Edu Watch: Gifted children support and schooling stress topics … these and other news

How far do we have to go to help the gifted child?
In the news was recently featured the Singapore child chemistry prodigy,  Ainan Celeste Cawley’s case where Ainan’s parents took the Singapore education ministry to task for having not gone far enough to help him accelerate his education, and for the “inflexible” education.
The Singapore education ministry responded to criticisms saying that they had devised an education plan that included a lab course at Raffles Institution, courses at NUS High School and chemistry workshops at the Singapore Science Centre. NUH High School’s response was that Ainan had attempted the first modules of Years 1 and 2 and had attended one lesson but had had difficulty keeping up with the rest of the class except when coached by teachers personally and separately.
The prodigy’s parents say that at 7 years old, Ainan was accepted into the GEP, Gifted Education Programme, after passing all the tests, advanced by about ten years in Chemistry by placement in classes at Raffles College and other institutions, but that they had a different vision for Ainan than the GEP’s theoretical one. They felt that the plan failed Ainan because he was more interested in experimental Chemistry since all the necessary theoretical work was already done at at home. (Straits Times Source: CHILD PRODIGY: Parents head overseas for help by Ong Dai Lin)
Ainan’s parents then pulled Ainan out of the courses and moved Ainan out of the country enrolling him in the private Help University College in Kuala Lumpur instead. Read more here… and at the Cawley’s Scientific Child Prodigy – a guide website’s “The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy” page
In the UK, Gifted and talented pupils need support, say pupils of academy for gifted children the UK Govt is ditching its national programme for gifted and talented pupils. Two teenagers who benefited from its activities hope others will continue to benefit from the programme as they have… more here (see related news articles –  Gifted, talented and abandonedCambridge University offers place to 14-year-old
But how much help is enough help?
Governments are strapped in their financial budgets during these difficult economic times, many cornerstones of education are not facing budgetary cutbacks. Music and arts curriculum, special needs education are all areas which see the first cutbacks. Arguably, gifted children have already got it good, shouldn’t public funds go to helping those who need it more? The other argument is that nations consider gifted children as valuable human resources to be nurtured and to prevent a future brain-drain those needs should be met.
In Japan where egalitarianism has been the underlying cornerstone belief of Japanese society, it was only in recent years that accelerated education for gifted students became a limited (and a very limited one) option whereby proven gifted students could be helped by attending selected university courses while attending high school.
A new private school – Japan’s first and only gifted academy – known as the Tokyo Children’s Academy was only established within the last two years to cater to the education of gifted children.
By and large, the initiative of helping our gifted children make the most of their prodigious abilities in most countries usually falls upon the parent, guardian or some concerned and caring relative.  Here in Japan, parents are notorious for resorting to private resources and institutions for the purpose of accelerating their children’s education. There are also options that be considered such as correspondence school courses, alternative educational methods, home-tutoring or homeschooling materials although customized education is generally still less developed here than it is in the USA.
TOO much control over a child’s learning – and excessive testing – is bad for kids and An emphasis on exams puts stress on the child, and also on the teacher – whose performance hangs on how well his students do., say Professors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan from the University of Rochester (US) who have a background with more than 20 years of research into educational psychology across 15 countries. They recommended that they recommend instead that teachers encourage children to take charge of their learning, that is, to allow them some freedom to decide how and what to learn, and that they also spent less time preparing their classes for tests and more on getting to know their students.
The research by professors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan examined the factors shaping the learning outcomes of students from 15 countries. Here is a summary of their findings:
  • Students encouraged by their teachers to take charge of their own learning have a better grasp of the subject and higher self-esteem than those who are controlled.
  • Students are best motivated by intrinsic factors such as their personal interests.
  • Parents and teachers both play powerful roles in determining how motivated children are as learners.
  • Students are better engaged and more motivated to learn if their teachers relate to them.
  • An over-emphasis on testing makes students less engaged and less likely to want to learn on their own.
Teachers, while agreeing that they should build a rapport with their students and involve them in learning, however, said they were challenged with time constraints.
Stress and children:
Third of Chinese primary school children suffer stress, study finds by Peter Foster (Telegraph) 19 Jan 2010, but the local picture doesn’t fare too well either…
According to a 2006 survey by the Benesse Educational Research and Development Center, around 60 percent of elementary, junior and high-school students felt “irritated,” a 2-to-4 percentage point increase over results from 1990. A health ministry study of 600 junior high-school students released in May, meanwhile, found that one in four of them are depressed. The peak of pressure for the student in the Japanese school system from 15 to 18 years old, entry to senior high school is by an entrance exam. (Source: Creating calm in children’s minds)
A 2007 study on “Stress and coping in Japanese children and adolescents” concluded that “girls reported higher levels of self-image and peer relations stress, and reported using isolation and problem-solving coping more and externalising coping less than males. younger adolescents (5th/8th grades) reported higher stress in the domains of school and school performance, peer relations, and family relations, whereas older adolescents (10th grade) reported higher self-image problems.” …Read document online in full here.
According to another study,  Private school activities and psychosomatic problems in Japanese children children who frequently attended private schools to study such subjects as calligraphy, abacus, and music … exhibited symptoms of dizziness, sleep disturbance, and other psychophysiological problems. The study looked at 1,073 children studied: 67.3 percent attended private schools to study such subjects as calligraphy, abacus, and music. Of these children, 25.3 percent attended three to four times per week, and 18.1 percent five times and more  This paper investigates the relation between private school activities and psychosomatic problems in Japanese elementary school children.
The paper suggested that the results may warn educators as well as parents of some of the unfavorable effects of these extracurricular activities. … Source:  Child Psychiatry and Human Development Volume 5, Number 3 / Mar 1975 Child Psychiatry and Human Development

