents of gifted pupils serves as a vital component in preparing the future generation of scientists, artists and trailblazers.
  • Equal opportunity in education requires differential investment of resources in accordance with the characteristics and needs of each and every pupil, so that each pupil will be able to optimally realise his potential. Gifted pupils have special characteristics and needs, similarly to pupils with other unique characteristics (slow pupils, pupils with learning disabilities and more).
  • The world of human talent is diverse. Giftedness can be manifested in general cognitive skills, in high achievements, in artistic or sports-oriented skills.
  • High intelligence and other human talents are dynamic qualities that can be advanced and shaped. Neglecting the potential for unique talent impairs the gifted pupil’s ability to contribute in the future to himself and to society.
  • The special characteristics and needs of gifted pupils require a unique learning environment and unique study tracks, with respect to the pedagogic method, suitable teachers and curricula.’

The lecture proceeds to expand on these principles. It identifies the characteristics that gifted education programmes should seek to develop in participants as:

  •  Achievement in their areas of talent and expectations for them to excel as adults;
  • Development of ‘determination and task commitment, creativity and originality, curiosity, intellectual courage, intellectual or artistic integrity, the ability and desire to continually learn and develop, the ability to think under conditions of uncertainty, the ability for multidirectional thinking, efficient consumption of information, a broad perspective and awareness of ethical implications’;
  • Becoming part of a ‘serving elite’ displaying social commitment, morality and humanity.



When defining its target population, the committee decided to use the term ‘gifted’ to denote all types of excellence, whether in academic study, sports or arts. A distinction is made between ‘general scholastic ability/general level of intelligence’ and a ‘specific scholastic field of excellence’.

It defines giftedness in statistical terms, distinguishing between:

  • Gifted pupils – ‘The top percentile of the population in each cohort, in each of the spheres of giftedness as defined above, on condition that they also meet the criteria of motivation and creativity…In terms of IQ, this refers to an IQ of 135 and above’.
  • Outstanding pupils – ‘The top 5% of the population in each cohort, in each of the spheres of giftedness as defined above, on condition that they also meet the criteria of motivation and creativity…In terms of IQ, this refers to an IQ of 125 and above’.

The additional criteria are defined in these terms:

  • ‘Level of motivation (perseverance, determination) above the cohort median.
  • Level of creativity (originality) above the cohort median.’

The commentary observes that the number in each cohort cannot be quantified because it is not known how many satisfy the motivation and creativity criteria – and because some individuals will feature within more than one category of giftedness.

Because the spheres of giftedness are counted separately:

‘The committee estimates that according to its definition, and considering all the spheres together, there are in Israel 3-4% gifted pupils and an additional 8-12% outstanding pupils.’

There was clearly disagreement within the committee over whether national or local norms should be imposed:

‘The pool of talents is not uniformly distributed throughout all cities and schools in Israel. A uniform, nationwide definition of giftedness (a “national norm”) could lead to a situation where in certain localities or geographical regions, very few (or very many) gifted pupils will be found.

This fact sparked a severe debate within the committee, between those who argued that resources should be invested in nurturing gifted pupils at a national level in order to advance this group in particular, and those who argued that it is necessary to promote the top percentile relative to their place of residence, so that they can serve as a catalyst that will promote all pupils in the locality. The latter also argued that this should be done in order to operate unique programmes spread all over the country, rather than concentrating on a number of centres alone.’

It was ultimately decided to adopt a mixed policy with regard to the definition of gifted children.

  • Outstanding pupils (the top 5%) would be defined on a local basis – the outstanding pupils in the school or the locality.
  • Gifted pupils (the top 1%) would be defined on a national basis.

This is very similar to the approach adopted in England, though the Committee also separately distinguishes ‘super-gifted’ children, which it defines as those with an IQ above 155, of which there are only 10-15 per cohort (see below).


Identification and Provision

Identification should be undertaken using a variety of sources and instruments, rather than solely through IQ tests as previously occurred in Israel (at least the third time this recommendation has been made).

Support should ‘start as early as possible – depending on when talents emerge and can be identified – and go on continuously until the end of Grade 12’.


‘An affirmative action policy should be employed in favour of girls and in favour of outstanding and gifted pupils from lower socioeconomic strata, as long as the rate of affirmative action does not place the candidates in an inferior position relative to other gifted children in the nurturing frameworks.’

Gifted education should be based on acceleration, extension and enrichment. The choice between these, or their combination, should depend (as before) on:

‘the nature of the specific programme, the capabilities and tendencies of the gifted pupils taking part in it and the skills of the teachers in the programme’.

The main forms of provision should include:

  • Separate schools for gifted learners – the committee suggests three supra-regional schools in north, central and southern Israel respectively;
  • Separate classes for gifted learners, drawing pupils from a given region, as already exist;
  • Concentrated enrichment days, when outstanding and gifted learners are transported to a designated centre for one day a week, as already exist;
  • Afternoon enrichment classes, as already exist;
  • A range of new study units for gifted and outstanding learners;
  • ‘Mentoring tracks in regular schools and in summer courses, with the aim of enabling empowerment and a solution to unique needs, through experts who will undergo special training’;
  • School-based resource centres to support learners in undertaking research and extension of subjects they study in school;
  • New acceleration tracks developed in partnership with universities for learners in gifted classes;
  • Recognition and accreditation of such courses as an alternative to matriculation exams.



Each school should have a special co-ordinator responsible for gifted and outstanding pupils. Each ‘super-gifted’ pupil should also have a ‘special salaried coach/guide’.

Special teacher training provision should be developed:

‘The objective is to achieve a situation where each teacher who wishes to teach in the unique programmes must take part in a track consisting of 224 study hours, which will grant him a certificate as an expert qualified teacher for teaching gifted pupils.’

These arrangements should be governed by legislation which will:

‘guarantee the right of every gifted and outstanding pupil to study in a supportive and empowering environment, in order to realise his skills and capabilities. The law is intended to define the institutions and programmes recognised for budgeting by the Ministry of Education for advancing these pupils’ .

The steering committee proposes to transform itself into a permanent committee that will convene every two months to monitor and support implementation.

The lecture concludes with a statement that a two-year operational plan has been developed to implement the first phase of reform in accordance with these recommendations.


