Non-US Dopers: tell me about gifted education in your country

I happened to pick up a book on gifted education at the library, so I’ve been thinking about this subject. Education for gifted kids (that is, bright kids who may learn quickly and don’t fit into a regular classroom very well, some of whom are really extremely intelligent) in America is pretty haphazard and not well-funded. Many families struggle to find a school that will accomodate a gifted child. Some states or districts fund successful magnet schools or programs. I’ve been looking at our local offerings too and I’m not all that impressed, though the high school options look good.

So now I’m wondering what kids in, say, the UK or Europe or other places do, and I bring it to the Dopers. I’m particularly wondering about younger children, say 13 and under. In your country, what would a school do with a child who learns much more quickly than most classmates and spends most of the day being bored? Perhaps a 6yo who can read very well, or an 8yo who can read anything you give him or who has knows all his math facts cold for a year now and wants to do something interesting. What would happen with a highly gifted child, the girl who wants to study algebra when she’s 10 or who reads Anna Karenina under her desk at 13?

Because I lived in Denmark for a while as a teen and attended folkeskole, I’d be particularly interested in any Danish responses, but I want to hear from everyone, please.

I’ve put this in IMHO for lack of a better idea, sorry if it doesn’t quite fit here.

There doesn’t appear to be anything for gifted kids in the UK (well, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland has an independent education system) that’s structured by the government, as far as I can see. When I was in primary school, the teacher just gave extra work (from more advanced text books that were hanging around) to the kids who raced ahead.

Gifted children can also be put in for extension tests on the SATS, if I remember correctly, to get a higher score, but this doesn’t really mean much.

There’s always private schools, too, that usually give scholarships to bright children.

Most kids I know were bored in school. In my Primary School (ie for kids 4 to 12 or thereabouts) kids were streamed for maths and some other subjects if they were significantly brighter than the average. There were more challenging maths problems posed and more taught to the group. More creative/gifted kids were also more encouraged than the general group to pursue extracurricular activities such as reading groups, quizzes and the like. This was all in the mid-1980’s to mid-1990s. Things have probably changed since.

There’s the Young Gifted and Talented programme in England (no idea about elsewhere). This came about specifically because of the problems which were arising within mixed-ability schooling, failing to fully stretch and develop the potential of the most able children.

In NSW there is a network of public, selective high schools catering to the upper echelon of academically talented students. Entry to these is highly competitive. In years 5 and 6, the last two years of primary school, some schools have “opportunity classes” to stream out the better students. They then go on to sit the entrance exams for the selective high schools.

Many of the private schools focus on the scholastic side and target high performing students too.

OK, interesting. But An Gadai, was everyone bored because the work was too easy and they wanted more, or because of the usual “school is by definition boring” thing?

Wow, NSW sounds interesting. I’d be interested in learning more about that system.

More please!

I don’t really know much more about it. But here’s a link that may be useful: Selective high schools

I am in Australia, my daughter is 11 and has been classified as gifted (don’t remember the IQ ranking or what level of gifted, could look in the files if necessary.) Before anyone comes in and says “every parent thinks their little pwecious is gifted.”, we didn’t. We had her assessed at the advice of a friend who was a teacher because of problems that developed at her private school. We didn’t expect the result. (Me defensive? Why do you ask?)

She has been in the private school system and in the public school system. She is currently in grade 6 and looking at which high school to attend right now! So, unless one of the Dopers is actually involved in gifted education, I am probably your best bet!

She was at a private school. One year she went backwards. My protests were discounted as “every parent here thinks their child is gifted”, “just what you would expect from the sociodemographics of the parents”. See “defensive”, above.

So, on the advice of a friend, we got her assessed. The assessment was actually very valuable - not cos we got a “gifted” label for her :rolleyes: , but because the psychologist had constructive suggestions on activities for her, and on how to get her to re-engage. The reaction to the assessment by the school official with whom we dealt resulted in our moving her to a local public school. She is now doing fine there. The first couple of years were difficult - the re-engagement thing.

*It was the teacher’s first year, and the class had a lot of difficult kids in it. My daughter tends to be on the polite side (didn’t get that from either parent :slight_smile: ), and it seems she would just …do as little as possible and take her mind away.

