x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Student too smart for peers but happy to stay put

Regulations in the UAE do not permit acceleration as an option for highly intellectual pupils.

DUBAI // When Aeron Deine Alde was in Grade 2, he began effortlessly solving Grade 6 mathematics problems that peers twice his age were struggling with.

His teachers recommended that he be moved to a higher grade.

Aeron, a pupil of The Philippine School, rattles off mathematical equations and sums with ease and needs to be constantly challenged in other subjects to keep him engaged.

"I love maths. It is fun to solve sums, like: the product of three multiplied numbers is 240. If the first two number are four and 10, what is the third number? The answer is six," said the 7-year-old, whose parents have to frequently ask him to take a break from solving equations.

His father, Adelio Alde, has to buy higher grade books so that Aeron does not lost interest in education.

"The principal had recommended that we move him to a higher class, but I didn't want to do that because he is very young."

Regulations in the UAE do not permit acceleration as an option for highly intellectual pupils. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority has refused request from parents who wanted their children to skip grades in the past.

But Mr Alde said even if it was an option, he wouldn't take it. "My son needs to be with children his own age," he said.

The acceleration method is a topic of debate among school heads all over the world. International research has proven it is beneficial for gifted pupils to skip grades but many educators still believe it may stunt children's social and emotional growth.

Dr Taisir Subhi Yamin, president of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, said acceleration involves looking at several support factors.

"It first needs a good identification system, because IQ tests are not an efficient determiner for the gifted," he said. "Parents need to be included in the screening.

"A child who comes up with a new idea cannot be called Einstein. It's the child who can maintain it and come up with something unique all the time who is truly gifted."

However, Clive Pierrepont, director of Taaleem, which runs schools in Dubai and the capital, said it discourages parents from looking at grade acceleration as an option.

"A child that is put with peers older than him can go through a lot of social issues and emotional turmoil."

He said schools should instead try diversifying their curricula to meet the needs of pupils at different learning levels.

Dr Yamin said it is beneficial to grade accelerate but issues can crop up if it is done without a proper support system.

"Pupils will need guidance and counselling if they are accelerated to prevent a fallout in their social life," he said. "There also needs to be a family service to inform the parents how to deal with their children."