Told how talented children are discovered and educated in Israel: in Lithuania they are usually underestimated

While education policy is deciding how to return students to school and compensate for the learning losses they have suffered as a result of the pandemic, „Gifted“, an international Lithuanian-Israeli education program for gifted children, is looking after the most talented children on the border in Lithuania. Testing of children of all ages, who will attend Gifted centers in Vilnius and Kaunas from September, will soon begin.

Haim Zakman and Elis Fuks, the founders of the Lithuanian and Israeli company IP Capital Group, talk about why they decided to create a network of Gifted centers in Lithuania. There have been more than 40 such centers in Israel in the last decade. Although the IP Capital Group has been successful in a wide range of fields, from information technology to agriculture, the Gifted project is one of the most important and successful. “A teacher is not an agent of the state or society,” Zakman said. – He is the agent of the children with whom he is entrusted to develop his intellectual and moral abilities. Gifted is an extraordinary project, a commitment to special children, giving them new opportunities. ”Like in Lithuania, schools in Israel have been closed for almost a year due to the pandemic, only recently reopened. Mr Zakman says the losses are clear but ambiguous. Children who are able to learn on their own have enjoyed and succeeded in distance learning. However, those in need of teacher care have suffered significant losses. There are differing views on how to repair the damage of a pandemic, but it is clear that children cannot be overwhelmed with science and an abundance of information now. Children, according to the interlocutor, view the situation a little differently than adults. They liked that they could only learn what they liked, because in other lessons it was enough to join but not necessarily participate. However, it will take many years to make up for the losses. Talents are tested throughout learning How is a talented child described and found in Israel? According to Zakman, this is one of the most difficult issues. How far Israel has come in educating gifted children is evidenced by the system revealed by the interlocutor: “We use a method where a child is compared to their peers in their environment and evaluate their performance compared to others in the test group. According to various recommendations of teachers and other specialists, children who are distinguished from their peers by their abilities are tested. For the first time, such a test is performed on second-graders, usually in the first week of November each year. The Israeli Ministry of Education has confirmed that children are tested in all Israeli schools on the same day. After a couple of months, those who score higher than most of their classmates take part in the second round of testing, and finally those who really have exceptional talent are selected. ”

Teachers monitor and evaluate children’s abilities throughout their learning. The same test is taken for sixth graders, for the third time before upper secondary school and again before the young people leave the army. The interviewee points out that in recent years, not only in Israel, but also around the world, there is a tendency for children to be examined even earlier – from about the age of three, as soon as they start attending kindergarten. Education professionals note that at such an early age, it is noticeable that a child is not like everyone else. Of course, it is difficult to create a test that is done for second-graders, so according to certain characteristics an exceptionally gifted child must be noticed by kindergarten teachers and school teachers – paying attention to how he draws, glues, builds, interests and questions, how to communicate with others. For this to happen, both kindergarten teachers and teachers need to complete special training, attend seminars, because that is the only way to change the contingent of professionals we have been accustomed to for many years. Kindergartens today are not just sandboxes, swings and dolls, but also something that a child can see on the screen on the wall at the click of a button – animals or fish. Everything is becoming more and more interactive. In such an environment, minors feel comfortable and then it is possible to see which child is special. According to the interviewee, such pilot projects for the identification of gifted children are already taking place in Israeli kindergartens, and their experience is coming to Lithuania. This school year, the first gifted children’s education center “Gifted” has successfully launched in Kaunas, and will open its doors in Vilnius from September. The idea is that Lithuania would be the leader and center of such interactive development, and later become a mentor to other Baltic countries, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and others.

A gifted child – a problem child Is it possible to count how many talented children there are? Because if every child is special to a mother, it doesn’t seem like a specialist to a specialist. Statistics show that gifted children make up 2 to 3 percent. However, Israeli experts estimate that the number of children with special abilities is 3-5%, and if we add talented children, this figure would rise to almost 10%. “About 80 percent. people do not have learning difficulties, but they do not have special abilities, says Fuchs. – About 10 percent. have special educational needs due to health characteristics, difficult socio-economic situation, cognitive impairment or other reasons. Historically, all forces in state and political institutions have focused on getting as many children out of this 10 percent as possible. to attract to the general mass so that they can finish school, learn their mother tongue, be able to adapt to society. ”The remaining 5-10 percent. talented children did not care for anyone. It was common to think that these children – smart, best in class – would get what they wanted. However, they bothered the teachers a lot, they were very bored in class. “The old generation of teachers who taught us wrote on the board, and when they came to class, they worked according to a specific plan to prepare their children for exams and enable them to obtain a certificate of maturity,” says Zakman. – The children were passive listeners. However, the gifted child did not behave in this way, he disturbed, asked questions, was different, so it disturbed the teacher who sent him to the yard to play football. And in fact, we lost another talent that could have become a great pianist, mathematician or IT specialist. ”

Was Zakman a gifted child? “No,” he smiles. – But I’ll tell you about my class case. There were two children in our class, I think talented. They sat on the first bench, overwhelming teachers with questions, and annoying classmates with those questions. They weren’t very popular, most of them barely interacted with them. But now, after many years of meeting our class, everyone else is gathering around them to communicate and share ideas. Where they are today is a great example of how, if teachers, friends and peers had treated them differently, we might have some more successful academics, politicians, doctors or, like Eli, entrepreneurs. ”Fortunately, Israeli education politicians realized that it is these children who are the future of the country and must therefore be given full attention.

