AGROUP of 120 talented pupils selected from 20 primary schools will be joining a three-year government pilot programme on gifted education in September next year. The scheme will be extended a year later to double the number of participants and to include Form 1 and 2 students in the final year. Mrs Ruth Lau Lau Wing-mun, Education Department's principal inspector (psychological services), said the programme would be school-based to enable gifted and non-gifted students to study together. ''We don't encourage the gifted children to study separately from their fellow classmates even though they have different abilities,'' she said. ''Students, no matter academically good or weak, should enjoy a normal schooling in order to grow healthily.'' The participants, from Primary 2 to 4 levels, for example, could attend lessons with their classmates to learn the basic knowledge and study some complicated topics after school or at tutorials, Mrs Lau said. ''Other students may have their learning enthusiasm stimulated by studying with gifted children,'' she added. Mrs Lau emphasised that the students involved in the scheme would not have their names revealed to avoid a labelling effect. She said details on how to arrange the lessons had yet to be discussed with the department's Curriculum Development Institute. Setting up school-based programmes for the gifted was first recommended by the Education Commission's fourth report in 1990. It recognised the lack of data on gifted children and a lack of identification tools and training programmes. The Government was suggested to provide training for the gifted to develop their potential while remaining in the mainstream schools. The Education Department has commissioned local tertiary institutes to conduct research to study ways of identifying gifted children. The first research programme, costing $1.16 million, is still in progress and will be finished by March next year. A second $2 million research will be conducted later this year to identify gifted children and find out their education needs before the pilot scheme is introduced in the next academic year. Besides, the department will at the end of next year set up a resource centre in Tsuen Wan to provide materials and assistance to the gifted training programme. ''Teachers will need special training on how to handle gifted children,'' Mrs Lau said. She said the department had sent two officials to the United States to receive training on gifted education. One of them returned recently and will later share what he has learned with his colleagues. Officials have also been sent to attend overseas conferences on talented children.