Malaysia is committed to developing learning opportunities in which both equity and excellence are persistent goals for each learner. Since changes in every young adolescent are rapid and uneven, these learning opportunities should be designed to accommodate the different learning curve of the diverse learners especially among the gifted or the highly able students. The Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, in his speech at the PERMATA Exhibition 2011, suggested that Malaysia had for a very long time been serious in providing education for students from the lower (children with learning disabilities, dyslexic, down syndrome, hearing and visual impaired) and middle group (students at normal daily schools) of learning ability. However, he also acknowledged that students who were extremely gifted and talented or who were highly able had been forgotten or left behind in the education system. They were not provided with the best possible educational curriculum that could promote their potential to the fullest.
Moreover, while the prime minister believed that intellectual prowess of individuals should be nurtured from the beginning, as early as 2 years old, he also acknowledged that there was a gap in this effort. Using the Egyptian pyramid as a metaphor, he posited that those at the “top most of the intellectual pyramid’, namely the gifted and talented and the highly able had not been given sufficient attention in many areas, particularly in the area of education. As such, these individuals looked for greener pastures in other countries prompting the brain drain issues that have engulfed Malaysian for decades. Therefore, it is timely that Malaysia addresses the educational issues of the gifted or highly able learners as a way forward to moving the country to a fully industrialized nation by 2020.
In general, the aims of this symposium is threefold; to provide information on the need for special educational provisions for gifted learners, to build network among parents, teachers, educators, and gifted education specialists and to share best possible practices and interventions to help promote educational support for the gifted learners.
What Do We Mean by Gifted or High Ability?
Gifted or highly able individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensory motor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).
The development of ability or talent is a lifelong process. It can be evident in young children as exceptional performance on tests and/or other measures of ability or as a rapid rate of learning, compared to other students of the same age, or in actual achievement in a domain. As individuals mature through childhood to adolescence, however, achievement and high levels of motivation in the domain become the primary characteristics of their giftedness.
A person’s giftedness should not be confused with the means by which giftedness is observed or assessed. Parent, teacher, or student recommendations, a high mark on an examination, or a high IQ score alone is not necessarily indicative of giftedness; together, they may signal that giftedness exists.