Older related resource articles:

Children & Stress (Source: PTA of connecticut website is being reorganized but you can still read their stress and overscheduling articles here )

Trouble-maker: The Japanese School System by Yuko Nozaki

State behaviour makes the case for homeschooling Montreal, July 19, 2003  /  No 126 by Harry Valentine

Modernization and stress in Japan  : international studies in sociology and social anthropology K Ishwaran

Japanese schoolchildren ‘cram’ to boost achievement


In more local news on education:

Announcements of the intention to reduce class size will be welcome news to parents all over the nation …

DPJ to reduce classroom numbers Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 Japan Times

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government will lower the maximum number of students per classroom at public elementary and junior high schools from 40, senior vice education minister Kan Suzuki said Thursday. The reduction, the first since the 1980 academic year when it was lowered from 45 to the current 40, will be introduced in the 2011 academic year or later, according to Suzuki. “It is necessary to introduce small group instructions to tackle complicated problems in the educational field,” he said.

English textbook plugs governor Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 Japan Times

The textbook, “Eco-Navigation and Society,” devotes three pages to describing Higashikokubaru’s former career as a TV comedian, his gubernatorial campaign and his accomplishments in office…the editors decided to take up Higashikokubaru as “serious topics would not attract university students these days.” He said they expect students to develop an interest in both current affairs and English through the textbook.

