Czech schools fail to identify gifted and talented children

According to the findings of the Czech School Inspectorate, schools have a problem finding and identifying gifted children. Teachers tend to focus more on pupils with special educational needs as they lack experience and training in identifying and educating gifted children – although gifted and talented children have their own set of special needs, which also require attention.

Central school inspector Tomáš Zatloukal explains what can happen to gifted children whose potential is not identified and properly nurtured early on:

“We’re talking about a group of kids with specific needs, but who are of fundamental importance to society in their later professional lives. And if we fail to identify them in the early stages of their education, their potential withers and they usually end up becoming pupils diagnosed with special educational needs, learning difficulties or behavioural disorders.”

Tomáš Zatloukal | Photo: Kateřina Cibulka,  Czech Radio

Furthermore, schools tend to privilege – and most often spot – intellectual talents, while artistic, social, physical, and manual talents are comparatively neglected and fall by the wayside. As Tomáš Zatloukal points out, talent is not necessarily related to achievement at school.

“The kids who have good grades and actively contribute in class are not necessarily the gifted kids. And that’s exactly what we're failing at – we link these two things, which actually don’t have much to do with each other. So if schools tell us that there are some 42 000 gifted children in elementary schools, we have to take this number with a pinch of salt. The real number is actually much lower.”

The inspectorate advises teachers to give pupils more space to express themselves, in order to provide more opportunities for recognising students’ true potential and for motivating and advising them on how to develop their talents further.

Some schools are already trying to cater to the specific needs of this group of pupils – for example, the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Elementary School in Mnichovice, south-east of Prague, has introduced so-called talent blocks, as class teacher Tereza Klímová explains.

“We are trying this block for the first time this year for eighth and ninth graders. We have it in Czech and English because we have a native speaker in the class who can help us with the English part.”

Illustrative photo: René Volfík,  Czech Radio

However, in this school, the children apply to be in the talent block, as headteacher Marcela Erbeková explains.

“The children can choose – like finding a job. They write motivational essays stating why they want to join the class and why we should choose them, and they do practical admission tests. Our work should be about finding talent in everyone, finding out what each child is good at.”

In teacher Tereza Klímová’s talent block, students are working towards a performance of Romeo and Juliet – in two languages.

“We are doing it so that one of the family clans in the play will speak Czech and the other will speak English, in order to take advantage of the fact that the block is Czech-English. Right now we are working on the script to shorten the play a bit.”

Talent blocks at this school are focused not only on languages and the arts, but also on, for example, sports ​​and science. Each one is led by a teacher together with an expert practitioner and they are intended for pupils in the sixth to ninth grades.

Authors: Anna Fodor , Lucie Korcová
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