Introduction

The idea of developing an educational centre to cater for the learning needs of Malaysian gifted and talented students was mooted by YABhg. Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor in 2007. YABhg. Datin Paduka Seri in her busy schedule as the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, visited many gifted and talented centres around the world to examine the best possible model that can be emulated by Malaysia. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia was given the mandate in 2008 by the cabinet to plan, execute and monitor gifted education program for the Malaysian gifted and talented students. YABhg. Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah’s idea was well received by the government and was crystallized on 3rd of April 2009 by the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Johns Hopkins University-Centre for Talented Youth (JHU-CTY). JHU-CTY was assigned to assist UKM to develop its first enrichment program for Malaysian gifted and talented students under the banner “Program Perkhemahan Cuti Sekolah UKM-JHU-CTY”.

Under the advice of YABhg. Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, the Vice Chansellor of UKM, Prof. tan Sri Dato Wira Dr. Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin, established a centre of excellence named Pusat PERMATApintar at the Faculty of Education to ensure smooth implementation of the first enrichment program that was conducted in December 2009. Prior to the first enrichment program, UKM sent 14 lecturers from the various faculties (Engineering, Social Science and Education) to the Educational Institute at JHU-CTY to receive one month training on gifted education. Upon their return, the lecturers developed and trained 45 school teachers to conduct the enrichment program for the Malaysian gifted and talented students.

One of the most important aspects of providing education program for the gifted and talented students is to have an accurate identification process. UKM was given some fund by the Prime Minister’s Office to develop two on-line IQ tests (UKM Test1 and UKM Test2) that was launched by YABhg Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor at UKM in 2009. In total, 212,486 students tried the first test and 450 students were selected to participate in the first “Program Perkhemahan Cuti Sekolah UKM-CTY 2009”. The program was officiated by YAB Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia on 6th December 2009. A grounded breaking ceremony for the development of the PERMATApintar high school was also conducted on the same day by the Prime Minister.

In January 2010, PERMATApintar centre was announced as the National Gifted and Talented Centre by the Prime Minister. The centre is now known as Pusat PERMATApintar Negara located at Bukit Puteri in UKM. UKM provided the centre with a 22 acres land. Together with the funding given by the Prime Minister’s Office, UKM was able to build state-of-the-art education facilities, that encompasses administrative block and library, classrooms and laboratories for science, languages, music and visual arts, residential college, cafeteria and dining hall, lecturers rooms and multipurpose hall. Its first director is Prof. Datuk Dr. Noriah Mohd. Ishak.

The centre manages four activities including; identifying Malaysian gifted and talented students, the “Program Perkhemahan Cuti Sekolah UKM-CTY”, the high school program now known as Kolej PERMATApintar, and its pre-university program under UKM. Since the centre’s inception until now, more than one million students aged between 9 to 15 have tried the UKM Test1 and more than 30,000 students have tried UKM Test 2. More than 3,000 students have participated in the “Program Perkhemahan Cuti Sekolah” and 489 students have enrolled into the high school program. As of 2014, a total of 241 students have graduated from the high school program.

The students’ natural talents are nurtured through a suitable system of learning that enhances their potential via a comprehensive and holistic high school education program. The two-year programme’s curriculum has six components, which includes international languages, scientific projects, citizenship and co-curriculum activities, specifically designed to develop not only the student’s academic ability, but also increase their creativity and innovation. This learning approach provides the students with a more challenging mode of study, befitting the child’s intellect, while enabling a shorter route for the student to pursue tertiary education.

The centre has also embarked on a special foundation programme for high school students who have earned excellent results in their Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia. The programme, called ASASIpintar UKM is a one year program that emphasizes on mathematics, science and creative thinking. The program illustrates UKM’s efforts in educating and nurturing gifted students that will in turn build the nation’s economy. The programme also focuses on developing a new generation of gifted students that internalizes innovation and research as part of their lifelong learning. This ensures a pool of talented individuals that the nation can tap into in many years to come.