Dome of the Rock courtesy of laika slips the lead


This treatment is repeated, almost verbatim, in a chapter of a 2007 publication ‘Science Education: Models and Networking of Student Research’ (Ed Csermely et al), the only addition being a few numbers included within the description of existing provision:

  • Within the ‘morning frameworks’ the special classes operate in five primary and 17 secondary schools (so two more than before) attended by 2,583 pupils during the 2006 school year;
  • In 2005-06, 320 students benefited from concurrent enrolment opportunities with Tel Aviv and Haifa Universities;
  • Weekly enrichment days are held in 52 regional centres and attracted 6,667 learners in 2005-06;
  • 980 students attended ‘specialised secondary schools’ (this version includes music, visual and performing arts schools, so presumably more than just the Israel Arts and Science Academy);
  • 4,200 learners attended after school enrichment classes in 2005-06;
  • 170 teachers currently attend four university-based training courses for intending ‘master teachers’ of gifted and outstanding students.

This version also references the online provision already described above, as well as university enrichment programmes, science days and youth conferences (though no numbers are attached to these).

It describes part of the response to the steering committee’s recommendations as:

‘developing programmes for outstanding students in a nationwide network…The role of the [Ministry’s] Division of Gifted and Outstanding Students will be to initiate the development of the network, to devise the network’s “communication protocol”, and to determine the norms and standards for the programmes by using means such as performance standards for the programmes and their staff. The division will also encourage the formation of new network intersections and connections, while maintaining the network’s professional and administrative infrastructure…Limited additional resources will be invested by the Ministry of Education in the development of the network, while local authorities will finance most of the project.’

It also reports that the law proposed by the steering committee has ‘passed its first hearing’ but is not yet statute. The two-year implementation plan remains under consideration.

One of the concurrent enrolment options is briefly described on the Haifa Foundation website. The ETGAR (Challenge) Project was established in Spring 2006 to provide a 4-year University of Haifa Bachelor of Science course to secondary pupils who spend one and a half days a week at the University taking computer science courses taught by lecturers. They complete three years of the degree by this means and return to the University after compulsory army service to complete the final year.

In 2006, 44 participants formed a pilot group; the 2007 group comprised 68 students and the web-page refers to plans to increase the cohort to 90, producing an overall group of 200. Altogether, 15 computer science and maths courses are to be offered and lecturers specially selected and trained.

Ten scholarships are to be provided to support participants from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is more information on the project website (in Hebrew only), though an example of a computer programming course is also available in English.

Further information about a raft of similar provision, as it now operates, is set out in Part Three.

Also dating from this period, an article on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mashav) website records special courses provided for Korean Teachers by Mashav on Education for Gifted Children in 2004 and early 2005.

This tells us a little more about the pre-reform Israeli testing regime:

‘The search for such children is currently conducted in the 3rd grade. The annual testing process is two-stage – the first in the school, the second in special testing centres. At the school level, reading comprehension and maths abilities are evaluated in tests administered by local teachers. Those scoring in the top 15% are sent to national second-stage testing. The second stage is similar to psychometric tests, although changes are being planned in this regards. The top 1.5% from each geographical area in the second stage of testing are enrolled in gifted programmes; the top 3% in each area are eligible to participate in extra-curricular programmes in the afternoon. Thus the most talented children in every locality participate. There are special tests for Arab, Druze and Bedouin children to eliminate language and cultural bias. New immigrants and children with learning disabilities, hyperactivity and ADHA are tested individually.’

The range of Israel provision is briefly outlined and this comment is offered:

‘What makes the Israeli programme unique is its development of material for all three programmes by a State entity; its scope – operating throughout the country; its pluralism – allowing local school boards to choose among various models; and its character – that all three programmes are based on a holistic approach – addressing both scholastic, and social and emotional growth.’

A November 2006 newspaper report summarises the steering committee’s recommendations prior to their consideration within the Ministry. Interestingly it notes uneven participation in existing gifted programmes:

‘The selection process for special programmes has been criticised due to the relatively high percentage of girls and low percentage (10 percent) of Israeli Arab children. The number of children of Ethiopian immigrants participating in the programmes is also very low.

Two-thirds of the schools with classes for gifted pupils are in Tel Aviv and the country’s centre.’

The membership of the steering group is given as:

‘Professor Zamira Mevorah of Bar Ilan University headed the steering committee, which included Nobel laureate Professor Aharon Chehanover of the Technion, Safed College President Professor Baruch Nevo, and the Director General of The Society for Excellence through Education, Hezki Arieli’.

This contradicts other sources that put Nevo as Chair of the Committee.

A Committee source is quoted:

‘According to our plan, an excellent pupil will be one in every 20 children, and a gifted [pupil] will be one in 100…This is a significant increase in the number of pupils, but it is still unclear whether there is available funding for the programme.’


Here ends Part One of this post. Part Two takes the development timeline up to the present day and examines the contemporary Israel national programme in all its glory, while Part Threetakes a closer interest in some of the many initiatives and institutions that form part of the complex web of Israeli gifted education provision.



November 2012

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:

The WCGTC 2013 Conference blog, including part of the speaker line-up:

Free webinar series: Supporting Gifted Students with 21st Century Strategies:

Brief report of the APEC Future Scientist Conference in Java: 120 gifted learners from 16 (or 9?) countries involved:

Mother’s Day SENGinar on mother/daughter relationships of profoundly gifted girls  – early am 11/5

WCGTC marketing for 2013 conference in NZ: – I love the geographical optimism of slide 2!

Round-up of summer professional development in gifted education:  Mostly US but includes @Begabungs SL events

#gtchat transcript from last week on Adult Giftedness:

The transcript for tonight’s chat on Role Models For Gifted Children:

Gifted Underachievement with @Josh_Shaine, transcript 18/4 has been chirpified!

Transcript for last Sunday’s #gtie, “Cyberbullying and Gifted Education”:

Transcript from tonight’s #gtie: 5 Give-away Signs of Giftedness for Teachers


Kenyan pupils call for ‘a curriculum review to incorporate competences, skills and talent development at all levels’:


FICOMUNDYT IX Congreso Iberoamericano de Superdotacion, Talento y Creatividad, October 2012:

Puerto Rico Legislature Considers Laws to Boost Gifted Children

Gifted trivia: what’s the connection between Francoys Gagne and Star Wars? Answer: (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:

Gifted Jobs: Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts needs a Director of Admissions and Outreach

NYC gifted kindergarten entry articles: and  and

More about gifted kindergarten admissions in NYC: and and

Another one on NYC gifted kindergarten admissions: – It’s not called Gotham City for nothing!

