International Gifted Education Teacher-Development (IGET) Network

The International Gifted Education Teacher-Development Network (IGET-Network) emerged from a course on the Education of Culturally Diverse Gifted Learners offered by the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Education in South Africa. The course was led by the Network’s founders, Ruksana Osman, Head of the Wits School of Education and Joy M Scott, Visiting Scholar and Professor of Education.

Three Co-Founders of the Network are part of the five-strong leadership team. Joy M Scott is Executive Director. The other two named are Ruksana Osman and Mrs Noele Hillen, Headmistress of Beaulieu Preparatory School in Johannesburg.

There are two further members of the leadership team – Associate Director for South Africa Albert Bhulana, (who is studying for a Masters degree at Wits and was a participant in the course that inspired the network) and Karen Bendelman, who is US-based and newly added as Associate Director for Latin American Countries.

The website also names several consultants, almost all of them based in the USA. Four of them have involvement with Project U-Stars Plus, a Javits-funded project based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which ran from 2003 to 2008. (There is more information about the Project in this 2007 NAGC publication – pages 59-61.)

The current membership is not given, though the June 2009 newsletter refers to 45 members. There are said to be 400 subscribers to the newsletter but it is unclear whether they are all members.

Membership is open to educators in schools and higher education, gifted education and STEM specialists, school administrators, community leaders, trainee teachers and parents.

Annual subscriptions range from $175 for institutional membership (eg higher education departments, school districts) to $12 for retired educators aged over 55. It is not clear what parents pay.

All members receive monthly newsletters and free e-mentoring consultations (see below). Institutional members also benefit from free annual advertising in the newsletter or on the website and discounts on seminars and conferences provided through the Network.

The Network’s mission is:

‘to bring world-wide best practices in the gifted education field of study and practice, to countries where gifted education is not incorporated into school governance policies. We aim to assist schools in identifying and nurturing culturally diverse learners’ potential for achieving beyond what is often expected of them….to cross borders in areas where children possess outstanding potentials yet because of extenuating circumstances are never recognized as gifted, talented or having high potential.’

Five areas of activity are identified:

Teacher Development is identified as the network’s core activity and is offered at four discrete levels. Participants must have completed the preceding levels and there is apparently no provision for accreditation of prior learning:

  • Level 1 provides an introduction to the development of gifted education and current practice, with a particular focus on gifted learners from minority ethnic and disadvantaged backgrounds;
  • Level 2 is about the identification of gifted learners through multiple criteria and includes training in the use of a teacher observation tool developed for U-Stars Plus;
  • Level 3 covers differentiation and teaching strategies; and
  • Level 4 focuses on the design of enrichment activities for gifted learners.

E-Mentoring typically provided through e-mail by ‘international gifted education specialists/mentors’ for classroom teachers needing to challenge and support their gifted learners. Eligibility is currently confined to teachers employed in African or Caribbean primary and secondary schools. The website will in future carry the profiles of registered mentors. An application form is supplied for those wishing to apply as mentors.

Needs Assessment – The website advertises a ‘user-friendly individually tailored and computerised needs assessment instrument’ that supports identification, programme planning and teachers’ professional development.

Additional Services incorporates a number of activities that can be contracted by school districts, higher education institutions, families and individuals, including: enrichment programmes; parental and community engagement workshops; university level gifted education courses and professional development; counselling for learners wishing to apply for residential gifted programmes and universities in the United States; developing ‘enriched international Pen-Pal friendships’; and supportive international exchange activity.

International Collaboration is also offered:

‘Our network members, colleagues and co-founders are available to collaborate with teachers, academicians and others on initiating empirical research; writing papers with global interests; delivering presentations, hosting and organizing international conferences; formulating research agendas; and advising graduate students whose research agendas reflect an international perspective in the gifted education field.

We are particularly interested in partnerships with schools and gifted programs that desire to improve the education and support of culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged gifted learners.’

The website lists several ‘affiliations and support’ [sic] all of which are based either in USA or South Africa:

  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • Beaulieu Preparatory School-Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
  • Independent Schools Association of South Africa (ISASA)
  • National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC)
  • Northwestern University Center for Talent Development (CTD)
  • Project U-Stars Plus, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted Children (SENG)
  • World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC)
  • Wits School of Education (WSoE) University of Witwatersrand—Johannesburg, South Africa and
  • Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

The Resources section of the website is also focused almost exclusively on US provision and some of the Newsletter items reinforce the suspicion that, while the Network may have global aspirations, it remains heavily focused on promoting US gifted education providers in South Africa through the relationship established with the University of Witwatersrand.

For example, the School of Education at Wits is ‘interested in hosting American postdoctoral fellows with a research agenda in the gifted education field of study as it relates to the education of culturally diverse gifted learners’.

Wits also invites American scholars active within the gifted education field of study to consider co-presenting with our network leaders’ at a Conference ‘Perspectives on Identifying High Potential Candidates for Higher Education: Transformation or Elitism’ taking place in October 2011.

This impression is reinforced by the logo on the header of the website which consists of the South African and US flags.

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