04 SES 06 C, Schooling for All (Including 'Gifted' Children)
Kazakhstan has recently initiated a thorough process to modernize and improve the quality and competitiveness of its education national system. In this context, the education of gifted students has been strongly promoted under the argument that investment in human capital through elite institutions for gifted children can lift up the whole system of education (Yakavets, 2014). As teachers play a key role in the successful implementation of this reform, greater understanding of current school teachers' conceptions of giftedness and gifted education could provide valuable information to design educational oportunities for talent development and overall school improvement in Kazakhstan and elsewhere.
The purpose of this paper is to examine secondary teachers’ current conceptions of giftedness and gifted education in Kazakhstan. To achieve this, the paper will answer the following questions:
- What beliefs do teachers hold about the manifestation and nature of giftedness?
- What is the rationale and purpose for providing gifted education services according to teachers?
- How do teachers think gifted students’ characteristics and needs can be identified?
- How should we provide education services for these students according to teachers?
To analyze teachers’ conceptions of giftedness and gifted education in Kazakhstan, this paper uses the conceptual framework developed by Dai and Chen (2013, 2014), who distinguish between three paradigms of gifted education: the gifted child paradigm, the talent development paradigm, and the differentiation paradigm.
The gifted child paradigm conceptualizes giftedness as an exceptional quality of very limited number of people, who since childhood show phenomenal intelligence and performance. Being highly motivated, gifted students are usually capable of processing and critically assessing a lot of information on diverse topics at a short time. Consequently, it is essential to identify gifted children as soon as possible to place them in gifted programs or schools. Gifted education should provide challenges on a regular basis for the gifted and allow them to work in particular areas of strength, so that they can develop their cognitive skills and unique potential up to the maximum, and thus will form the intellectual elite of the nation and promote the welfare and vitality of the society (Dai & Chen, 2013, pp. 154-155).
The talent development paradigm conceptualizes giftedness as a malleable set of developing capabilities and potentialities, cognitive and non-cognitive. Under this paradigm, the aim of gifted education is to cultivate a broader, more diverse range of strengths and interests and to help students to achieve excellence in their chosen areas. Gifted students should be identified using a set of criteria for cognitive or non-cognitive aptitudes deemed uniquely for a particular line of talent development. Gifted education should provide various enrichment opportunities, authentic learning, and mentorship, both inside the school and outside, so that a child would be motivated to become a leading expert in a particular sphere to contribute to the development of the society (Dai & Chen, 2013, pp. 155-157).
The differentiation paradigm conceptualizes giftedness as a mismatch between curriculum and instruction and a student’s strengths, interests and styles (e.g., school is too easy). This approach does not aim at identifying and distinguishing gifted children from the whole class as over-performing others, but finds it important to define the areas of competence and interest for each particular student, so that the individual needs are satisfied. According to this paradigm, the regular curriculum of subjects should be specifically tailored for gifted children based on the school practice, so that they will be challenged with the complexity and depth of material, pace of learning in order to stay motivated and knowledge-pursuing through their studies (Dai & Chen, 2013, pp. 157-158).
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