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FAQ

Q: Does the HKAGE provide any intellectual assessment for identify potentially gifted students? What is the application procedure for the service?
Ans: The assessment service is provided at the discretion of our Education Advisor and Educational Psychologist mainly for more complex cases where children are potentially gifted* or twice exceptional**. For details or clarifications, please contact our Consultation Centre at 3940 0106.

*The Education Bureau employs a broad definition of giftedness according to Education Commission Report No. 4 (1990). Children who demonstrate exceptional achievement or potential in one or more of the following areas or domains are considered as gifted:
  • Specific academic aptitude in a subject area;
  • Creative thinking;
  • Superior talent in the visual and performing arts;
  • Natural leadership of peers;
  • A high level of measured intelligence;
  • Psychomotor ability - outstanding performance in athletics, mechanical skills or other areas requiring fine motor coordination.
**The Joint Commission on Twice Exceptional Children (2009) suggested a working definition of twice exceptionality: “Twice-exceptional children who have evidence of the potential for high achievement capability in areas such as specific academics; general intellectual ability; creativity; leadership; and/or visual, spatial, or performing arts AND also have evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria such as specific learning disabilities; speech and language disorders; emotional/behavioural disorders; physical disabilities; autism spectrum; or other health impairments such as ADHD.”
Q: Does my child need an assessment if I think he is gifted?
Ans: To label a child as gifted is not our priority. We need to focus on nurturing them instead. Parents or teachers should work on developing the strengths of gifted children. The psychological assessment is unnecessary because it cannot fully measure children’s abilities such as creativity and leadership. We suggest that parents should read up or attend seminars to learn more about giftedness and ways to nurture and support their children.
Q: Are there any commonly used assessment tools in Hong Kong? What is the suggested age to take assessment?
Ans: The Hong Kong normed WISC for the Cantonese speaking children aged 6-16 is widely used as an assessment tool in Hong Kong. The latest version since March 2010 is WISC IV. However, to make the most of the learning recommendations, we suggest children to take assessment after they enter primary schools.
Q: What information can parents obtain from an IQ assessment?
Ans: The IQ assessment provides you information about a child’s cognitive ability on abstract reasoning, logical thinking and coordination skills, etc. A comprehensive psychological assessment report should include information not only from the IQ test itself, but also observation from parents, teachers and the assessor together with the learning background and adaptive functioning of the child.
Q: Does the HKAGE provide any assessment to determine if a child has learning difficulty, such as autism, ADHD or other special learning difficulty?
Ans: The HKAGE does not provide such assessments. Advice must be sought from a child psychiatrist in such a case. Please consult your pediatrician or school social workers for information.
Q: Does the HKAGE have a recommended list of psychologists conducting psychological assessment?
Ans: Psychological assessments should be conducted by registered psychologists. The Hong Kong Psychological Society has a list of their registered members http://www.hkps.org.hk. The HKAGE does not have such a list.
Q: Is having obvious achievement a criterion for being gifted?
Ans: That depends on how we define “achievement” – being a Nobel Prize winner, famous pianist, successful businessman, gold medalist in athletics, teacher, librarian or volunteer? The focus should not be about whether the child is labeled gifted or not but whether the gifted child is given any opportunity to develop his/her gifts.
Q: My child likes to sing and dance but I don’t think it’s appropriate to let him develop musical talents only.
Ans: Parents should not limit their children’s interests too early. In addition to the subjects or activities their children are interested in, parents should expose them to various other fields to widen their horizons. They may be able to develop other interests in the future. Parents should also teach their children how to balance their time between learning, resting and engaging in hobbies or other activities.
Q: What other methods besides grade-skipping can a teacher use to enhance the learning of their gifted students?
Ans: In order to cater to the learning needs of the students, a teacher can adjust the curriculum and instructional strategies such as using curriculum compacting and acceleration, infusing higher order or creative thinking skills into lessons, and allowing the students to learn independently or together with their peers of similar abilities. Gifted students can also participate in programmes outside school such as university credit-bearing courses, enrichment courses held during holidays, competitions or talent searches, online learning courses, etc.
Q: My child finds it hard to adapt to the pedagogy his school is using. He has no incentive to learn and has become dispirited. Hence his academic performance is not satisfactory. I want to look for another primary school for him. Can you recommend a school to me?
Ans: The level and contents of the curriculum and the child’s learning attitude could be the factors contributing to his problems. Parents should first look into the causes of his troubles. The problems cannot be solved by simply transferring the child to another school. We are in no positionto recommend any school to parents since we have no information about the pedagogies of individual schools. You are advised to contact the schools you are considering for more information about their programmes and pedagogies in order to determine if the school can better cater to your child’s needs.
Q: What programmes does The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education (HKAGE) provide to gifted students?
Ans: The HKAGE is one of the local organisations which provides out-of-school programmes to gifted students such as Maths Olympiad, Physic Olympiad, creative writing, public speaking workshop, workshop on self understanding and self acceptance, in various domains such as Mathematics, Sciences, Leadership, Humanities, Personal Growth and Social Development. It also organises seminars and workshops for teachers and parents to raise their awareness about gifted children. For more information about the learning activities, please refer to our website http://www.hkage.org.hk.
Q: What is giftedness?
Ans: There is no one definition of "gifted," "talented," or "giftedness" that is universally accepted. Sometimes gifted refers to those students who have strong intellectual/academic abilities, and talented refers those students who excel in the arts (music, drama, art) or in sports. The UK prefers this definition.

