Challenging Gifted Kids in the UK
Over the holiday season, the issue of gifted education has been garnering headlines in the UK, due to a report on how the country is neglecting the brightest 10% of its children (particularly those from working class families). You can read a Guardian article about the report here. The report blames an extreme egalitarian and "anti-elite" mindset in the schools -- a mindset that finds the idea of gifted education distasteful (sound familiar?).
Fortunately, the UK is looking to do something about the problem. Another article from the Guardian, which you can read here, reports that schools minister Lord Adonis (don't you just love that name?) wants 800,000 gifted pupils to receive vouchers to pay for summer or online classes. This credit system could be used to supplement the education bright pupils receive at their local schools. Lord Adonis (I'm sorry, I can't type that without picturing a romance novel cover...) has been spearheading a registry of Britain's gifted students for better tracking, and apparently has been infuriated by the attitude he's encountering from some schools. About 30% of schools have not registered with this gifted database, and 20% claim they have no gifted pupils. That's highly unlikely, but may be the schools' way of telling Lord Adonis to buzz off.
While not a pure voucher program (the government recently rejected a flat voucher payment to parents of gifted kids) the system would give kids credits that could be used at a variety of programs that would compete for the business through the government system. Some of the suggested programs are university summer school classes (think programs like TIP or CTD in the U.S.) or online programs (think programs like Stanford's EPGY courses in the U.S.). While well-to-do parents of gifted kids can afford such programs, parents of gifted kids from lower socioeconomic levels often can't pay for challenging extra curricular programs, and so the kids are stuck with the schools they get. That, in turn, wastes potential.
Given all the focus in the U.S. on raising the achievement of kids who are lingering behind grade level, it's nice to see that the UK is also taking the issue of challenging the brightest children seriously. If this program passes in the UK, maybe American educators will be similarly inspired.