Slightly off-topic: I was put in the Gifted stream in our high school. As far as I’m aware, we had to do an interview with the school authorities and put in an application–I had a number of tests, and a visit with a psychologist, to figure out my IQ level beforehand (I’m not sure if it was that or just my grades that had any bearing).

I loved it–we had the best teachers, the most rewarding material, and a group of like-minded people to talk to and work with. I wouldn’t change it for the world. :slight_smile:

Both of my sons were in the OC at the local primary school and attended a selective high school. The headmaster at the primary school suggested that it was a waste of time for the elder son to sit the test for the OC because his school work was so poor. He achieved the best score in the district. Later we found that he and his brother suffered ADD, a thought that had never crossed our minds.

The OC amde a huge difference to both boys. In each case they had a teacher specially trained in teaching gifted children. High school education was more problematic. The teachers are just the same mob that were there before it became a selective high and largely their attitude seems to be, “why waste any effort on the hard to teach kids, we will get good overall results anyway because all our kids are in the top 5% intellectually.” I thought it was a pretty mediocre place.

In Australia we have public schools (publically funded, open to any child of a local resident, no fees but a small charge for excursions, books and other extras), private schools (privately funded, charge fees) and very little home-schooling. Most of the private schools are religious based, some only nominally so, others quite strict. Some private schools target academic achievement.

Primary school is Kindergarden to year 6, high school is year 7 to year 12.

In the public system, a child may sit for the opportunity class or “OC” placement in years 5 and 6. It is a one-off selective exam, which in theory is a test of innate ablilty. There is a lot of competition for places, and it is extremely common for children to be coached to pass the exam. (Anecdotal: it is reported that in the OC class at my daughter’s school, usually 80 - 90% of the kids have been coached). The OC classes are supposed to offer an extended and enriched program for the students, to keep the brighter kids challenged.

For high school, some private schools offer full and/or partial scholarships to attract more academically able children. This is, I believe, to enhance the results at the end of year 12 - the UAI or University Admission rankings.

In the public system, there are state comprehensive (see public primary) and state selective schools - see Cunctators’s link. And if the competition for the OC classes is tough, the selective high school’s one is really fought! There are also now some comprehensive state schools offering a selective stream. The one we are famiiliar with involves a different selective exam to the one for the state selective high schools.

There are also non-school based classes that gifted primary kids can attend, but they are not free. UNSW runs the GERRIC program, PLC Croydon has an Extension Centre, the federal government science body, CSIRO, has holiday programs.


A bit of both. The teacher used to get annoyed at some of us because every five minutes we’d say “Miss, I’m finished my work” when she had better things to be doing. I believe I was accused of “know-it-all-ism” or something similar one time. :slight_smile:

Off-topic hijack (sorry):

PLC Croydon used to be a pub. When I was a toddler and we lived in Croydon, my dad would take me there so he could have a beer out the front on the patio, and I could watch the trains going by.

It’s a tragedy when any solid old working class suburban pub oozing with history closes its doors. It’s rubbing salt into the wound when it’s taken over by the Presbyterian Ladies’ College!

Oughta be a law, I tells ya…

Here endeth the rant.

In Germany, there is no single nationwide policy yet but elements on a state/school level.

Unless something goes badly wrong a really gifted child would go into the Gymnasium stream after the 4th grade (age 10). That stream covers (supposedly) about the 40% brightest students (i.e. it’s not really very selective - mean IQ is said to be in the 110-115 range). There are anecdotical reports (never naming specifics AFAIK) of very gifted children having been streamed into a special school for the mental handicapped/learning impaired instead because they were so bored in primary school they were taken to be mentally handicapped.

The main issue with streaming after 4th grade (an issue nowadays almost universally acknowledged) is that intelligent children of uneducated parents lose out - they don’t have the family/peer environment to achieve their potential in school. This is a major issue where children of immigrants are badly served.

Within Gymnasium the conventional ways to deal with the very gifted are to let them skip a grade (used infrequently as it has negative effects - maturity may not be as advanced as the mind) and, much more frequently, to have the child attend additional special interest classes, often ungraded, in the afternoon. (normally German students get home in time for a lateish lunch).

There are some dedicated state boarding schools for the highly gifted (only four nationwide), and a number of Gymnasiums offering a gifted stream, often also to pupils outside of the school’s normal catchment area.