In the US, Pennsylvania defines giftedness as: " children and youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities."

The Education Commission Report No. 4 (1990) of Hong Kong has adopted a broad definition of gifted children as those who demonstrate exceptional achievement or potential in one or more of the following areas:

  • Specific academic aptitude in a subject area
  • Creative thinker
  • Superior talent in the visual or performing arts
  • Natural leadership skills
  • A high level of measured intelligence
  • Outstanding performance in sport or other areas requiring motor coordination
Hong Kong supports and encourages schools to use the multiple intelligences concept in making provision for gifted students.
Q: How are gifted children identified?
Ans: It varies between education jurisdictions and from school to school depending on philosophy, definitions of giftedness adopted and the type of giftedness sought.

Quite often the intellectually gifted child is identified as including a person who has an IQ of 130 or higher and when multiple criteria indicate gifted ability. But gifted ability cannot be based on IQ score alone.

A person with an IQ lower than 130 may be gifted when other educational criteria in the child's profile strongly indicate gifted ability. The process used to screen and/or identify children has several steps.
Q: Won't being identified make gifted students feel "different?
Ans: Most gifted children don't need to be identified or labelled before they know that they're not quite like their age peers. They understand they are different and though they might have difficulty accepting this in a society where differences are not always easily tolerated it is important for adults to recognise and appropriately respond to these differences.
Q: Don't all parents think their children are gifted?
Ans: No. Many parents are very reluctant to acknowledge their child is gifted. Some parents will say they think their child is “bright”, or “smart”, but not “gifted”. Quite often parents have unrealistic ideas of what giftedness means. A child does not have to be a mini Einstein or be composing a piano concerto at the age of 9 to be considered gifted.

Given society's ambivalent relationship toward the gifted, parents often report that it sounds conceited to say that their child is gifted and they often feel obligated to assure others that they, themselves, aren't gifted.

Rather than trusting their own observations and experiences, some parents don't acknowledge that their child is gifted unless school or other outside "authorities" make a formal identification. Unfortunately, some parents believe their child will be a happier person if s/he is average, or slightly above average.

"Most parents are afraid of the gifted label because of the expectations. And frequently those children that are acknowledged as gifted would prefer others didn't know it." - Joyce Juntune, former Executive Director of NAGC US.

