Our complete formal response to Draft NEP 2019 written by Radha Gopalan, other GenWise mentors and Vishnu Agnihotri, is available here- it covers our overall observations on the NEP, some observations on specific points and also makes recommendations. This post and others in this series, cover some of the ideas and recommendations presented in our formal response. To have a conversation with us, please follow us on twitter at @Genwise_ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the previous post, we made some recommendations on capacity building measures. In this post we share our recommendations on identifying and nurturing gifted students, a topic covered briefly in section 4.10 of the Draft NEP.
It is heartening to note the proposed initiatives mentioned in 4.10 on the support of students with singular talents and interests. While the goal should be to support all students’ interests and dispositions, helping them to enrich themselves and fulfill their potential, identifying and nurturing gifted students has a particular relevance in nation/ world building. As Dr. Lubinski, an expert in the psychology of gifted children from Vanderbilt University says, “When you look at the issues facing society now — whether it's health care, climate change, terrorism, energy — these are the kids who have the most potential to solve these problems. These are the kids we'd do well to bet on.”
We have the following recommendations in this area.
1. Identification of Gifted Students- Psychologists generally agree that aptitudes (or innate talent) concretize by the age of 14. This means that we are unlikely to spot new aptitudes in children after the age of 14-15. Recognizing these aptitudes early is important; if an aptitude is not recognized early enough, it will not be nurtured sufficiently. Some aptitudes may go completely unrecognized as children may have no opportunities at school or home to engage in these areas (e.g. design, playing a musical instrument).
Identification of gifted students should start by age 10 (or even earlier in some cases). Existing instruments for identification of giftedness on different dimensions (nationally and internationally) should be evaluated and a battery of quality instruments (paper-pencil tests as well as observed tasks) should be made available easily and at affordable costs (free for students of government schools). At least 10-20 master resource persons in each state should be trained on using these instruments effectively with children. A National Gifted Talent Search Test from Grades 5-9 should be conducted annually. The test should include as many abilities that can be tested using automated scoring as possible. The existing NTSE does not test for some kinds of abilities and in any case is only available in Grade 9.
2. Interventions to Support Gifted Students- 4.10 mentions ‘study circles’ and ‘residential summer programs’- these are welcome initiatives and will make a difference. We have also noted through media articles that a gifted school along the lines of the ‘Sirius Educational Centre’ in Russia is being considered. Additionally, other initiatives should be explored for providing gifted students the support they need. Some suggestions are shared below-
a. Online mentoring- Both MOOCs and tutor-based programs can be used to provide challenging material and mentoring support to gifted students. Schools, School Complexes and the proposed Community Learning Hubs can provide the needed infrastructure.
b. Acceleration- Students identified as gifted in a particular subject could attend classes in that subject with students of a higher grade. Schools have been doing this informally in rare cases. A more systematic and well-defined approach will help schools to implement this more effectively.
c. Shorter day-scholar/ residential programs through the year- These could be 1-5 day programs during holidays, apart from longer programs in Summer. Kerala SCERT has already been conducting summer residential programs. The experience of organizations like Kerala SCERT, GenWise, NIAS etc. in India and the likes of Johns Hopkins CTY, Duke TIP and Northwestern CTD in the US would provide valuable inputs to this exercise.
d. Training teachers on giftedness- Gifted students can have difficulty in fitting in with their peer group, impulse control and in other areas, leading them being labelled as ‘disruptive’ or in social isolation. Many teachers are not even aware of these aspects of giftedness. Training them to do a first-level intervention will be very helpful to gifted students. Teachers should also be provided with a support system whom they can rely on for such cases. In our work at GenWise, we often come across children who have been pulled out of school at a young age because schools are unable to handle them along with the rest of the children.
3. National Level Conference on Gifted Education- An annual national level conference with experts and practitioners from around the world, will go a long way towards creating a knowledge base and awareness about gifted education. The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) in the US is holding its 66th convention in 2019- see http://www.nagc.org/. NAGC is a major influencer of government policy and plays a key role in creating awareness about gifted education.