Coaching and private tuition strengthen their fiendish grip in NYC:

Rundown of gifted and talented schools in NYC including hyperlinks to their websites:

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

Yet more on the impenetrable mystery that is NYC gifted education policy:

Belin-Blank outlines its summer professional development programme:

Online gifted education as an option in Minnesota:

A second US blogger posts on distance learning for gifted kids: ttp://

Are gifted learners informationally fluent? CTD is aiming to ensure they are:

Updated links to test scores for all major talent searches – plus other test score percentiles

Valerie Bostwick, a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara, plans an economic evaluation of gifted + talented magnet schools:

Upcoming Duke Conference featuring Project Bright Idea, applying gifted education approaches for all learners

Carolyn Callahan appears for defence in US gifted lawsuit; contests Donna Ford’s testimony for prosecution

A second report on the Elgin gifted education lawsuit:

Gifted jobs: DC Public Schools (no less) is looking for a Director of Gifted Education: ($89-97K)

Petition to Vermont Commissioner of Education to provide adequate public education for gifted children:

Deb Delisle confirmed as nation’s new assistant secretary of education

Education acceleration bill heads to Gov. Rick Scott FL

Norwich (Connecticut) plans 40th anniversary reunion for participants of 1973 elementary gifted programme:

On Native American gifted education:

Whitworth University confirms who is sponsoring their $3m dollar endowed chair in gifted education:


Taiwan has reviewed its talent development policies and will produce a White Paper in the next year:

Taiwan moves to improve quality of English, especially in rural schools:

Oman follows Taiwan in declaring need for a National Talent Development Plan  Can we have one of those?

Philippines’ Department of Education increases SPED funding (including gifted education) by 56%

On this otherwise quiet gifted news day I bring you the results of the aforementioned Philippines run for gifted kids!

Questions asked in Singapore Parliament today about the impact of their Gifted Education Programme (GEP):

Malaysia’s worried about failure to progress to Harvard places: a target for the Permata Pintar gifted programme?

Upcoming HKAGE Professional Development Seminars by messrs Porath, van Tassel-Baska and Chandler:

Hong Kong’s 2012 Biennial Gifted Education Conference in May is another van Tassel-Baska/Chandler show:

Who’s in the running to establish a new university campus on a premium Hong Kong site?

The pressure’s on to secure a place at one of Vietnam’s High Schools for the Gifted:

English medium teaching in Vietnam’s High Schools for the Gifted runs into difficulties:

Vietnam is experiencing a brain drain of gifted students, but only from urban areas:

Wow! Israel’s Education Ministry has a ‘super gifted’ programme comprising 15-18 students a year:

Two reports on giftedness and gifted education from Bangalore India: and

Looks like ICIE is planning a January 2013 gifted education conference in Chennai India:

Arab News carries a short article highly critical of the Saudi gifted programme (Mawhiba):  Brave!

Gifted jobs: teaching posts in trilingual (Kaz, Rus, Eng) Kazakhstani Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools:


More on Jill Bevan-Brown’s work on gifted Maori learners:

Access the presentations from the recent giftEDnz conference in NZ:

ERO Report on science in the NZ Curriculum: – notes that gifted learners get favourable treatment in a few schools

Two Sydney Morning Herald pieces on giftedness and gifted education: and

The line-up for Australia’s 13th National Conference on Gifted Education, July 2012:


A report (in sub-standard English) of recent developments in gifted education in Russia:

Russia’s Ivanovo Region is opening an orphanage for gifted children: with Medvedevian support

El bachillerato de excelencia: igualdad o equidad?

8 razones por las que atender la Alta Capacidad y el Talento

Mi hijo tiene alta capacidad, se lo digo?

“Mama, no quiero ir al cole, me aburro!”

Desarrollar el talento, promover la excelencia: dos exigencias de un sistema educativo mejor

Gifted education in Spain – @Begabungs interviews @jtoufi

The Netherlands Education Ministry on transport for gifted students (in Dutch):

The fissure within the Leonardo Foundation, supporting Netherlands gifted education, is made public (in Dutch)

Talent I Skolen: – gifted education in Denmark

On gifted education in Norway (in Norwegian):

Stortingsmelding 22 og ‘De hoyt presterende elevene’ (in Norwegian):

PISA 2009 data on the proportion of high-achieving learners in Ireland:

Interview with Colm O’Reilly of Center For Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI):

The speaker line-up at yesterday’s MENSA Greece Conference on Gifted and Talented Children and their needs:

CBO is setting up a school for gifted children in Flanders:


Pauline Dixon, a UK specialist in development education, including support for disadvantaged gifted learners:

More ‘genius children’ coverage from the BBC:

A superb Heroes and Heroines Comic produced by Southwark’s gifted kids:

Hoping to find out more this morning about IGGY’s future plans:

Michelle Obama as ambassador for gifted education:

Shami Chakrabarti supports the gifted programme at her old school in Stanmore:  – a potential  GT Voice ambassador?

Gifted Jobs: IGGY Warwick requires a Sales and Marketing Manager: – Up to £45K, deadline 7 May

DfE want your summer schools top tips: – 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:

Lampl says (at 53mins) Sutton Trust report on gifted education due out in June (Smithers qualifies):

Welsh Government’s launch of a new Training Pack for More Able and Talented equals a press notice but no pack:

Raising attainment of more able cited as area for improvement in 8 of sample of 30 primary inspection reports:

TES report on the School Games:

London Zoo Fish 1 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Gifted Education Thematic

Twice Exceptional

Meet the Dugents: a twice-exceptional family:

Express article about a 2e learner in Wales: – unusually sympathetic for the Express!

NAGC chat transcript on the intricacies of 2e learners

Twice-Exceptional Newsletter 16 April 2012:

Twice Exceptional Newsletter, 22 April edition:

SEN Support Staff Scholarships can presumably be used for 2e training, if suitable courses are available

Free Asperger Syndrome and Giftedness Fact Sheet on our website (direct link)

The Saudi version of 2e ‘The Koran Memorisation Competition for Disabled Children’: – Words fail me….