On the other hand, there is a minority of parents who push their children to perform at ever improving levels across a range of activities. Quite often this approach is found in Asian countries where there are strong status hierarchies and where there is the belief that children should improve the family’s financial position. Such an environment can be very competitive as parents scramble to prove that their child is better than the next and worthy of a place in what are perceived to be the “elite” schools.
Q: Are all gifted children the same?
Ans: There is no "typical" gifted child. However, there are some common characteristics, many of which are seen in gifted children.
Q: What are the characteristics of giftedness?
Ans:The following is a partial list:

  • Reads early with great comprehension
  • Learns faster with less repetition and practice
  • Has a long attention span; may be resistant to interruption
  • Understands and makes abstractions earlier; may ignore details
  • Is curious and tends to ask complex questions/Likes to know why and how things happen
  • Is quick to recognize relationships, including cause-effect; may have difficulty accepting the illogical
  • Is bored with routine tasks
  • Has large vocabulary and expresses himself well
  • Is emotionally sensitive/may overreact
  • Is a keen and alert observer
  • Evaluates facts, arguments, and persons critically/May be self-critical, impatient or critical of others
  • High energy
  • Learns by experimenting and manipulating objects; tries to find answers to questions in unusual ways
  • Is creative, inventive and original
  • Displays highly developed sense of humour; understands jokes that age peer wouldn't
Q: What causes giftedness?
Ans: It is widely agreed that both genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) play a role in determining giftedness, but their relative importance is debated. Current thinking suggests that the importance of the gene is greater, though without appropriate nourishment, the gifted child’s potential can often remain unfulfilled. Researchers suggest that all of us are born with certain predispositions to learning in which our brains are wired in slightly different ways that makes connections between neurons more dense.
Q: How many gifted children are there?
Ans: This is an impossible question to answer because it depends on how “giftedness” is defined. However, education jurisdictions have to be pragmatic and commonly they adopt the cut-off method whereby they arbitrarily define the top “x” percent of the age cohort. In the UK, children generally considered as gifted range from five to ten percent of the general population. If this was translated into Hong Kong an all-ability secondary school of 1000 pupils would have between 50 and 100 gifted pupils in total and about 7-14 in any year group.
Q: Are gifted children gifted in everything they do?
Ans: Not necessarily. Like all children, gifted children have interests and/or abilities in one or more subject areas. Some gifted children may have a learning disability in one area and be gifted in another – a trait known as twice exceptionality as learning disables.

Whilst gifted children are usually very mature intellectually, they can have the social and emotional needs of children their age, sometimes even younger. Although some gifted children seem to be strong across the board, it is not fair to expect a child to be gifted in all areas of performance at all times.
Q: Aren't there already plenty of appropriate options for gifted students?
Ans: Not in Hong Kong, though some schools are working hard to make better provision at both the primary and secondary levels.

In the US many schools adopt a pull-out strategy to serve gifted students at the primary (elementary) level. This involves taking students out of the regular classroom to work with their intellectual peers and a separate teacher. The drawback of this model is that it limits specialized instruction to a small amount of time, often less than 2 hours per week. Gifted students need appropriate instruction and challenge ALL of the time.

A pull-out model is often accompanied by differentiated learning in the classroom. This is a very egalitarian concept, but the reality is that truly differentiated instruction for all students in the classroom is very difficult to achieve. A 1995 study revealed that gifted students are not engaged in activities that are different than their non-identified classmates for up to 80% of the time.

At the secondary (high) school level, it is frequently assumed that advanced placement classes or independent study opportunities will serve the needs of academically gifted students. This may or may not be accurate. There may not be anyone accountable for these students. Dr Del Siegle reported in 2001 that 95% of secondary schools say they offer a school gifted and talented programme, but only 35% have a consultant or coordinator to oversee and manage them.
Q: What is the difference between “enrichment” and “acceleration”?
Ans: Enrichment usually entails adding breadth and depth. Acceleration usually involves increasing the pace and skipping content and skills that are already mastered. Acceleration can involve specific subjects if the timetable allows or whole-year advancement.
Q: Why should gifted children experience trouble with ordinary school curricula?
Ans: Precisely because the curricula are ordinary. Education is a mass enterprise, geared by economic necessity as well as politics to the abilities of the majority. Just as a child of less-than-average academic ability frequently has trouble keeping up with his classmates, so a child of above-average ability has trouble staying behind with them. Prevented from moving ahead by the rigidity of normal school procedures, assigned to a class with others of the same age, expected to devote the same attention to the same textbooks, required to be present for the same number of hours in the same seat, the gifted student typically takes one of three tacks:

