The problems and challenges of education for gifted students in the Asia-Pacific region are to be discussed at a conference that begins today in Taipei.
The Ninth Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness is being held until Friday in Taipei along with the Children and Youth Creativity Olympia Camp. More than 600 people from 28 different countries and 278 youths from eight countries in the region will take part.
Yesterday, during a press briefing by the organizer of this year's conference, National Taiwan Normal University, Kuo Ching-chih (郭靜姿), the director of the university's Special Education Center, said that the event's theme this year was youth, equality and diversity, and encouraging creativity for youth campers.
Howard Gardner, a Harvard University education professor, said during the briefing that the notion of "gifted" should be disaggregated, because instead of a single type of giftedness, some children may be talented in many areas while others may be a prodigy in only one.
However, while individualism and creativity are emphasized more in the West, here in Asia, gifted students are often prevented from developing to their maximum potential, according to Seokhee Cho, president of the Asia-Pacific Federation of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.
Cho said that most children in Asia studied too much and memorized facts, limiting the use of creativity in problem solving.
The goal for gifted students in the Asia region would be to help them develop leadership abilities and creativity, Cho said.
Because of Confucianism in Asia, most children are taught to put family first before the community and society, but this prevents children from getting together with their peers, volunteering or learning how to manage and evaluate for themselves what they have learned, she said.
Cho also told the Taipei Times that incidences of students being sent to cram schools in Taiwan so they could score higher on tests that allow them to enter "gifted education" classes in schools reflected a major problem in Asian education.
"There is nothing bad about practicing exam questions in cram schools, but too much time spent on this means that these children are sacrificing time [that could be spent on] other, more meaningful activities," Cho said.
IQ tests or achievement test scores cannot truly measure whether a child is gifted or not because Asian parents will have their kids practice the questions continuously until they get a higher score, she said.
Cho suggested that the Ministry of Education and school boards instead make gifted education tests easier and allow more students into the gifted education programs, and put more resources into designing better programs.
If not, the government should put resources into developing better-designed exams for gifted students, she said.
Although these exams are also expensive to design, they are more effective in differentiating gifted children from those who have gone to cram schools to raise their entrance test scores, Cho said.