On their first day at school, gifted children are usually able to read, write and count. They have a good sense of logic, understand abstract terms and can explain easily, for instance, the principle of a simple electrical circuit. But Czech schools are at their wits’ end when it comes to these little geniuses who account some 2-3% of the population.
Teachers not only are unable to provide individual care to these children, but often even fail to recognize their talent.
“This is a big weakness of the educational system. A talented child who is bored at school is often perceived by teachers as a problematic one. They regard the child as naughty and inattentive to what is said in class, and the teacher shouts at such a child instead of coming up with an individual study programme tailored to the child’s needs. To give an excuse, teachers often say they do not have enough time to look after these children,” said Libor Vacek, spokesman for the Czech School Inspection (ČŠI) that for the first time focused on education of gifted children in its report for the school year 2007 – 2008.
A two-year-old genius
The conclusions of the inspection are clear: Schools do not pay enough attention to talented children. If teachers do discover a talented child, they just proudly show the clever pupil at a school competition in the better-case scenario.
Art schools pay the greatest attention to child prodigies, followed by comprehensive schools. The inspectors carried out checks at 529 primary schools, of which only 43% are able to recognise gifted children. The figure is even lower in preschools: Out of 344 monitored kindergartens, a mere 21% pay attention to talented kids.
However, experts say that talent in children with IQ above 130 can be apparent when they are just two years old. “It is very important for parents to encourage their children early enough. Children cannot have the feeling that they do nor learn anything at school. It could have an unfavourable impact on their development,” said Jitka Fořtíková, chairwoman of the Prague-based Centrum nadání, a centre specialised in gifted children.
There are just a few dozen primary and secondary schools in the Czech Republic that offer special educational programmes and assistants for giften children.
“Children choose subjects on their own. We also offer leisure activities and allow students to skip to the next year,” said Magda Kindlová, director of the eight-year comprehensive school Buďánka.
In “ordinary” schools, talented children usually only get extra assignments in classes.
“This is a problem, so we now want to go for special traning,” said Dana Hudečková, director of Prague-based primary school T. G. Masaryka. Training for teachers is also what the Inspection recommends in its report, apart from a greater extent of cooperation between schools and educational advisory centres.
Czech Republic lags behind in education
In line with a law introduced four years ago, every child has a right to an individual educational programme.
“But there is no central system that would secure education for talented children in the Czech Republic. We lag significantly behind Great Britain, the Netherlands, but also behind Slovakia, which introduced special classes for gifted children more than twelve years ago,” Mensa chairman Tomáš Blumenstein said.
The Education Ministry now promises that it would pay more attention to talented children and cooperate with teachers to a greater extent. But still under the rule of the Social Democrats (ČSSD) education minister Eduard Zeman wanted to cancel comprehensive schools where gifted children head for.
What the Inspection says:
– Teachers do not look after gifted children. From among 1,123 schools checked, only roughly a third recognised talent among children. Teachers need special training.
– Schools are short of language teachers. This is particularly seen in primary schools with more than 300 pupils. A mere 23% of primary schools have English language teachers with university education. The figure for qualified German language teachers is higher – 55%.
– Most preschools and primary schools managed to switch to a new syllabus that provides for a greater interconnection of subjects and under which children learn how to see things in context.
Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.
By Petra Benešová /Hospodářské noviny /
December 5, 2008