  • s/he drifts into a state of lethargy and complete apathy;
  • s/he conceals his/her ability, anxious not to embarrass others or draw their ridicule by superior performance;
  • not understanding his/her frustration, s/he becomes a discipline problem."
The normal school curriculum mostly calls for a 70/30 split between time spent on teaching basic skills and time devoted to higher cognitive learning, such as reasoning, drawing inferences and reaching conclusions. The gifted child seems to need the reverse emphasis.
Q: Won't gifted children be successful on their own?
Ans: Some will, but many won't. "A common, if erroneous, point of view is that these students will do well no matter what kind of education they receive. This is the 'cream will rise to the top' argument which, unfortunately, turns out to be incorrect...Too often for our most gifted youngsters our schools are a crucible for boredom and lack of challenge....American students are at or near the back of the pack in international comparisons. If we don't make radical changes, that is where we are going to stay."

- America 2000 Report, 1991. The same applies to Hong Kong.
Q: What happens if gifted children don't get appropriate education?
Ans: Gifted children are at-risk from boredom, frustration, underachievement, dropping out, using drugs, turning to delinquency and even committing suicide.

Boredom and frustration in regular classrooms drive gifted students out of school at a rate three to five times higher than the dropout rate among the rest of the school population. In fact, studies in the US indicate that gifted and talented children may account for 20% of all high school dropouts. Those who stay in classes that do not challenge them may develop emotional problems, become juvenile delinquents or simply sink to the level of average classmates and never reach their full potential. Indeed, the characteristics displayed by many gifted children - high activity level, divergent thinking, daydreaming and continuous questioning - are sometimes misinterpreted as indicators of emotional disturbance or learning disability. At the very least, teachers who are not used to dealing with students that learn quickly, have long attention spans, are creative and want to explore subjects in great depth, consider these children's behaviours and attitudes as abnormal and an irritation.

The small amount of work - often mundane, repetitious work - that gifted students are asked to do in school, they can achieve quickly and with little effort. They rarely have to face difficult problems and often do not know how to cope when, at some later educational level, they meet a challenging and intractable problem that does not easily yield to a facile but undisciplined mind.
Q: Should gifted children be removed from the regular classroom for instruction?
Ans: Educationalists will differ in their responses here but there is an increasing body of evidence to show that gifted children perform best when they are educated with children of similar ability.

Gifted children have a right to a free and appropriate education every hour of the instructional day, just as all children do. If this cannot be successfully achieved in the regular classroom, then other options must be embraced. Unfortunately, for gifted children the regular classroom can be the most, rather than the least, restrictive environment.
According to Jim Delisle, gifted students want to:

  • be able to learn at their own speed, not someone else's,
  • skip over work they already know and understand,
  • study things of interest beyond basic school work, and
  • work with abstract concepts that require more than simple thinking
Evidence for separating students out from the everyday classroom come from:

"The advantages of segregation include providing students with the opportunity to interact with others of similar ability and to receive faster-paced instruction. A fully segregated program attends to the unique needs of the gifted children in a comprehensive manner."
- Dr. Linda K. Silverman, "Providing Appropriate Education for the Gifted," 1990

“Homogeneous [ability] groups are more beneficial academically for all abilities than heterogeneous groups.”
- Cohen and Lotan, 1995; Hacker and Rowe, 1993; Lou, Abrami, Spence, and Poulsen, 1996; Slate, Jones and Dawson, 1993

“High ability students do not benefit academically when paired with a low-ability student.”
- Carter and Jones, 1994; Hooper, 1992

"...gifted learners do better in every respect when they are placed together with others who are performing at their levels and share their interests and abilities."
- Goldring, 1992; Lou et al., 1996; Rogers, 1998

As Feldhusen (1989) indicates in his synthesis of research on gifted youth, “the gifted show both achievement and attitudinal gains when they are grouped together for instruction."
- Suzanne H. McDaniel in Understanding Our Gifted, 1990
Q: Isn't it important to keep gifted children in the regular classroom to provide positive role models for other children? Don't special programmess deprive regular children of models or association with the gifted?
Ans: Research doesn't support the idea that other children use the gifted students as role models.

