GIFTED children were often mistaken as problematic because of society's ignorance, according to some education experts and parents. Schools should take steps to help these students develop their potential, rather than labelling them as problematic, they said. Helen Yu Ku Siu-yin, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said the present school curriculum failed to provide learning incentives for the gifted, and this caused frustration among them. 'The curriculum in Hong Kong schools is too traditional and rigid. There have been cases where schools identified certain kids as problematic, but we found them to be highly gifted,' said Mrs Yu, adding that schools should encourage these students to carry out independent projects and in-depth research. Ability grouping, early admission and support from experts from different fields of the community could help maximise the potential of gifted children, she said. Recognising the need to develop gifted education in the territory, the Education Department is now working on special programmes in this area. A government resource centre will be ready in about two months' time, providing a spacious setting for parents, teachers and students to organise different activities and workshops. The 0.7-hectare centre in Tsuen Wan, converted from a former school, will be the territory's first government-run centre for gifted education. 'The centre will cater to gifted children, their teachers and parents. Activities like talks and workshops will be organised on a regular basis. Students will also be allowed to make use of the facilities to carry out research,' said Ruth Lau Wing-mun, Principal Inspector (Psychological Services) of the Education Department. A three-year pilot enrichment programme, encouraging teachers to adopt a wide range of teaching approaches to maximise the potential of gifted children, was launched last September for primary three to five classes in 19 schools. The Education Department now hopes to extend the programme to secondary level by the 1996-97 academic year. 'The full evaluation will not be available until the end of the third year, but teachers have found that the new approaches have enhanced students' interest in learning. Not only the gifted students, but also normal students have benefitted from the programme,' said Mrs Lau. Hong Kong Association for Parents and Gifted Children chairman Fred Lam, father of a 12-year-old gifted child, however, said not enough had been done to meet the needs of gifted children. 'We believe there were about 20,000 gifted children in Hong Kong in 1990, but we do not have the actual figures,' said Mr Lam. 'The Government hasn't yet come up with any concrete policy in this area, apart from the three-year pilot scheme. We just wonder what is going to happen after the three-year period. 'We can only rely on ourselves to run programmes for our kids in co-ordination with tertiary institutes and experts.' Local tertiary institutions are also playing an increasingly important role in developing gifted education in Hong Kong. A research team comprising experts from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Chinese University and the University of Hong Kong was commissioned by the Education Department to develop a local test in creative thinking in 1992. The team also carried out a study on identification and distribution of gifted children in Hong Kong with a $2 million funding in 1993. Projection based on the sample study of gifted children showed that two per cent of schoolchildren (aged between six and 15 years) had an IQ of 130 points. Hong Kong will host the 11th World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children between July 30 and August 4 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. An international Gifted Youth Programme (Summer Camp) will also be held during the period.