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GIFTED LEARNERS, A survey of educational policy and provision

European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education:

A survey of educational policy and provision

“When compared to the Eurydice report (2006), it seems to emerge that most countries [such as Austria, Belgium (French speaking community), Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and UK (Wales)] are now considering ‘giftedness’ not only in relation to a limited interpretation of intelligence (such as IQ) but also in relation to other abilities and talents including performing arts, sports, entrepreneurial skills, motivation, problem solving, leadership and team working, creativity as well as socio-emotional skills. For this reason in some countries they refer to gifted and ‘talent’ pupils [see for example Austria, Denmark and UK (Wales)].

Moreover, some countries [for example Belgium (French speaking community)], argue that it is important that these pupils are not only considered as a ‘prodigy’ but as pupils whose learning potentials must be adequately stimulated (see Denmark) in order to avoid the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon (see Austria). At the same time, other countries indicated that it is very difficult to provide a list of qualities that gifted pupils should possess in order to be identified as such [see UK (Scotland)].

As a consequence of this, Norway and Sweden have decided to reject the use of any official identification and classification procedure aiming at labelling and categorising some pupils as gifted and preferred instead to identify forms of ‘gifted education’. In Sweden, they reject in principle the idea of identifying pupils as ‘gifted’. This categorisation procedure, they argue, could become an obstacle for the development of inclusive education. From an inclusive perspective it is schools that have to modify their practice and offer adequate support capable of meeting pupils diversity without any need to categorise them in order to include them.

In addition, Slovenia and UK (Wales) reported that the concept of giftedness should also be interpreted in terms of an ‘improved’ education system which should provide extra services and alternative assessment procedures capable of meeting those requirements that are not usually addressed by ordinary schooling. Finally, in Belgium (French speaking community), it is argued that giftedness is concerned with the idea of ‘educability’ and how educational policies should aim at developing pupils’ potentials rather than nurturing innate skills.

The information below is based on the replies to the following questions:
1. Are the needs of ‘gifted’ learners identified in the same ways as the special educational needs of all other pupils?
2. What specific procedures and/or assessment approaches are used to identify ‘gifted’ learners in your country?
3. Are the funding mechanisms for allocating resources to support ‘gifted’ learners the same as are used for all pupils with special educational needs?

Interesting enough only 10 countries [i.e. Belgium (French speaking community), Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Spain, Switzerland and UK (Scotland)] reported that they identify the needs of gifted pupils in the same way as the special educational needs of all other pupils (or have similar procedures). 12 countries indicated that they do not identify the needs of gifted learners in the same way as the special educational needs of other pupils. Specifically, 7 countries highlighted that they do not have any official procedure of identification [i.e. Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK (Scotland)].

However, 22 countries reported about specific procedures and/or assessment approaches used to identify ‘gifted’ learners. As emerging from the study, teachers’ recommendations seem to be the most common criterion of identification used by the vast majority of countries. This criterion is used in 19 countries and it could be evidence enough to indicate that teacher education should play a central role for the development of education systems that support the needs of gifted learners. Secondly, parental nomination (18) is considered as a fundamental procedure of identification, followed by interviews with learners (15 countries).

At the same time, diagnostic criteria such as measured attainments and performance (17 countries), intelligence tests (15 countries), diagnostic assessment procedures (13 countries) tests of potential abilities (12 countries), and aptitude tests (10 countries) are still widely used by the majority of Agency countries. In Denmark for example, intelligence tests (i.e. IQ above 130) are prioritised as a means to identify gifted learners along with parental nomination. Specifically in France, parents or a private psychologist’s recommendations are the fundamental criteria of identification. A statement of a psychologist is required in Germany with local variations depending on the Länder’s, diagnostic assessment, attainment measurements and teachers’ recommendations can be found in Hungary. In Ireland, recently published draft guidelines for teachers of exceptionally able pupils recommend a broad approach to identification, which may include formal psychometric assessment but also allows for identification by parents, teachers, peers, or self-identification.”

Find the full report here: GIFTED LEARNERS A survey of educational policy and provision


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