Creativity and Innovation

The Creative Thinking Myth:

Douglas Eby on Jane Piirto:

4 Steps Towards Enhancing Our Own and Students’ Creativity:

The Seelig Innovation Engine Model to unleash creativity:

Guardian Review pulls no punches in demolishing Lehrer’s book ‘How Creativity Works’:

Adobe Report on the ‘creativity gap’ in 5 leading economies (including UK and US):

Who Creates the Innovator – A review of Wagner’s latest book (including intelligence/creativity relationship):

Helping A New Generation Nurture Creative Thinking and Innovation: The Creative Mind

Can Innovation Skills be Learned?

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Check out Cognitive Atlas: a work-in-progress knowledge base for cognitive science:

A post that rightly warns against the tendency of some gifted educators to misuse IQ stats:

Brain injury data used to map intelligence in the brain:

Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence:  (Complete with enlargeable photo of female person worrying)

Project ENIGMA ‘We found fairly unequivocal proof supporting a genetic link to brain function and intelligence

Heritability of IQ

Can you make yourself smarter? (An extensive NYT article):

@sbkaufman: “Brainy” is What “Brainy” Does (Psychology Today):

Time to put on your thinking caps (aka ‘mini-transcranial direct current stimulation devices’):

Willingham on Working Memory Training:

Shortcomings of the IQ-based construct of Underachievement

New centre at Oxford aims to understand how intelligence arises from brain’s circuits.

Neurobonkers blog (great name) on how UK media misrepresent neuroscience research:

Eysenck (1916-1997) Bad ass of assessment? 50 blogs on learning theorists in 50 days)

Gardner Multiple Intelligences or school subjects mirrored?

The limitations of IQ:

How fluid is intelligence? Hambrick inthe NYT:

Why Are We So Obsessed With Improving IQ? Psychology Today


Commentary and Research

Pushing the gifted adult conversation forward :

Social Reactions to Overconfidence  – 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:

Text anxiety in gifted learners:

Gifted education advocates should be more focused on equity issues says this blogger:

Check out this presentation : Raising Gifted Children

Belle Wallace: Who Are The Gifted? Where Are They? 1st of 6 articles:

Can ‘Genius’ be Detected in Infancy? – a helpful counterbalance to the wilder press coverage

New blogspot 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:

Evidence on Ability Peer Effects in (English) Schools: Lavy, Silva and Weinhardt:

Fascinating gender differences in impact of having many fellow pupils in top and bottom 5% by KS2 attainment:

Don Ambrose markets two forthcoming co-publications, one with Sternberg:

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth have produced a retrospective 5-year Report:

Unwrapping Gifted: Differentiation LiveBinders

Final part of Borland’s ‘Problematising Gifted Education’:  Restatement of a position rather than anything new

The importance of increasing AP entry and success amongst minority student populations:

Busting one of the silliest but most common myths:you only use 10 percent of brain

More about the benefits of online learning for gifted learners:

First in a new series on Misdiagnosis and Giftedness:

Why Kenyans Make Such Great Runners: A Story of Genes and Cultures

Can you instil mental toughness (aka resilience)?:

Serving Gifted Students from Poverty, Part 3 of 3:

The value and impact of praise on [gifted] school achievement:

Stephanie Tolan: Who or What?

Gifted Parenting Support: Gifted Learners in Rural Areas:

An Evolutionary Perspective on Giftedness:

Going with the Flow: Student Engagement and Beyond:

Lots of excitement being generated about the potential of TED-Ed videos for gifted education:

The evolution of the geek infographic:

Elite Soccer Players’ Brains Excel At Planning And Problem Solving

How Geniuses Think – The Creativity Post

Being Black and Gifted is Nothing New: – on the work of Martin D Jenkins

Thanks to @MaryStGeorge for her thoughtful contribution to gtchat via her blog post “The Gifted Label”

Not All Highly Intelligent People Are Arrogant Pricks

Giftedness and liking…history from Innreach’s Blog:

Wise words on Creating Online Community for Gifted Advocacy:

“Eat it, Mills” – or how talent development adds to the underachievement problem

Excellent blog post on the gifted label: What’s in a Name?

@GingerLewman: Wanted to share my livebinder – iPad Apps for Gifted & High-Ability Learners

Red herring du jour: defining giftedness:  Broadly sympathetic with that position

Gifted Resources May Newsletter can be read online at

Gifted Exchange on incentives for early high school completion/college start:

Worried about identification for early-years gifted programmes? You will be after reading this!

US NAGC Conceptual Foundations Newsletter featuring article by Wenda Sheard, expat and UK NAGC trustee:

“It is not about intelligence. It’s not about talent, but the motivation to learn.”

Research questions Bell Curve: a few top performers typically carry the rest:  and

Post questioning long-held assumptions about the link between early US gifted education and the space race:

Coincidentally, a post on historical development of US gifted education that cites the influence of Sputnik:


The rapid expansion of AP courses isn’t entirely a good thing:

Delisle opposes Olszewski-Kubilius positioning of US NAGC  They must hold giftedness AND talent development in balance

Still a Square Peg and a Round Hole:

Moving Beyond Achievement: Nurturing Skills Necessary for Success in a Global Environment:

New blog post on acceleration for gifted

Just what is gifted and talented:  – 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:

DfE has published details of the Dux events at RG universities:  – schools have only until 27 April to register

OK I’ve been on my Dux Tour: 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?  – Thanks for the mention!

Revealing post by @xtophercook on relative chances of rich/poor admission to Oxbridge

New research on elite college admissions in the US:

Steven Schwarz says fair access is all about schools: Disagree. It’s a cross-sectoral issue

The Economist on Teach First HEAPS provision supporting HE progression for disadvantaged gifted learners:

Announcement on AAB cap in 2013-14 due by 30 April:

Apropos AAB cap, Willetts must catch up with Gove’s plans to make A level grades more demanding

Willets defines fair access as meritocracy, admitting ‘those who can perform best at any given university’

National Scholarship Programme guidance for 2013-14 to be released by HEFCE tomorrow (19 April):

BIS writing to HEFCE and OFFA seeking ‘a shared strategy for widening access’ to secure VFM: – some co-ordination then!

