A recently launched initiative by Qatar Foundation (QF) to identify and support the needs of bright, young students in Qatar, is set to transform the learning process in a big way in the country.
‘Gifted Enrichment Programmes,’ supported by Johns Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth (CTY) offers online enrichment courses, developed and delivered by CTY instructors to identify gifted learners in Qatar Foundation schools.
“Currently 260 students are identified as academically gifted in Qatar Foundation Schools. This is approximately 6% of the total school population for grades K-12. Approximately 75% of identified gifted students in QF Schools are Qataris,” said, Cynthia Bolton, head of Gifted Education, Pre- University Education, Academic Affairs.
“Everything starts with identification. We conduct an annual identification process starting at the end of kindergarten to ensure that we locate and support all the gifted children in QF Schools, even those that may not be obvious to teachers. We test approximately 500 students in QF schools annually,” explained, Bolton.
She told that the identification process has proven to be very successful with excellent outcomes in identifying underachieving students with undiscovered potential.
“A large percentage of our students are identified as gifted in mathematics and general reasoning and 7% of our identified gifted students are considered highly gifted,” she continued.
Bolton noted that a gifted child, like all children, needs teachers who understand giftedness and a tailored educational experience that helps them grow in the most optimum way.
“For some students this may mean access to an accelerated curriculum; for others it’s the opportunity to dive deeper into a subject and learn at a more in-depth level,” she pointed.
According to Bolton, there is a multi-step identification method specifically for Qatar Foundation Schools that looks at classroom behaviours observed by teachers, at home behaviours observed by parents and a test of reasoning ability.
“We are looking for students with advanced potential and not necessarily those students who are performing at the highest levels in school. Statistically, 20% of gifted students are under-performing students. If we can identify these students, we can provide the support necessary for them to get the most out of school and turn their under-performance into positive outcomes. If not, the alternative will be a child who is frustrated with school, may act out and disengage,” she remarked.
The official also said that PUE is launching an outreach programme to provide gifted education opportunities for all gifted students in Qatar as the concept is relatively new in schools in the region.
“It will offer gifted identification testing for students through our talent search, enrichment programmes for identified students and a speaker series for parents and teachers. Our goal is to provide gifted students with a place to learn and engage with like-minded peers and engage in high-interest enrichment opportunities under the guidance of teachers trained to encourage, motivate, and support gifted students,” highlighted Bolton.
A pilot programme for grades 3-6 was launched on February 6. “Our enrichment courses for this pilot include human biology, crime scene investigation, genetics, discovering the planet Mars and geometric and spatial reasoning. We are very happy with the engagement from the community with almost 90% of the seats filled. 75% of the students in attendance are from Qatar Foundation Schools while 25% of the students are from other schools within Qatar community,” she disclosed.
“We will run a second enrichment programme beginning late June that will include a larger age range, grades 2 – 8 (ages 8 – 14), and more courses. Our community talent search for the summer programme will be in mid-March and mid-May,” added, Bolton.
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