How to treat our gifted kids

Warief Djajanto Basorie, Jakarta | Sat, 04/24/2010 9:11 AM | Opinion A | A | A |


Oki Novendra, a student at SMA 1 high school in Bogor, West Java, won a gold medal in the mathematics category for his paper “A Mathematical Explanation on the Death of Michael Jackson”.

He was one in an Indonesian team that came out as overall champion in capturing seven gold, one silver and three bronze medals as well as two Best Performance awards at the 17th International Conference of Young Scientists in Sanur, Bali, April 12-17.

The young scientist joins other Indonesian youths whose photos are on display in the spacious, ground-floor lobby of the National Education Ministry. They are no ordinary children. The kids are winners of international competitions in science and mathematics. They are extraordinary, highly intelligent boys and girls in elementary and secondary schools. All received mounted appreciation in this Gallery of the Gifted.

According to the Association for the Education of Gifted Children (Asosiasi CI+BI), 2.2 percent of Indonesia’s school-age children qualify for exceptional aptitude. This means that with 52.9 million school-age children in the nation in 2006, based on Central Statistics Agency (BPS) figures, Indonesia has a little more than 1 million potentially gifted children. This huge human capital is woefully undertapped.

Only 4,510 of these children or 0.43 percent of the total have benefited from an accelerated school program in 2006/7, according to the Ministry’s Directorate for Extraordinary Schools Development (PSLB). The acceleration program, conducted in a selected number of schools nationwide, allows these children to complete their regular school period of 12 years more quickly.

What is the value of gifted children for Indonesia? What could be done to allow more, if not all, gifted children to gain access to schooling that enhances their intellectual potential?

With abundant natural and human resources, Indonesia has no reason not to become a great nation. It can be a more prosperous nation if it can produce 30,000 PhDs in science and technology by 2030, declared Yohanes Surya, a physics professor who has consistently coached many bright Indonesian children since 1993 to win 49 gold medals in international Olympiads in physics and other sciences.

Surya envisages Indonesia’s new PhDs should become experts in four fields that hold much promise in the future global map of schemes. The four areas are nanotechnology, biotechnology, information and communication technology and neuroscience.

“If Indonesia wants to climb out of poverty, we must have at least 30,000 doctoral graduates in science and technology,” Surya stated in an article and repeated in a July 2009 seminar in Jakarta on developing gifted children. Surya, now rector of the new Multimedia Nusantara University in Tangerang, west of Jakarta, calls on funding from local governments, the state budget, private enterprise, international donors and parents to educate the 30,000 PhDs in the world’s top universities.

Yohanes Surya is not alone in expounding ideas of how best Indonesia can rear its underutilized human resources, particularly its gifted children.

Property magnate Ciputra instills young Indonesians with entrepreneurship through the Citra Kasih School he built in Kalideres, West Jakarta, and the Ciputra University in Surabaya. He believes a nation needs at least 2 percent of its population to be entrepreneurs to become an advanced nation. Singapore has 7.2 percent, the US 2.14 percent, but Indonesia only has 0.1 percent of the population who are entrepreneurs, Ciputra laments.

Numerous private and public corporations actively fund education programs for promising school kids. But long term, committed support for gifted children is lacking. Surya’s initiative to establish a super-class of children with an intelligence quotient of more than 140 for three years schooling with a college-level curriculum still seeks adequate funding.

The lack of funding is further reflected in the miniscule number of gifted children who do receive serious attention. According to 2009 figures, the Association for the Education of Gifted Children compiled Indonesia has just 318 schools from elementary to high school level that conduct an acceleration program. They involve only 9,551 pupils.  

Beyond an acceleration program, college-level education that embraces character building tenets should be afforded to pupils of proven, superior intelligence. Further, scholarships to doctoral level should be made available as well as a guarantee for job security in Indonesia for top students upon completion. Otherwise, many talented Indonesian doctoral grads will be recruited by high-paying organizations abroad, as is the case at present.  

In the 2003 National Education System Law, Article 12 , Paragraph 1 (b), states categorically every participant in education has the right fto an education “in line with their talent, intent, and ability”. That includes gifted children.

Indonesia’s 2010 state budget totals Rp 1,048 trillion (US$116 billion), Rp 51.8 trillion goes to the National Education Ministry. A generous portion of that amount should be allocated to the Extraordinary Schools Development Directorate to enhance education for the nation’s gifted children and Indonesia’s future.

The writer teaches journalism and has conducted workshops on development reporting at the Dr. Soetomo Press Institute in Jakarta.

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