With abilities and qualities across every learning area, culture, gender identity and socio-economic group, what does the future hold for gifted and talented students in Aotearoa New Zealand?
The Ministry’s vision for all learners is that New Zealanders “aspire for themselves and their children to achieve more; have the choice and opportunity to be the best they can be” (Ministry of Education, 2015, p. 8) and that this is scaffolded through a system that meets “the diverse needs of every child and student from birth to adulthood in different communities” (p. 17).
According to our Ministry’s vision, all children will have their potential recognised and supported. Taking a positive approach, it is reasonable to assume that this includes our gifted students and thus their future looks bright within our education system.
Recent research demonstrates growth in gifted education policies, identification and provisions, and this is positive on its own merit. Yet when assessed against the markers of inclusion – presence, participation and achievement – gifted and talented education is left wanting. This is not a reflection of a lack of commitment by professionals working in the field but rather reflects a larger exclusionary set of practices at work.
The elephant in the room is that despite its rhetoric, our Government’s vision of a fully inclusive education system completely forgot one group of students with special educational needs – gifted and talented students. It seems that inclusive education increasingly means including students with special educational needs, as long as those ‘special’ needs are aligned to some kind of disability. Of course, it could be argued that all students have special educational needs at some time or another in their educational experiences. It is certainly vital that all students are included to the extent that they are provided with appropriate educational opportunities and support. And it is also realistic to recognise that some of our students, such as those with disabilities, are ‘priority learners’.
But government and policy-makers need to remember that gifted and talented learners are priority learners too. The language of inclusion around providing for all learners is present and appropriate, but in actuality this very diverse group of learners with special educational needs is too often missing in action within the inclusion framework.
To include our gifted learners, the challenge for the Ministry of Education in the future will be to enable effective teaching approaches, inclusive of those appropriate for gifted, so as to “create a supportive learning environment that is effective for all students” (Ministry of Education, 2012, p. 1). It is equally important that the Ministry of Education be held accountable for claims that “ … inclusive practice may also require a more specialised response” (Ministry of Education, 2012, p. 1). This is where gifted and talented education professional learning, support and development at both pre-service and in-service levels needs to be increased in order to build a stronger cohort of teachers with specialist knowledge, who can then work alongside others to embed gifted education pedagogy in whole-school approaches.
The future of education for our gifted and talented students is reliant on the rhetoric of aspiration and inclusion for all learners being about more than just words, but a rhetoric that becomes the reality for these students in our schools and centres.
giftEDnz. (2015). Inclusive Education. giftEDnewz, Issue 1. Retrieved from http://giftednz.org.nz/giftednewz-2
Ministry of Education. (2012). The New Zealand Curriculum update. Retrieved from https://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-resources/NZC-Updates/Issue-18-March-2012
Ministry of Education. (2015). The Ministry of Education’s Four Year Plan 2015–2019. Retrieved from www.education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/Publications/MOE-Four-Year-Plan-2015-2019.pdf
Source: Education Review