The requested demotion of 179 public school principals, vice principals and deputies in 2008 was one of the clearest signs yet of the crisis in Japanese public education. The number of administrators stepping down of their own free choice is the highest ever. The reasons for asking to be relieved of duty are both revealing and concealing. Over 53 percent cited health issues, including psychological ones; 25 percent cited problems with job responsibilities; and 22 percent cited family affairs.
Underlying all of these reasons is surely the stress of running a school. These resignations are a clear call for change. If so many principals are disillusioned with the system, students will not be far behind. The job will never be an easy one, but public school administrators are overworked and rarely given the recognition they deserve. Trapped among the conflicting demands of teachers, students, parents and bureaucrats, they are responsible for multiple burdens. Yet, all of those involved basically want the same thing — better schools. Read more here…
Students want jobs at ANA, traders, Shiseido;  73% of university grads have jobs waiting for them (Jan.17) the figure fell 7.4% from the previous year’s   (Jan. 17, 2010) Daily Yomiuri
A study group of government officials and scholars is preparing a report that calls for establishing a legal provision to restrict parental rights as a way to curb child abuses.
Read more here...
Teacher charged: Injured student pushed too far An overzealous teacher at Kaishin High School in the city of Kumamoto was indicted over having pushed a student into further training despite his having sustained a concussion in an accident during karate club activities. The student collapsed and fell into a coma and now has to attend a special-needs school.
Warm up class with a cup of tea Helene J. Uchida gives her tips on how to ease students (as well as yourself as the teacher) into a change of environment.
Horse riding opens horizon …  about how horse-riding allowed a disabled girl and “shut-in” in middle school find her way in life
Jan 15 (Mainichi)  A man offered work in December by the Yokohama Municipal Board of Education as a school principal was discovered to have a criminal record, after education officials received an anonymous tip. The 52-year-old was arrested for breaking a prefectural anti-nuisance ordinance in July last year, after he was caught taking a photo of a woman’s cleavage while on a bus.
Japanese exchange students skipping over US (in English see Mutant Frog Travelogue blog) Japanese university students are increasingly skipping over the US in favor other other destinations. The US captured a whopping 75% of the “market share” for Japanese students in 1997 with 47,000 America-bound that year. However, by 2007 that number had fallen under 50% with around 37,000 students. China has been on the rise as a destination – 19,000 students in 2005 (up 100% from 10 years ago). The total number of students was around 80,000 in 2005, up 30% from 1995. US diplomats in the country are concerned and have noticed a drop-of in attendance at their annual study abroad fairs in Tokyo.
Elsewhere the global news on education:
Researchers from Imperial College London tested 7,871 children’s language, behaviour and academic skills at the ages of seven or eight and again at 15 or 16.
They asked the children’s teachers to assess whether they were below average, average or above average in reading, writing and mathematics.
The research found that the 87 who were ambidextrous were twice as likely to have language difficulties and perform poorly at school aged seven or eight.
By 15 and 16 they were twice as likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – which affects up to 5% of children – and to continue to have more language problems than their right-handed peers.
The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Pediatrics, suggested the right hemisphere of ambidextrous children’s brains was weaker than that of right-handed children’s brains and this could make them more susceptible to attention problems
French elite schools under fire (AFP) France’s elite schools faced fierce attacks on Wednesday for balking at a government plan that would force them to take in more students from low-income families and minorities.
President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the higher education institutes, known as the “grandes ecoles”, to set aside 30 percent of new admissions for poor students, many of whom are from immigrant backgrounds.  The 30-percent target would “inevitably lead to a drop in the academic level,” said the CGE, calling it a form of “admissions quota” that flew in the face of France’s cherished egalitarianism.
France’s elite schools faced fierce attacks on Wednesday for balking at a government plan that would force them to take in more students from low-income families and minorities. Education Minister Luc Chatel, pictured in 2009, said he found “shocking” the suggestion that more poor students would lower the academic level of the schools.
This article is on the benefits of expanding global academic culture …
Harvard economist Richard Freeman says these gains should accrue both to the U.S. and the rest of the world. The globalization of higher education, he writes, “by accelerating the rate of technological advance associated with science and engineering and by speeding the adoption of best practices around the world … will lower the costs of production and prices of goods.” Just as free trade in manufacturing or call-center support provides the lowest-cost goods and services, benefiting both consumers and the most efficient producers, global academic competition is making free movement of people and ideas, on the basis of merit, more and more the norm, with enormously positive consequences for individuals, for universities, and for nations. Today’s swirling patterns of mobility and knowledge transmission constitute a new kind of free trade: free trade in minds.
Expanding global knowledge
Still, even if the new world of academic globalization brings economic benefits, won’t it weaken American universities? Quite the contrary, says Freeman, who predicts that by educating top students, attracting some to stay, and “positioning the U.S. as an open hub of ideas and connections” for college graduates around the world, the nation can hold on to “excellence and leadership in the ’empire of the mind’ and in the economic world more so than if it views the rapid increase in graduates overseas as a competitive threat.” National borders simply don’t have the symbolic or practical meaning they once did, which bodes well for academic quality on all sides. Already, the degree of international collaboration on scientific papers has risen substantially. And there is early evidence that the most influential scholars are particularly likely to have international research experience: Well over half the highly cited researchers based in Australia, Canada, Italy, and Switzerland have spent time outside their home countries at some point during their academic careers, according to a 2005 study.
The United States should respond to the globalization of higher education not with angst but with a sense of possibility. Neither a gradual erosion in the U.S. market share of students nor the emergence of ambitious new competitors in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East means that American universities are on some inevitable path to decline. There is nothing wrong with nations competing, trying to improve their citizens’ human capital and to reap the economic benefits that come with more and better education. By eliminating protectionist barriers at home, by lobbying for their removal abroad, by continuing to recruit and welcome the best students in the world, by sending more students overseas, by fostering cross-national research collaboration, and by strengthening its own research universities in science, engineering, and other fields, the U.S. will not only sustain its own academic excellence but will continue to expand the sum total of global knowledge and prosperity.
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4 thoughts on “Edu Watch: Gifted children support and schooling stress topics … these and other news”

  1. Thanks for writing about Ainan’s case. However, you have repeated lies told by the MOE of Singapore and NUS High. Firstly, Ainan did NOT have trouble keeping up unless coached one to one, as stated above. In fact, he was bored with the level of challenge, since it was below what he had already attained. He asked us repeatedly why he had to go to classes that taught him nothing new. The MOE are lying, to cover for their own failures and shift the blame onto Ainan. There is no decency in what they have done since we pulled out of the GEP. They will do anything to cover for their own failings, no matter what lies they have to tell. After all, the MOE consists of people protecting their careers and livelihoods – so they will do anything to do that.

    The MOE were very obstructive. They offered very little. All that their intervention amounted to was 6 Chemistry classes at Raffles, with no ongoing classes – and an offer of 1 hour a week of theory classes at NUS High at a level below is present ability. (Despite the lies they are telling about that). The offer about the Science Centre came far too late. It came about six months AFTER we had given up on the GEP and after we had already arranged for classes for Ainan at a Polytechnic. So, it was too late and utterly irrelevant to us at that time. Also it was very little (public workshops which we would have had to pay for and which anyone could attend…it was nothing really). Anyway, Ainan’s time was already committed when their offer came through.

    Let us be clear: the MOE is lying, very profoundly about how they handled Ainan’s case. We left the country because of how badly they handled it. The fact that we left the country should be proof enough that their fairytale version is just not true. If Ainan was being supported properly by them, we would not have MIGRATED, would we?

    Please stop spreading the MOE’s lies. We are very tired of reading them.

    However, we are glad to leave Singapore…after all, who wants to live in a country where the Ministry of Education is lying about their son?


    Thanks for reading.

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