Asked what role the teacher plays in educating a gifted child, the interviewee assures that not every teacher can teach gifted children. Today there is a problem for teachers, the changed status of a teacher in the eyes of children and parents is no longer such unconditional respect for him. “A lot of today’s teachers are holding back the process,” Zakman said. – In Israel, teachers are led by children, especially at the Gifted Education Center for Gifted Children. They decide what interests them because children don’t need a teacher to come in, lay out a program, prepare for an exam and a certificate of maturity. In Israel, it is less and less, and the solution is to open centers for gifted children. ”The child attends the center one day a week and spends the remaining five days with his classmates in a regular school. In this way, the gifted do not become hermits, interact with various children. But one day they are in an environment where everyone is the same, where they are not weird, eyeglasses, where there is no bullying and everyone feels comfortable. The aim is for children who have returned from such centers to regular classes to be judged on their abilities, as their place is not in the corner of the classroom, as was customary. It’s time to realize that the stars of the class are not necessarily the most beautiful girl and the most beautiful guy next to her and the group around them, and the students on the opposite side. “They have to be in the center, not in the corner,” the interlocutors say. – Because they are the future of their homeland, city, country. It is up to the Ministry of Education, municipalities, private entrepreneurs and owners of large corporations to evaluate and invest in their intelligence and talent. ”To make this happen, not only children but also teachers are selected to take part in such programs. Today, one is choosing from those who are, but Zakman hopes that teachers of gifted children will be trained at the university level over the next five years.

Children decide what they will learn Of course, not every teacher is suitable; It is important for the teacher to be interested in current events so that they know what is going on in the modern world of children, are familiar with the latest apps and other things that children are interested in. The teacher must be like them, they must live what they live for. If children ask something, he has to answer, and if he doesn’t know, find out and give them an answer. Parents raising gifted children must also realize that their role is paramount in developing their child’s talents. The interviewee gave an example when future teachers of the Gifted Center from Lithuania visited Israel. “We invited you to a lesson on TikTok and math,” Zakman said. – It was a request from the children, the teacher prepared and wrote down the formulas, integrals and differentials on the board. She combined it with what the TikTok program is for, as it affects the human brain. There was such a discussion, it was so interesting for the kids! They attended the lesson so enthusiastically that it was clear that they cared. In a normal school, it’s hard to imagine. ”The teacher says he has to be as flexible and adaptable as plasticine, because if he teaches according to plan, from books, and suddenly the student asks a question that wasn’t answered in the book, he gets lost. Head of Ron Gardi Center, Gifted’s main center in Israel, dr. Ofer Keren is a musician. The children who visit the center come to it and together create a program, deciding what they want to learn and what to learn. Later, teachers gather with O. Keren, who sit together and turn their heads over what and how to present to the children. “Everyone is improving in the centers, not just children,” Zakman is convinced. – In addition, the atmosphere is very free. We will not grow the country’s future leaders otherwise. It may sound like a pathos, but it is. “

Dileta Tindžiulienė, the head of the Gifted program in Lithuania, observes: “Teachers who come to this program are happy that they do not have to respect the limits that they have to follow in a regular school. On the contrary, it is not only possible to do things with us, but not according to the plan, because children need innovations. ”Therefore, when looking for a gifted teacher for a children’s education center in Vilnius, developer, banker, or Chinese language specialist. These people will teach gifted children at the Gifted Center together with the lecturers of Vytautas Magnus University, who are also interested in passing on their experience to young talents. “Zunting” of the mind – on the school bench H. Zakman says he is constantly asked why he and Gifted are in Lithuania. Reveals that for several reasons. The first is that the education systems in Lithuania and Israel are very similar, and both countries are similar. “A lot of Israeli people who have achieved a lot are former Litvaks – for example, President Shimon Peres,” he says. “That’s the first political reason.” The second is a joint venture. The founder of IP Capital Group, a company that has been operating in Lithuania for 12 years, notices that the combination of Israeli technology and Lithuanian education bears great fruit: “You are not India and not China, you can easily communicate in English, if necessary, you also speak Russian. It is very important for IT companies not only to have a really good IT education, but also to be able to speak English, because that is the only way to understand the tasks entrusted to them. ” What’s more, it’s too late to “hunt” young people graduating from school, so the search for minds begins even earlier. By the way, this experience is already taking its first steps in Lithuania as well: four students of Kaunas Maironis University Gymnasium are already working for IP Capital Group, two of them – Matas Rarivanas and Dovydas Gražys participating in the Gifted program. According to Zakman, they do research on social networks and this experience will definitely be reflected in their CVs.

Talent is born and everything in the desert in Israel started with 3-5 Gifted program centers. Today, there are already 45 of them in the country, with funds allocated for five more. H. Zakman is convinced that there are and can be Gifted centers in Panevėžys, Alytus and other Lithuanian cities and towns, because even in the most remote villages there are talented children that must be noticed. He gave the example of the opening of the Gifted Center in Yeruham, Israel’s southernmost city. “Until then, all the centers were around Tel Aviv,” says Zakman. – The Yeruham center has been spared no funds – drones have been bought, various innovations have been introduced – and it is now competing with the main center in Tel Aviv. Although until then it seemed that only camels and Bedouins lived in that desert, where could there be gifted children? ”Another example is the results of testing repatriates from Ethiopia. When the decision was made at the state level to test all the children coming from Ethiopia, everyone’s eyes widened in amazement at how much talent and human resources had been overlooked in the past, and the results of testing these children were so astounding.

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