Overall, the Willetts treatment of the fair access issue manages to beg more questions than it answers:

RussellGroup: Our view on David Willetts’ HEFCE speech: liberated (AAB) places must go further next year

Mail continues to deride the Willetts line on fair access: probing at the fault line between DfE and BIS

Oxford’s UNIQ scheme:

HEFCE’s Provisional Allocations and Guidance for the 2013-14 National Scholarship Programme:

OFFA’s guidance on producing Access Agreements for 2013-14:

Anti-Willetts piece opposes his support of potential-driven fair access:  Worse, it was institution-specific potential!

Article on Cambridge University SU support for fair access:

When I found this website in development I thought PL might be developing a separate existence to the ST:

Become part of the Russell Group by recruiting lots more AAB students from independent schools:

Treasury fears have delayed announcement extending AAB market to ABB from 2013:

SecEd/ASCL guide for schools on meeting new ‘impartial and independent’ careers advice and guidance’ duty:

Sutton Trust release on Oxbridge advice: – 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

A whole gamut of non-educational reasons why children from poor backgrounds may never make it to Oxbridge:

Rather unedifying that schools blame HE and HE blames schools over Oxbridge applications issue. WORK TOGETHER!

Today is deadline for Dux awards registration: 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:

BIS on expanding uncapped recruitment to ABB HEFCE on same  NB ref to cautious estimates

What part should universities play in fostering academic talent?   A big one, jointly with schools and colleges

There may be trouble ahead – @guildheceo on what the latest student number control policies might mean:

Looks as though Stirling as well as Keele has joined US Common Applications system: and

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

Teach First HEAPS programme continues – though somewhat under the radar:

Are state schools biased against Oxbridge?

Social Mobility

British Sociological Association conference papers on social mobility: (pp37-38) All resoundingly negative

A new social mobility strategy from Clegg? – Don’t we already have one of those?

Interview with Alan Milburn on social mobility ahead of his Spring Report:

Milburn’s interview on social mobility in HE in the GMT e-newsletter: – with commentary by @tessa_stone

Preview of cross-party social mobility committee’s interim report out Tuesday: Doubt there’s anything new

So this interim report from the All-Party Parly Group on Social Mobility: – My verdict? Distinctly iffy

All-Party Social Mobility Group chaired by Hinds but members include the sainted Estelle, Field and Hodge

All-party Social Mobility Group has called expert witnesses including Barber, Lampl, Milburn, Woolf: (p3)

All Party Soc Mob Group convinced of importance of pre-HE attainment; dares not utter ‘contexualised’:

All Party Social Mobility Group sees nurturing outstanding talent as distinct area of focus (hooray!) (p9)

All Party SocMob Group priorities for nurturing talent : a. ‘needs blind/assisted places/selective’ (p32)

…and b.  ‘internships/HE exposure, Top Programmes (D of E etc)’ (p32) Latter is especially impenetrable

Before its final report, the All Party Social Mobility group should call on the #bridgegroup and #gtvoice for evidence:

Blears on the cross-party social mobility report:

More on the all-party social mobility report:

And a third treatment of the all-party social mobility report:

CYPN coverage of the interim report from the All Party Social Mobility Group on which I opined yesterday:

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

Narrowing Achievement Gaps

US post contemplating the case for ‘middle class studies’: – A topic in which England can lead the world!

DfE wants EoIs in the evaluation of the Summer Schools Programme for Disadvantaged Pupils: – deadline 17 April

Impact of the reduced subsidy for AP and IB exams on US disadvantaged gifted students:

Why does family wealth affect learning? Willingham:

DFE has published the technical spec for 2013 Schools Census: – 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:

But effective Narrowing the Gap targetry must be differentiated by attainment, not just national benchmarks:

Children’s Society costing of FSM eligibility for all on Universal Credit omits cost of extra Pupil Premium funding:

Slightly worrying growth in attainment gap at Level 3 between FSM / non-FSM students

DfE SFR reports increase of 0.8% in FSM gap for 2+ A levels from 2010 to 2011: – Increasing A level demand will compound

Future First gets funding:

DfE to pilot Virtual Heads (a la looked after children) for Gypsy, Roma, Traveller children:

Academies Enterprise Trust will be spending Pupil Premium funding on online tutors – these in fact

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

The Mayor London’s Mentoring Scheme for black boys seems to be in big trouble:

DfE Research: PISA 2009 How does England’s Social Attainment Gap compare with other countries and

JRF Review: ‘Widespread emphasis on raising aspirations…does not seem to be a good foundation for policy or practice’

JRF Aspirations report ultimately frustrates: more promising ‘area-based multi-strand interventions’ excluded:

JRF Aspirations-raising report raises important questions about the efficacy of interventions like Dux:

LKMCo blog post on the JRF Aspirations-raising report:

Performance-Based Scholarships: Emerging Findings from a National Demonstration (US):

Telegraph on the PISA social attainment gap:  – 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:

Twigg calls for clearer Pupil Premium accountability measures linking funding with achievement of specific pupils:

Evaluating the Pupil Premium – SecEd p9:

Australia is investing in pre-school tutors to tackle disadvantage:


Pupil selection and curriculum content: – Ultimately the issue was and remains progression to HE and beyond

On the beta of “Academies … can select pupils based on academic ability”

Bucks admits Truth that Must not be Spoken re 11+ bias: – Editor magics this into pro-academy spin

Love this grumpy report on a meeting of the Friends of Grammar Schools: – I see Mr Gove dropped in again…

Grammar schools help poor children to succeed? Hmmmm

Is it entirely a bad thing that Kent’s state GS are seen as a better option than any independent alternative?

That said, I still maintain that all GS should give priority to FSM-eligible candidates:

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

At last! The Great Expectations publication from David Jesson for the Schools Network via @dylanwiliam

‘Further work is in progress to extend these frameworks to more able pupils in all schools’ (Jesson):

Grammar schools vary considerably in quality. Some are outstanding, and some really rather mediocre:

Admissions and School Places

BHA Press Notice about its legal action against Richmond over that new RC secondary school:

Here’s the projections data I’ve found: (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:

Have you seen the full version of the GLA Projections Methodology they mention in the summary here (p1)?

