Seven-year-old prodigies for gifted academy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


Children as young as seven will be identified for gifted programmes from next year under a plan to extend the reach of the city's prodigy screening and training body beyond secondary school pupils.

Exceptionally able primary pupils are set to benefit from the change, after the Academy for Gifted Education enrolled a record 1,600 secondary pupils last September - a surge of 30 per cent over the previous year.

'If you look at the statistics, you can say schools are keen [to send children for gifted training],' Stephen Tommis, the academy's executive director, said yesterday.

The academy was set up in 2008 with initial funding of HK$200 million from the government to push for early recognition of gifted children.

It provides tailor-made courses to prodigies from the ages of 10 to 18, mainly from secondary schools.

The academy hoped to expand 'incrementally' to primary schools, Tommis said, starting with a series of pilot programmes from next year.

Admitting pupils as young as seven 'would be about right', he said, as it would be more difficult to measure the potential of children any younger than that.

IQ (intelligence quotient) test scores, academic performance and extracurricular talents would all be taken into consideration for selection into the academy, associate director Abraham Tang said.

'Pupils won't be rejected because they haven't taken IQ tests,' Tang said. 'This is an international trend.'

Applicants will be tested on subjects such as maths, the sciences and the humanities to determine their strengths.

Once enrolled, members would enjoy the flexibility to take courses outside the area of interest through which they had entered the academy, because the rationale for gifted education was to encourage independent thinking, Tommis said.

Globally, about 2 per cent of pupils are considered gifted. Such children normally possess an IQ of more than 130.

Since 2008, the academy has enrolled about 5,600 pupils out of more than 7,000 applications from 320 schools. In addition, 15,000 have taken part in its seminars and talks.

This academic year, which began in September, saw a record number of about 2,400 nominations, up 20 per cent from the previous year, resulting in the highest ever enrolment of pupils.

Tommis said the academy's board was looking into developing a sustainable funding model in order to continue operations as a non- profit-making body.

He stressed that the current funding offered by the government was adequate for the next few years.