"What decades of research on role models has told us, especially the work of Albert Bandura (1964) and Dale Schunk (1996), is that individuals are most likely to choose a 'role model' among those whom they perceive to be at about their own level but experiencing some sort of success (attention, financial rewards, praise, friendship, etc.)"
- Karen B. Rogers, "Grouping the Gifted: Myths and Realities," 2001

"A low-level student will not choose a gifted student as a role model because (a) he or she doesn't want to be like the gifted students or (b) he or she doesn't think it's possible to be like that - too much change would be involved."
- Karen B. Rogers, "Grouping the Gifted: Myths and Realities," 2001

Secondly, there is evidence that achievement of other students does not decline when the gifted leave the classroom.

Kulik and Kulik reported two meta-analytic evaluations of the research literature on ability grouping (1982, 1987). Achievement of low- and average-ability students did not decline when high-ability students were removed from the classroom.
- Dr. John F. Feldhusen, "Synthesis of Research on Gifted Youth," 1989

Thirdly, what purpose should gifted students serve in the school system?

Should they be responsible for teaching those who are struggling with the regular curriculum and its mastery, even at the expense of their own education?

"In cooperative or mixed ability learning groups the person with the strongest personality and highest academic ability usually takes control of the group immediately. Teachers tend to put the faster learners with the slower ones to help them along. That is the exact purpose and problem with cooperative learning. The faster kids are suddenly responsible for everyone else...Sure, on paper cooperative learning looks wonderful because not as many people fail. I believe that the advanced students are being slowed down drastically by this learning method. Not all kids want to learn, and I feel that cooperative learning puts the responsibility of making those people learn on advanced students."
- Corinne, gifted 12 yr-old quoted in Understanding Our Gifted, 1990

Furthermore, moving the highest ability children out of the regular classroom gives the next group an opportunity to shine and to demonstrate leadership.

"We surveyed teachers in Indiana and found that many of them are aware of the inhibiting effect of the gifted on less able children and conversely the 'blossoming' effect that occurs for some children of average or lower ability when the gifted leave the classroom for pullout time or are removed altogether for special classes."
- Dr. John F. Feldhusen, "Why the Public Schools Will Continue to Neglect the Gifted," 1989
Q: Separate grouping is not a reflection of the real world. Won't this be detrimental to gifted students who need to learn to interact effectively with all types of people as adults?
Ans: Children have many other opportunities to interact with all types of children. We tend to make friends with others who think and act like we do, people with similar occupations and interests. As adults, our friends are not chosen for us by others.

"Students are more likely to respond with appropriate social skills if they are with others of similar interest and ability....Positive social experiences with just one person can become the catalyst to elicit appropriate responses in other social settings."
- Arlene DeVries, Board of Directors, Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG), 2001

But, how do students of lesser abilities how to relate well with gifted students?
Gifted students are often teased because of their abilities, called names, bullied and even ostracized. It's okay to be a star athlete, but not a star student. If you are African-American and are a high-achieving student, you are often accused of "acting white." Students, who want to fit in, may start to mask their abilities. Girls, in particular, are likely to do this.

"As a shy eleven-year-old, I was just beginning to cave in to social pressure that implied that it wasn't 'cool' to appear too smart, let alone passionate and enthusiastic about learning. I stopped raising my hand in class, not from fear of being wrong, but from fear of being right."
- Tristan Ching in Gifted Education Communicator, 2001
Q: Aren't special provisions undemocratic?
Ans: No. Special provisions for children with mental or physical disabilities are not considered undemocratic. Special provisions for student with outstanding athletic abilities (i.e., the baseball team) are not considered undemocratic. Why should special provisions for children with outstanding mental abilities be undemocratic?

"There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people."
- Thomas Jefferson

"True equality demands that we maintain equal awareness, respect and freedom for every individual to develop his or her uniqueness. This would, of course, mean an equal opportunity to develop unequal abilities to the fullest extent."
- Dr. Dorothy Sisk, former head of the Office of Gifted and Talented, Department of Health, Education and Welfare in G/C/T, 1979
Q: If gifted children are placed together for instruction, will they still have other friends?
Ans: Yes. They will still have many opportunities to have other friends in sports activities, church activities, social organizations, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and in their neighborhoods.

However, research has shown that it is equally important for gifted children to be with their intellectual peers, and that by doing so, they may improve their relationships with others, as well.