I’m interested what happens when the numbers drop off again. I’ve been playing with this tool:


Welcome to the Academies ‘speed commission’:   though the commissioners are a bit usual suspectish and speed = 9 months!

This article on Left Foot Forward says the Commission will be independent: That should be in the remit

For me the biggest risk inherent in mass ‘academisation’ lies in wholesale disapplication of the National Curriculum:

Machin: ‘We do not yet have robust, academically rigorous evidence on [the impact of] coalition academies’:

Looks as though the enforced primary school battleground is shifting to Lambeth:

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

Ben Bradshaw questions due diligence processes for academy conversion citing West Exe Technology College: (Col 8)

More about due diligence over West Exe Technology College’s conversion to academy status in written PQ form: (Col 92W)

30 PFI schools have converted to academies – the list is here:  (Col 80W)

A fair amount of Downhills correspondence has been released in response to this FoI request:

A FoI has gone in requesting the Funding Agency report on financial management of the Lincoln Priory Federation:

Luton may or may not have three enforced primary academies: – The LA is denying it

In which @toadmeister ignores Machin’s plea – – and applies old research evidence to new contexts:

Blog on Academies Commission: – Wondering if proof’s in the pudding or the pie:

I must do my bit to advertise the reliance of Durand Academy on PR worth £200K: – Never believe the hype

More on the Seldon/O’Shaugnessy academies partnership  Positive Psychology’s worth £5m investment but SEAL is ‘ghastly’?

Dunford on middle tier 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’:

A ‘failure to distinguish between the autonomy of school leaders as expert educationalists and organisational autonomy’

A Dover Academy HT has been appointed by DfE as a ‘short term intervention troubleshooter….superhead’:

Guardian coverage of News International’s aspirations to establish an academy: – they weren’t welcomed with open arms

Leveson has published the emails concerning News International’s interest in academies and free schools: (KRM21 + 22)

Will we see the emergence of more academy chains specialising in AP institutions, or will they join existing chains?

Cawley’s appointment as Secford Exec HT after chairing consultation raises questions for Seckford:

DfE has issued details and a statement of the financial investigation into the Priory Federation:

SOLACE Report: the Championing Role of English Councils in Education:

Director of Policy Exchange says phase two of the Govian revolution is all about chains

Michael Rosen twists the knife over accountability and transparency in relation to failing/problem academies:

DfE’s FAQs on academy chains with helpful powerpoint slides:

Have I read correctly? Seems to be no body overseeing complaints about academies?

128 academies will have to pay back an average £118K LACSEG by July: (TES)

Christine Gilbert thinks school collaboration can fulfil the missing middle tier role: – devil’s in the detail

NAHT has agreed a match-funded pilot with Government to support schools at risk of forced academisation: (at end)

More from NAHT about their planned role in school improvement: – conference has to agree first

More Downhills papers released by Haringey in response to FoI:  – interesting

Free Schools

The NUT’s free schools dossier: – presumably release of impact assessments is to inform potential judicial reviews?

Direct link to NUT’s analysis of free school costs: – 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’

It’s the ubiquitous Rob Cawley again: – 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? – Isn’t that selective?

Lisa Nandy: my response to Andrew Adonis on free schools in NewStatesman

Gibb say that data on FSM eligibility in free schools now in Commons Library (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:

Rupert Murdoch reveals meetings with Michael Gove over free schools

NUT take umbrage at the idea of a News International-sponsored free schools – they want an enquiry:

More on the London Academy of Excellence: – Insufficient excellence; insufficient focus on disadvantage. Fail

Kerry McCarthy on FSM in free schools data now in Commons Library: It’s STILL not online however:

Seckford Foundation plan one manager for every 12 children. One Senior Leader per 30 children.

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector 2012:

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

More on New Orleans charter schools:

NEPC study of US charter school spending compared with public schools:

he influence and impact of founders on US charter schools’ performance: – Food for thought for free schools?

We should keep an eye on this combination of vouchers and charter schools in Louisiana: – it will surface here soon

Here’s the charter schools paper from the NZ Education Policy Response Group mentioned in the article:

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

For me Ch4 is more important than Ch6. The former’s criticisms could be extended to the latter:

The NZ Charter Schools working group has its own website here:

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:  Is it a trifle smug and complacent?

Worthwhile (and much-needed?) HMC initiative to share schools’ pedagogical expertise with HE:

Martin Stephen says independent schools must evolve or face extinction:

Highlights of Independent Schools Council 2012 Census  As of now only 2011 census is on ISC’s site

Private sector being squeezed: poor schools close; better ones become enclaves of overseas students, or academies!:

Curriculum and Pedagogy

GiftedPhoenix: Willingham-style FAQs on learning styles:

OFSTED notes ‘increasing autonomy’ over curricular decisions ‘may present some contradictions’: (para 70)

RSA worries whether teachers are equipped to exploit their new-found curricular freedoms:

A necessary focus on support for gifted learners is still missing from debate on computer science in schools:

Isn’t Williams responsible for RE not being in the EBacc, since he failed to organise a Bishops’ ambush in the Lords?

A broadly pro ability grouping presentation on Slideshare:

Unusually sharp words from DFE on the decline in MFL GCSE numbers: ‘a national scandal’: National strategy forthcoming?

Is there a particular emphasis on local issues? – If you’re right, are we looking at early May announcement?

Why no answers on detail of the NC review process?

Paganism makes it on to the Cornish Agreed Syllabus for RE: – and why not indeed?

Flexible ability grouping:

NUT Guidance on the EYFS Statutory Framework:

Music education jobs under threat as announcement awaited on successful music hub bids, due early May:

Reaction to ICT disapplication exemplifies the downside of excessive curricular autonomy We need a ‘flexible framework’

Looks like the President of the ALL wants ICT-type curricular freedoms for MFL – Interestingly the ICT lobby is less sure

DfE is commissioning research on the effects of the EBacc: – 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:

The problem of preparing teachers to implement the Common Core State Standards: – Prophetic of upcoming issues here?

Sentamu returns to the charge over RE in the EBacc:  – High time the developed an alternative REBacc?

Direct link to the Tombs report for Politiea on the history curriculum: – Do not read if of a nervous disposition!

