GIFTED CHILDREN On the fringes of the education system

There are no statistics on the number of gifted children not recognized in Lithuanian schools. But educators speculate that only one in two who have exceptional abilities gets the attention of teachers. Knowing more than classmates until recently was unpopular. Today, gifted children are increasingly gaining the respect of their peers, but cannot be proud of the attention paid to them by the state. A system has been developed for the education of children with learning difficulties, specialists have been trained, programs have been prepared, but there are no gifted children in our education system. Professor Lina Kaminskienė, Chancellor of the Academy of Education of Vytautas Magnus University (Vytautas Magnus University), regrets that although almost every new government demonstrates the initiative to change the situation and finally create a system for recognizing and educating gifted children, the programs are under draw and change. “Over the years, a system dedicated to the education of gifted children has not been created,” said L. Kaminskienė. “There are only some elements of it.” Unlike children with learning difficulties and special needs, the education of gifted children is left to parental responsibility and money. The professor agrees that the contribution of the parents is very important in this case, as they are the first to notice and recognize the talents of the offspring. But if the state is unable to open up more opportunities for the gifted, perhaps it is time for the parents of these children to show more initiative and look for ways to force the responsible officials to finally create the much-needed system? If we do not create conditions for the education of gifted children, we risk losing their motivation or even not noticing them at all. L. Kaminskienė also mentioned another possible risk that parents are simply looking for help outside the state general education schools: “Private schools very quickly understand what families need. It’s their business, and very responsive to customer needs. Public schools are losing out in this place, they lack flexibility. ”

A standard curriculum is not enough for especially gifted children, but they also need to learn it. It is not about their exclusion that they need to be educated separately, but the educational process needs to be more individualized for them. The interviewee also calls the problem a very heavy workload for public school teachers: “Gifted children are simply short of time. It is also important how the head of the school is able to find funds for the additional remuneration of teachers. Because even if he wants to, he doesn’t always have the opportunity to pay a teacher who devotes part of his after-school time to extremely gifted children and educates them. This is both an employment and a financial problem due to the lack of a system. ”L. Kaminskienė heard about the ongoing national project for gifted children. Programs, she said, are being developed but not yet launched, and teachers are still unable to take advantage of them. So far, individual fragmented projects have not been integrated into the whole. Vytautas Magnus University also had an in-depth science education project, the work of which remained with the university, but was not used at the national level. All new VDU study programs have inclusive education modules designed to recognize the various needs of children. “Perhaps they are not focused only on gifted children,” said L. Kaminskienė. “But we see that teachers really lack competencies, one of the directions is to improve teachers’ qualifications, and that’s what we do.”

Private schools very quickly understand what families need. It’s their business, and they are very responsive to customer needs.

In the near future, the university is planning to offer an in-depth specialization specifically for the education of gifted children in addition to the special pedagogical assistance program, which is designed to educate children with various needs and train them. All other programs that train subject teachers, pre-school and primary education teachers include a compulsory inclusive education module, which provides the novice teacher with the competencies of recognizing gifted children and constructing educational content for them. It is clear that these competencies are not enough if the experience of educating gifted children is to be disseminated in schools. However, it is not necessary for absolutely all teachers in the country to have deeper competencies in this area. Even in a large school, there would be enough educators to turn to other colleagues. L. Kaminskienė pointed out that we have very few scientists in Lithuania who delve into the topic of gifted children. So it is no surprise that there are no national long-term studies, we have no data on the success of gifted children in their further learning trajectories. Haim Zakman, the founder of the Lithuanian and Israeli company IP Capital Group, is bringing the experience of Israel to Lithuania. The businessman also set out to create a network of such centers for Lithuanian children. In Israel, children with abilities are selected on the basis of various recommendations from teachers and other professionals. Secondary testing is conducted for the first time, and children are usually tested in all Israeli schools in the first week of November each year. After a couple of months, those with higher scores than most of the classmates take part in the second round of testing and finally select those who truly have exceptional talent. The essence of the method is that the child is compared to his / her peers in his / her environment and his / her result is evaluated in this group. A similar test is taken for sixth graders, for the third time before upper secondary school and again before the young people leave the army.

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