The Need for Specialised Schools for Intellectually Gifted Children

Thousands of intellectually gifted children are falling through the cracks in the Basic Education sector, condemned to continue a life of poverty and exclusion at worst, or at best, consigned to the frustration of working in menial occupations that neither exploit nor reward their innate intellectual potential.

An extremely conservative figure of only two percent of people (Gross; M.U.M, Understanding Our Gifted; 2000) with a Wechsler IQ test score in excess of 131 permits the conclusion that of the 12 million scholars in South Africa, there must be at least 240 000 who are intellectually gifted. (Burt, C. (1968). Is intelligence normally distributed? British Journal of Statistical Psychology; 16. 175-190.)

Most academics working in the field of human intelligence (Terman, 1925; Burt, 1968; Silverman, 1989; Gross, 1993) report that between three and five percent of human populations contain individuals who are intellectually gifted. This higher proportion increases the number of school-going age children in South Africa to between 30 000 and 50 000 in each age cohort from grade 1 to grade 12 who would, if tested, be identifiable as intellectually gifted.

In total, through all grades, there are likely between 360 000 and 500 000 intellectually gifted children in South African schools.

Gifted children from both high and low income families are similarly disadvantaged. Most schools either fail to identify their exceptionalism, or if it is recognised, little to no provision is made to cater to the special needs of these children. Even if schools offer an inclusive curriculum, it is often inadequate or inappropriate and the not infrequent consequence is academic underperformance.

The South African Basic Education sector provides numerically insignificant access to an individually tailored, enriched curriculum, designed specifically for intellectually gifted children, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Aside from the personal loss of a professional career, primarily due to lack of access, the national loss of this pool of talent has found expression in the science and technology skills shortage the country continues to face. These children can and must be identified.

Analysis of NSC results data reveals with a high degree of probability that most of these gifted children either did not reach Grade 12, or if they did, their performance quality was not commensurate with their innate potential, primarily because they were neither recognised nor adequately nurtured.