Reaction to lazy newspaper coverage of the Politeia Report on History:

DfE next steps for EYFS

If there’s such a thing as ‘maths anxiety’ is there an equivalent anxiety for each other subject? Unconvinced

John Holman says the Government won’t make post-16 maths compulsory – so what are the policy levers?

Interesting @theschoolsnet article showing they had an inside track on NC consultation: – Should publish full evidence

NC Review must reconcile contradiction between dumping primary NC levels + rectifying ‘lack of pace and ambition at KS2

Music education hubs due for announcement today. I’m assuming the details will appear here:

Music Hub announcement reaction in West Sussex: and Brighton:

Some of the new music hubs are more hubby than others:

Willingham on why learning to read English is hard (with map to prove the point):

Assessment and Qualifications

A conservative defence of A level reform built upon Robert Coe’s research:

EoIs for the administration of PISA 2015: – deadline 27 April

OFQUAL has published undertakings by the different exam boards to improve exam paper quality and reduce errors:

Harris Federation postpones IB for a year because of high cost and low take-up: – worrying sign

@mikebakeredhack asks the awkward practical questions about HE-led A level reform:

DfE’s Standards and Testing Agency seeks a ‘maladministration advisor’ ‘registrations by sole traders may be rejected’!

Julius Weinberg, VC of Kingston University, appointed to OFQUAL Board, along with Barnaby Lenon:

A whole mass of data showing the prevalence of qualifications equivalent to GCSEs in academies: (Col 535ff)

Background on the new KS2 Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Test for introduction in 2013:

FAQs on the 2013 Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Test: – includes provision for Level 6 (last Answer)

KS2 grammar, spelling and punctuation test under threat of NAHT boycott:

OFQUAL to impose partial ban on exam board seminars for teachers: – will that eradicate the content tips? Not sure

OFQUAL has published its report on Exam Board seminars but, mysteriously, it’s password-protected Why?

Direct link to Nuffield Foundation study of maths content in A levels:  – SCORE report not up yet:

@emoorse01: My take on Mr Gove at the Education Select Committee: Didn’t he imply ditching levels wholesale?

Glenys Stacey refers explicitly to A level grade inflation The Emperor’s now officially naked – there’s no turning back

The Stacey A level interview – Raises the question whether changing too much at once brings diminishing returns

KS2 English writing – moderation: Level 6 exemplification guidance:

@RealGeoffBarton: thoughts on the grammatical/stylistic characteristics of A* English students

Gove to Select Committtee Q225 ‘one area where I am very strongly persuaded…moving away from levels at primary school’

Ed Week report on US pilot of a PISA-based test for schools (using PISA 2009 instruments): – 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:

NAHT also voted to disrupt new KS2 SPAG test: and (along with ASCL) oppose loss of of AS Levels:

Black & Wiliam: Formative feedback key to better learning (50 blogs, 50 days on learning theorists)


There’s no one correct way to rate schools:

Campaign for Science and Engineering suggests STEM kitemark for schools With gifted education element I hope

How might OFSTED react to a flipped classroom? – Perhaps we should ask them…

New blog on some league table findings, including progress measures, intakes, GCSE entries

The author of the US study exploring the possible import of OFSTED -style inspection responds to his critics:

Interesting parallels between this Harvard work in the US and the development of Destination Indicators here:

Jay Greene on PISA-type comparisons and the dangers associated with selection on an unvarying dependent variable:

DfE confirms publication of Destination Measures in July: so correcting what Gove said to Select Committee

DfE’s Destination Indicators brief fails to clarify if HE indicators will show RG/Oxbridge separately:

I’ve little time for ‘what right have they to inspect us’ sentiment re OFSTED, but hands off left-handed ticks!

Pearson on unlocking the power of education data: – 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 (Col 1239W)

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

Pro-OFSTED leader in the Independent: – 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  – and set to become tougher still

HMCI Wilshaw continues his rehabilitation process with the profession by adopting a more emollient tone:

TES on the mysteriously invisible Jesson Schools Network Grammar Schools study:

Wow – TES editorial gets close to agreeing with what I just said about OFSTED: – wonders will never cease

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

Progress on US national assessment instruments linked with the Common Core:

Strong government rides roughshod over opposition; becomes weaker, offers concessions: – opposition exacts revenge

China’s blocking publication of national PISA scores; Schleicher gives an over-simplified explanation of Asian success:

Teachers and Teacher Education

The new-style NPQH will have all the in-vogue bells and whistles: – but what about the CONTENT?

Don Foster asks if about evidence that graduates with 1st class degrees make better teachers: (Col 11) – Answer No-ish

National Scholarship Fund for Teachers Round 2 Handbook: – 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: (Col WA371)

NUT Survey of SENCOs:

Today’s School Workforce SFR has a really handy table (12) giving headcount of secondary teachers by subject and KS:

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

Useful account of current US debate on performance related pay for teachers

Interesting re Teach First costs, which I hadn’t seen before, via @jpjsavage

Interestingly Lampl’s just said a. teacher effectiveness is a priority and b. TF isn’t scaleable

Education Select Committee calls for more research into qualities that support effective teaching: (Para 42)

Education Select Committee misses a trick in not connecting prospective teacher spotting to social mobility  (para 46ff)

Education Select Committee parrots the universal but rather uncritical endorsement of Teach First: (paras 64-66)

Education Select Committee Report very supportive of universities’ role in ITE:  (Para 67ff)

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

Charlotte Leslie calls for a Royal College of Teachers: – 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:

Teachers and Performance Pay – Big Practical Obstacles to Overcome

Sadly it was only a matter of time before payment by results made the Atlantic crossing: – I repeat, it’s a blind alley

OFSTED analysis of responses to its consultation on inspection of initial teacher education:

New blog post: @beckyallen and Simon Burgess argue that teacher selection is the wrong way round:

Here: Impact of Teach First on recruitment not very clear.

Evaluation of US pilot incentivising effective teachers to transfer to low-achieving schools:

Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching – Darling-Hammond et al:


First e-bulletin from the Education Funding Agency:

Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools? Michigan study says they spend relatively more on admin; less on teaching

Will Mitt Romney endorse vouchers as Republican education policy? When will they resurface here?

