The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Gifted children's education needs more provision, not less

For 22 years, Singapore has had something unusual for gifted children: a Gifted Education Programme. According to the Today newspaper of Singapore, however, dated September 21st 2006, this programme is to be phazed out, in two year's time.

So where are all the gifted children of Singapore to go? They are to be educated with other "very bright students" on an Integrated Programme. This is a new initiative designed, it seems, for a wider spectrum of bright students than the top 1% that had been selected for the Gifted Education Programme. No longer will students who opt for the Integrated Programme take O Levels, but they will proceed to A Levels without them.

This initiative may aid the gifted students in gaining better social skills, for there would be less tendency for them to be isolated from their fellows - but it might be at a price. There is the risk that the material, which would have to cater for a wider range of abilities, might not challenge them as much as before. It is easy to forget that there are gradations of giftedness: the brightest of the bright are as different from their gifted brethren, as those gifted children are from the average student.

Yet, at least Singapore is doing something for the gifted. Most countries do nothing at all. The gifted are assumed to need no special attention, since they are "bright" and so should be able to cope on their own. Yes, of course, they can do the school work well enough...but the school work is doing nothing for them. Unless the gifted are challenged at a level that matches their abilities, there is the risk that, over time, those abilities will decline from lack of stimulation. We will lose the gifts of the best of our children...and there are few greater tragedies than that.

Even if those abilities do not decline, they will not be developed...and that is much the same thing. Every country of the world should have special programmes to nurture the gifted...but do they? Does your country have them?

(For an introduction to the Cawley family, and Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, in particular, as well as his gifted brothers Tiarnan and Fintan, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:59 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Valentine,

I think it's wonderful that Singapore has a gifted program, but I'm sorry that it's going to be phased out.

It's very important that the appropriate resources are available to children depending on their needs and abilities but sadly that is not always the case.

There was some differentiation at my old school but I remember that I was often bored sadly - I'm not gifted by far, but above average - and the teachers did not recognise this. The results of this I described in my earlier comment.

Said school now recognises the need for different treatment according to a child's abilities. They are being tested in many ways in order to ensure that they receive the best education possible. Of course, I don't think there are (m)any gifted children at this school, but it does provide in some respect for the children who are less or more intelligent than the majority, in the sense that there are three tiers in which a child can be placed and different textbooks from which he or she will learn.

Take care,

5:32 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your perspective on your local situation. I would say that ANY differentiation is better than no differentiation.

Sadly, however, the world over, gifted people are not having their needs met.

Take care

7:07 AM  
Anonymous nur said...

why is spore phasing out the gifted programme. is it becoase of not having enough funds or the unsatisfactory outcome of the programme?
take care.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am not privy as to why Singapore is phasing out the Gifted Education Programme but I can take a guess: perception. They are replacing it with the Integrated Programme - a much broader initiative in terms of the type of people it will take on board, as I understand it. This would probably be better perceived. However, it leads to a potential problem - the risk of underserving the most gifted. We will see how it works out.

I doubt that funds are an issue. Singapore invests in education, instinctively.

Best wishes to you

7:32 PM  
Blogger Amiene Rev said...

Mr. Valentine,

World has seen many things from the side that nobody should admit it earlier and perhaps later.

There are no special education for many gifted person, we has heard many failure.

Sometimes, the best way are, we, ourselves, give this special education to our children.

I am regret to see how slowly the education system here working, we cannot hang on them.

It is a fight for our children.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Amiene Rev,

It is true that most societies make no provision for their gifted. I see, however, a much dimmer future for those societies who fail to aid their most gifted.

It is true that the parent can step into this breach and provide for their gifted child - if the parent is able.

Best wishes

6:03 PM  

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