Gifted Education in India

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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.

India-flag

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..

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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.

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courtesy of rajeshodayanchal

courtesy of rajeshodayanchal

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Delhi from a Rickshaw courtesy of wili_hybrid

Delhi from a Rickshaw courtesy of wili_hybrid

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Precursors of NAGE-India

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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.

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The Afternoon Glowing Temple courtesy of stuck in customs

The Afternoon Glowing Temple courtesy of stuck in customs

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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.

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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.

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Varanasi India courtesy of babasteve

Varanasi India courtesy of babasteve

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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.

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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.

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Wheel of Time courtesy of stuck in customs

Wheel of Time courtesy of stuck in customs

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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.

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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.

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GP

June 2013