I believe the capital constraints on free school expansion will help push school vouchers back on to the agenda:

Chapter and verse for DfE turning down the Truss idea of a funding premium for maths A level: (Col 16)

Various Year 5 Milwaukee voucher evaluations:  and various NEPC critiques of same:

Yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on School Funding: (Col 189WH)

Education Funding Agency e-bulletin 2 –

Central Government

The YouGov survey for NUT highlights concern at limited consultation over – and evaluation of – Government initiatives:

Wilby bemoans the loss of what used to be called the ‘checks and balances’ in the education system: He may have a point

The post that says there will be no SEN White Paper (and what there will be instead):

If you make it into Michael Gove’s office, you can enjoy a painting by one Bernard Cheese: (Col 329W)

Direct link to new NAO Cross Government Review on Implementing Transparency:

Guido and his acolytes have got hold of the Gove balloon story:

So DCMS could go to BiS who could then had over universities to DfE?

Back to the Future, or the nostalgic strand of Coalition education policy:

The conclusions and recommendations of the Public Admin Select Committee on Strategic Thinking in Government:

HEFCE has given its website a makeover:

Lib Dem proposal that education policy should be devolved to a partially elected Educational Council: Bureaucracy-heavy

DfE has published an updated ‘Myths and Facts for Schools’ document:

The Economist calls Govian reforms ‘brave’, ‘novel’, ‘risky’ and ‘bold’ –  – Yes Minister

This handy Dods supplement to The House magazine covers the No 10 operation in detail, even including contact numbers:

Here’s the Teaching Agency Business Plan for 2012-13:

The National College Business Plan for 2012/13:

Here is the 2012-15 Business plan for the Education Funding Agency, just published by DfE:

DfE has published the 2012-13 Business Plan of the Standards and Testing Agency:

14 DfE Free Schools and Academies Education Advisers’ named contracts are now on Contracts Finder (search on DfE):

Prophetic piece in the Telegraph just ahead of today’s elections:  – Interestingly omits Johnson from ‘the NI crowd’

Uncorrected evidence – Gove to Education Select Committee 24 April:

Other Reviews, Research and Reports

AERA’s 2012 Annual Meeting has an interesting theme: – You can search online for papers here:

Eurydice Report on Entrepreneurship Education in schools across Europe:

New McKinsey study on Mobile Education:

A range of new ADCS studies on the role of local authorities in school improvement:

Twigg, Devolution and Schools and Labour’s consultation document:

Direct link to new OECD study on socio-economic stratification between public and private schools: – covers vouchers

IEA Study: Policy, Practice and Readiness to Teach Primary and Secondary Mathematics in 17 Countries (excludes England)

EU (EENEE) study on equity issues in the economics of education:

This Schott Foundation Report of inequitable education in NYC should inform the London Mayor’s Education Inquiry:

Social Research Unit series of cost-benefit reports for children’s services, Investing in Children:

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:

How to set up and run a MOOC: (Part 1 of 6)

A critique of the Minerva Project to create an elite online university from an unsurprising source:

Very useful list of 50 Best Sources of Free Education Online

Willetts speech today on open access research with support from Mr Wales: – More power to their elbows on this

Willetts pe-empts his speech later on open access to research:

The full Willetts speech on open access to research: – Sound, but he’s clearly not a Twitter user!

Willetts Speech on Open Access: Analysis

Why academic publishers’ days are numbered: – 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:

PA claims academic publishers earn their cut by ‘filtering’, ‘signalling’ and ‘amplifying’ research. No way Jose!

Google search education – help your students become better searchers:

EdX – the Harvard/MIT partnership that will provide free online courses worldwide:

The Virtues of Blogging as Scholarly Activity @mweller in The Chronicle –

The Edublogger is conducting a survey of the educational use of blogs:

A truly excellent and comprehensive guide to running a Twitter chat:


Progress on the RNCF’s Assisted Boarding Network: – 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:

Done! 50 blogs in 50 days on learning theorists -Greeks to Marxists to present Psychologists

Deloitte offers to help HE provide a personalised student support service commensurate with higher fees:

Building excellence in education 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:

What’s the average admin cost of a truancy fine recouped via courts or child benefit? Bet it’s more than value of fine:

Academic repression of Emo subculture in Saudi Universities:  – Overly boyish female students thrown in for good measure

Shocked to see the great @DrPaulKelley has left Monkseaton – 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:

Goading the Stodgy Middle:  – 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

Brilliant Pink News editorial on the CES and anti-gay petitions including a telling ‘roles in reverse’ scenario:

Hope CES gay marriage investigations bring greater clarity on overlap between ‘religious’ and ‘political’ teaching:

Stiff Brook/FPA letter about CES anti-gay marriage petition:  ‘this naked attempt…to induce bigotry and intolerance’

The Welsh verdict on the anti-gay marriage petition circulated by the CES:  – schools not CES in the firing line

Educating Essex Deputy Head moves school…all the way to Brentwood:

BHA: no uncontested application for new school from a faith body rejected; just 6 of 39 non-faith applications approved

Direct link to NCB’s Beyond the Cuts report estimating children’s charities face cuts of £405m over 5 years:

This report on public sector delivery is well worth a read if you can see through the symbolic merry-go-rounds:

Brief report and a topping photo marking the first meeting of Camden’s Partnership for Educational Excellence:

Government has offered Sandwell £1m if it will drop its legal challenge over BSF:

The official position on BSF judicial review out-of-court settlements:  (Col WA426)

Priority Schools Building Programme announcement due this month (May): (Col 1239W)

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

US study on whether schools open too early: – Ironically undertaken in Wake County (North Carolina)

Saudi Arabia is planning an ‘independent higher authority to evaluate school education’: – A kind of OFSTED plus?

This makes an interesting read for Pearson watchers and education observers alike:

2011 CERP Literature Review on 1:1 Tuition online and offline:

Michael Rosen on schools for profit models: 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: – prescribes various panaceas

Estelle Morris rehashes the ‘standards not structures’ mantra (which I too hold dear):

My alert system has only just picked up Twigg’s speech to the NASUWT:

Q: What ‘s the correlation between shared ‘religious culture’ of a church school and its performance? – A. Exaggerated

Q. Do students with water do better in exams because they’re hydrated?  A. It’s probably a proxy for wider preparedness

Interesting argument for the rejection of evidence-based practice  which misunderstands the nature of national standards


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.


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.


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.


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.


May 2012