Does School Really Help Gifted And Talented Students?

Everyone of us is a very different and special personality. Every person has their unique talent, their own inclination. It is great for people to recognize their talents, to develop them, to cultivate them and eventually, to practice them professionally, if they want to. This would be constructive for both talented people and for the countries’ economy, as we will see below.

The question is whether our education system promotes pupils’ talents, or suppresses them; a practice that often leads pupils to no longer follow as adults what they are really interested in, but rather what society regards as “job best choice”.

What do we mean by the term ‘Giftedness’?

Since ancient times, the Chinese have believed that charisma is multifaceted and has, among other things, capabilities such as leadership, imagination, originality, as well as the speed of reading, memory, logic and perceptual alertness. They also believed that there was a need for specific training to present / express any particular competencies. Nowadays, it is believed that charisma can be multidimensional.

The following abilities relate to the notion of charisma:

The mental capacity (expressed mainly through success in school), creative thinking, scientific ability, social leadership capability, mechanical skills, and talent in the arts.

The concept of creativity begins to coexist with the concept of charisma. Creativity is thoughts / behaviors that are unconventional and are usually expressed in contexts that most people do not use. Originality of ideas, mental processing, intuition, non-compliance with the mainstream are the Dimensions of Creativity.

Accepting ‘off-line’ behaviors, helps cultivate creativity. On the other hand, “mental compliance” encouraged by society often suppresses the creative potential of individuals. Our education system, from the cornerstones of society and the family, often rewards those pupils who compromise with what is thought to be ‘normal’ while at the same time downgrades the natural curiosity of children about the world or their ‘unconventional’ behavior in the classroom (Tsiamis, 2006).

The term emotional intelligence, as proposed by Goleman in 1995, creates a new, different approach to the multidimensional nature of intelligence (Tsiamis, 2006).

According to Gardner there are 7 kinds of intelligence and not only one.

The 7 types of intelligence, according to Gardner, are:

  1. Musical Intelligence
  2. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence
  3. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence
  4. Linguistic Intelligence
  5. Visual/Spatial Intelligence
  6. Interpersonal Intelligence
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence

Unfortunately, school mainly promotes only two of the 7 types of intelligence: the linguistic and the logical-mathematical. So, students who have one of the other types of intelligence may never discover it or they won’t be given the opportunity to cultivate and develop it. These pupils are trying to adapt to the requirements of the two types of intelligence in order to comply with the school rules, thereby suppressing their own talents, interests and abilities, that remain untapped.

It is a myth that charismatic children, due to their particular characteristics, whatever they do, will eventually find their way. In particular, genetically defined skills or attributes are cultivated when the charismatic children are in contact with society, family and school. Of particular importance is the perception and awareness on the part of the children themselves of the existence of these abilities.

Special educational benefits are necessary for the children to develop and cultivate as much as possible their potential. Beyond the regular educational program, it seems that schools should offer special educational provisions that will be innovative, based on complexity, providing extra information and in-depth study of concepts. These special educational provisions are intended to cover the cognitive, social and emotional needs of charismatic-talented children, and include, particularly, though- acceleration, aggregate capacity and knowledge enrichment. (Tsiamis, 2006).

In Greece, the public schools have been set up to cover students’ needs at secondary level, especially students interested in music and sports. There are 20 Junior High Schools and 16 High Schools for Music and 112 sport classes in High schools and 13 in Junior High Schools. In fact, on 29 October 2003, a draft law was passed that states that people with special abilities and talents may receive special educational treatment. It seems that individual efforts are being made (especially awareness-raising) in both public and private education.

If each person followed the profession in which was inclined to and interested in, there would be a better distribution of human resources in the different job sectors and the global market would be less saturated with professions such as those of philologists, lawyers, doctors etc. As a consequence, the unemployment of graduates and their employement in positions irrelevant to their studies would decrease. In the long term, this means that the market would stand better financially, as the people would be happier with their jobs, thus more productive. So, I would say that our mindset should be changed in general as to what professions we consider more socially acceptable than others.

This is what parents need to understand and not press their children into following a profession of ‘high social standing’. All professions are good and the criterion of choice of profession must be based on the individuals’ interest, their ability to work on it, and how much compatible it is with their work values ​​in order to satisfy their ambitions. This is what makes an employee productive and successfull.

Indeed, people with high performance and strong will can choose from a wider range of professions that suit them, even those with negative prospects or those that are not meet their family, financial, or educational ‘standards’. On the other hand, people with low performance and weakened will, prefer to focus on studies and professions that fit them first and that have a good prospect on the job market or other positive factors mentioned above (Katsaneva’s “Golden Rule” 2009). So, we see how important it is for the school to give highly-motivated students the ability to develop their skills and cultivate their talents.

It is possible that talented students with lots of potential never recognize their real talents, if they are not given the appropriate stimuli and the appropriate environment to develop those talents, thus leaving them untapped. And this world needs talented and competent people go ahead. The phenomenon of brain drain should be reduced.

So, how can the school (even with the existing curriculum) contribute to recognizing and developing students’ particular characteristics, interests and talents? Some suggestions are:

  1. Encourage students’ self-action.
  2. There are various stimuli within the classroom.
  3. “Knowledge Enrichment”, as a special educational provision, refers to the pupil’s exposure to a rich and varied content than that of the school curriculum. It is considered necessary if we assume that the normal school curriculum (a) is limited and monotonous for charismatic students; (b) ignores a large number of students’ interests; and (c) focuses on a relatively limited circle of knowledge and skills. 
  4. Give teenagers opportunities to explore the professions. Visits to various workplaces where students can attend the work of professionals from different sectors (beyond well-known ones) to broaden their horizons and think of different professions that they could practice. Still, these visits could also be in various departments of Higher Education.
  5. In lessons such as mathematics (and not only) encourage and reward diversity in how to solve problems.
  6. It would be good for teachers to think about this: When we deal with something that we like, we do it with great interest and enthusiasm. Are your students coming to school with enthusiasm and interest? If not, why? And how could that change?
  7. Teachers should be aware that not all students learn the same way. Talented students need to have choices in learning to acquire knowledge. It is important to adapt the teaching procedure to meet the different needs of charismatic students.
  8. The courses of the formal program could be taught in ways that are more interesting for students. For example, the delivery and the examination of the lessons could be done through a theatrical play through workshops, where students could take on different roles according to their interests and abilities, as well as with many other ways.

All people have some kind of talent. Let’s discover them and give talented children the opportunity to develop their talents through special educational provision, and help them to learn and cultivate their full potential. In the long run, it will be these talented individuals who will offer their capabilities to our society.

Eleana Tsakiropoulou,

Philologist with specializationin in Psychology and Pedagogical Training, MScCareer Counselor

Translation: Sotia Bella


Bibliographic references:

Katsanevas, Th. (2009). The golden rule for career choices. Athens: Pataki Publications.

Tsiamis, A. (2006). Charismatic children live among us (Discovering themselves and their needs). Athens: Gregory Publications.