Thanks for starting this thread, DM. I was involved in the parents support group in our district for a bunch of years, and am interested.

I’d appreciate knowing:

  • is the policy national, state-wide, or local?
  • what is the entry criteria?
  • how is it different in the elementary, middle school, and high school levels?
  • are gifted students separated into their own classes, or mainstreamed?
  • are gifted students given advanced work, or just more work? Is there an expectation that gifted kids will help teach regular kids?

Some of you have answered some of these already. Also, is there variation over time? There is a lot of difference between the policies in New York 45 years ago and California today, for instance.

Bear in mind that Mame is only talking from a NSW perspective. In SA, if not any other states, the breakdown is primary school to year 7, high school from year 8. I’m sure there’s other differences as well.

Also, I was in a gifted and talented program in primary school and high school over here in Adelaide. This is approximately 14 years ago now (ouch).

We have a state program known as the “Students with High Intellectual Potential” or SHIP program. As I understand it, my mother and the school had a series of meetings when I was in grade 5 (age 10) about my academic process. Apparently I was bored, finding the work too easy and starting to cause trouble. So they took me to a local SHIP school, where the co-ordinator ran through various tests - IQ tests, emotional tests. They dubbed me “gifted” and said I should be moved to this school and put up a grade into year 6. So I did two years of schooling in one year.

I don’t know exactly what the selection criteria were. Obviously it was certain IQ and emotional critera, but I was 10 and didn’t really give a toss.

Supplementing this was a range of extra-curricular activities that the SHIP program ran, including things like “future problem solving” where kids were put into panels to create solutions to fictional problems in the future, and an off-campus computing course. Those activities were standard to my school. I don’t know if they were offered at other schools.

When I moved on to High School, once again mum scouted for a school with a SHIP program. It didn’t mean much to me in my first year, but when I was in grade 9 I was accelerated up to grade 11 English (my strengths were in languages less than math-based subjects). After that point, however, I’d gotten into the “teenage rebellion” stage and spent the next three years basically doing sweet fuck all at school.

For the most part gifted students are mainstreamed in our system and given extra/harder work. They want to keep them with their peers. This does not work so well, as teachers seem to love telling everyone that the one student is doing different work and should not be disturbed, which does not make for happy classroom relations. Also, sometimes teachers will expect the gifted kids to help others, and that also never goes down well either.

Occasionally gifted kids are moved up a grade. They don’t like doing this, especially in high school, where maturity may not be as advanced as the intellect. At my high school, we had a whole class of gifted kids who were skipped up a grade together and kept in their own special class until about grade 10. They ended up getting in tons of trouble when they had to share some classes with the “normal” students because they came in with a huge attitude because they’d spent the whole year being told how gifted and awesome they were. Again, didn’t go down too well.

Unfortunately they never figured out a perfect way to deal with gifted kids. On the whole, from my POV, it sucked. People knew you weren’t supposed to be in that grade, because you were younger than everyone else. People in every grade spent most of their time ragging on you for being “So smart” and god help if you had a failing like most anybody would (eg. I suck at math), everyone (teachers included) jump on it like hyenas with the “You’re supposed to be smart, why can’t you do this?”. I feel I would have been a lot happier had I been left in mainstream schooling and there was some sort of extracurricular study I could have done which didn’t have to be tied in with my immediate peers.

But anyway, the SHIP program was state-implemented as far as I knew. I think schools had freedom to set their own specific ways of dealing with the kids, be it mainstreaming/ harder work, moving up a grade, extracurriculars, mentoring programs etc.

Do you mind if I add a question?

In the US, if there are budget problems, the gifted program is often first on the chopping block because it’s “unneccessary” compared to remedial programs. Is that also the case overseas, or is there more protection of those sorts of programs?

Hey, it’s good to see more detailed questions. I want to know these things, it’s just difficult for me to get everything into a detailed list.

Too early to say, in the case of the English system. One of the factors which brought about the need for it, however, was the disparity between the money & effort devoted to the least able few compared to the most able. In other words, a growing number of people asking why the term ‘special educational needs’ was applied (and applies) to only one end of the spectrum.

Here in Sweden, the kid remains bored. You can be advanced a year (I remember it being considered for my little brother) but it’s rare and, in my opinion, not a good solution. “Brainy freak who’s one year younger than everyone else” sounds like a recipe for social outcast to me.