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A thought for talent

After a gap of nearly three decades, the nation is debating the new draft National Education Policy (NEP). K. Kasturirangan, Chairman of the panel that drafted the policy, recently opined that the draft was futuristic and should hold good for 20 to 30 years. The draft represents a paradigm shift. However, in shifting the paradigm, it appears to have critically missed a critical opportunity. The National Policy on Education, 1986 envisaged the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas to provide appropriate infrastructure and system to talented children predominantly from rural areas without regard to their family's socio-economic condition. The draft NEP 2019 is blind to the existence and education of these gifted and talented students.

The onus of devising appropriate policy-driven mechanisms and education provisions for identifying, nurturing and capitalising on the nation’s talent largely rests on the systematic policy formulation, process and outcome driven, and implementation approaches. Being the second most populated country in the world, India houses a larger share of its population under the young dividend. With such enormous numbers, measures for early talent identification, training and promotion of talents could benefit India in multiple ways contributing towards scientific, social, economic, technical and cultural growth.

The draft mentions the need for supporting students with singular interests and talents (chapter 4, 4.10) and it further encourages the teachers to identify and foster students with singular interests and talent, to form topic-centred and project-based clubs, conducting Centrally funded topic-based residential summer programmes across the country and to strengthen the Olympiads and competitions. Further, the draft recommends the teachers to identify talented children with singular interests and promote these students. However, the policy does not outline the approach nor defines the mechanism for identification. To substantiate further, identification of gifted and talented children is a complex process and needs a well-defined and programmatic approach. Since giftedness is not a fixed state of existence and it covers more than the mere performance of standardised tests and school examinations, it is the responsibility of the policy to provide mechanisms to create a nurturing ecosystem in all areas.

The chapters on ‘Early childhood Care and Education’ and ‘Curriculum and Pedagogy’ emphasise the need for developmentally appropriate activities to nurture the cognitive growth of the children. However, the policy could have taken into consideration the nature of diverse learning needs, which comprises the needs of slow learners, average learners, above average learners (gifted and talented children), twice exceptional learners and so on. Such a holistic consideration would have paved the way for appropriate planning and implementation for gifted and talented learners. For instance, gifted educationists often implement classroom interventions like ability grouping, graded curriculum, individual lesson plans and so on in their classrooms to specifically address the academic learning needs of a gifted child.

This is important because research has shown that gifted and talented children tend to become underachievers and undergo several socio-emotional issues if they are not properly nurtured, challenged and engaged. In this context, the draft NEP could have mentioned specific provisions to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) or the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) to explore the aforementioned aspects as part of their curricular reforms. Such a mechanism would address the issues of enrichment, provide challenging curriculum and the need for academic nurturing of gifted and talented learners within the existing structural framework.

Education advocates and the literature in the domain have explicitly articulated the need for education policies for gifted and talented children. It must cover areas like identification, programme design and services, assessment, curriculum and enrichment, monitoring, evaluation, research and so on. Additionally, they opine that it is equally important to consider the aspects of representation, equity, access and inclusion considering the diversity of these children.

With the existing schooling standards, lack of recognition and inadequate learning experiences for the gifted and talented students in the Indian

classrooms would further question the creditability of equity in education and the provision of right to education for these children. Further these issues and concerns strongly pinpoints towards the shortcomings of recommendations of the draft NEP- 2019.

It is in this context, there is a need for holistic approach towards to policy making to address the educational needs of a diverse student population in the Indian context. In this juncture, it would be suggested for India to arrive at a comprehensive, systematic and systemic policy for the gifted and talented students considering the social, cultural and psychological factors that are associated with these students and nurture the talent pool in the country.

The authors are with the Ramaiah Public Policy Centre.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 11:40:55 PM |

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