THE indifferent attitude of the education sector has become a major barrier to the development of education for gifted children in Hong Kong. Dr Raymond Wu, chairman of the organising committee of the 11th World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children held in Hong Kong recently, said teachers did not respond as enthusiastically as expected. The 120 places allocated to local teachers were not even filled, Dr Wu said. Sources said that a day registration system was adopted to attract more teachers. 'The main aim of the conference was to give local teachers and educationists a chance to share the knowledge and experiences of overseas experts, but the response of the teachers was far from satisfactory,' he said. The committee not only designed a special system to encourage the participation of teachers and help them identify gifted children, but arranged for English to Cantonese translation at the conference to facilitate better understanding. Dr Wu blamed the indifference on the lack of public concern over the issue and said that something must be done to improve education in Hong Kong. 'Compulsory education can only guarantee education quantity. It is time to improve the quality and enter a new era of education aimed at maximising the potential and talents of the students.' Dr Lau Sing, the director of the Centre for Child Development at the Hong Kong Baptist University, attributed the teachers' indifference to the lack of involvement from academic institutions and inadequate research. He said teacher training and correcting misconceptions about gifted children were essential in developing gifted education in the territory. 'Both the public and teachers have the wrong impression that 'gifted' means having a higher IQ score, but it is more than that. We also have to look at other aspects like creativity.' Fred Lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Association for Parents of Gifted Children, said: 'The education sector does not have enough knowledge of gifted education.' He criticised the Government's lack of long-term planning to promote gifted education, leaving teachers with doubts and uncertainties even after attending special training programmes. 'Teachers have no goals to work towards and do not understand their roles in the development of gifted education,' Mr Lam said. He added that if teachers were more knowledgeable, they would be able to identify gifted children more easily and help them maximise their potential. 'As parents, we are indeed disappointed,' he said. Mr Lam told Young Post that teachers respond enthusiastically when he attended similar conferences in Korea and Taiwan. He said he hoped the teacher training colleges would provide better training in this area and that the Education Department would have better planning where gifted education was concerned.