"Students are more likely to respond with appropriate social skills if they are with others of similar interest and ability....Positive social experiences with just one person can become the catalyst to elicit appropriate responses in other social settings."
- Arlene DeVries, Board of Directors, Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG), 2001
Q: Won't grouping gifted students together cause them to become arrogant and conceited?
Ans: Generally, gifted students tend to be more arrogant in the regular classroom. If they look around the class and see that they are at the top, they tend to get an inflated view of their own abilities. Once they have an opportunity to match their abilities with those of their intellectual peers, they develop a much more realistic picture of their talents.

"The programs have not produced arrogant, selfish snobs; special programs have extended a sense of reality, wholesome humility, self-respect, and respect for others."
- Marland Report, 1972

Earnest Newland (1976) found there was no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that classes for the gifted breed elitism. Contrary to popular belief, when the gifted are placed in classes together, they do not come to the conclusion they are better than everyone else. Rather they are humbled by finding peers who know more than they do.

"The best place for gifted children to learn arrogant attitudes is in regular classes in which they can excel and lord it over others. When placed with high-ability peers, they are forced to realize that others are as bright as they and are challenged to compete without an unfair advantage. Too often, the gifted child who completes schoolwork before other pupils is rewarded with time to play chess or solve crossword puzzles. Such activities, while enjoyable and educational, confer a great deal of status on the child for simply working quickly, and do little to encourage the child to pursue subjects in depth with discipline. Playing games while other students study increases the social distance between the gifted child and his peers, and may produce resentment on the part of other children who are unable to obtain similar rewards."
- Teaching Gifted Children, January 1981
Q: What benefits will we derive from special programming for the gifted?
Ans: There are multiple benefits to the students, and to our society.

The relatively few gifted students who have had the advantage of special programs have shown remarkable improvements in self-understanding and in ability to relate well to others, as well as in improved academic and creative performance... A good program for the gifted increases their involvement and interest in learning through the reduction of the irrelevant and redundant.

"It has been documented for 60 years that gifted students are capable of achieving at least two years of advancement for every year of school. Hollingworth (1930) taught gifted students the regular curriculum in half the day (now known as 'compacting' or 'telescoping') and had the rest of the day for enrichment. Martinson (1961) compared gifted students in self-contained classes with their counterparts in the regular classroom and found that the congregated group gained two years in achievement, while the others gained only one year...Renzulli and Reis (1991) note that curriculum compacting reduces the amount of time needed for gifted children to master the basic curriculum by 50 percent."
- Dr. Linda K. Silverman, "Scapegoating the Gifted," 1991
Q: Are there affective benefits for gifted students being with intellectual peers?
Ans: Yes.

“Gifted students unanimously agree that their gifted class is the one place they can really be themselves. They don't have to worry about using certain words for fear people will accuse them of showing off. They don't have to concern themselves with whether or not people understand what they were saying because it sounds "too sophisticated or philosophical." You can brainstorm without being judged a weirdo. Some students went so far as to say that their gifted class was the most important time of the week. They felt accepted."
- Jim Delisle, The Gifted Kids Survival Guide, 1983

"For gifted and talented youth, grouping also confirms the legitimacy of their personal identity."
- Dr. John F. Feldhusen, "Synthesis of Research on Gifted Youth," 1989
Q: Why does it seem to be socially unacceptable to identify and serve gifted children?
Ans: Much depends on the society in which you live. There are strong cultural differences. Western attitudes and practices toward the gifted show all the ambivalence of a love/hate relationship. We admire and applaud the initiative and performance of talented youngsters. Yet our distorted view of 'quality' discourages special educational programs that would provide the gifted with 'unfair advantages.

In Asia there is a much more competitive edge to getting on in life and education is seen as a way of self- and family-improvement. To excel in something is cherished and certainly celebrated. Indeed, some parents take achievement to extremes and place considerable pressures on their children to do well. Gifted students perform well in some parts of the curriculum, as the recent results from the Mathematics and Physics Olympiads show for China and Hong Kong, but challenge in the everyday classroom is still a rarity. As a result, many gifted individuals find their most interesting and exciting learning opportunities outside the regular classroom.