GATE student
What does it take to become a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) student? Source: Hoang le Dieu Huyen/Unsplash

Standing for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), this is a term that refers to the education of ‘extraordinary’ students.

GATE students have been identified as gifted or talented by GATE programmes or specialised exam papers and are often nominated by schools or parents to undergo the examination.

What does it mean if a child is ‘gifted’?

In the US, the current definition in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is, “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”

If a learner demonstrates outstanding initiative or work in a certain discipline(s), they could become a GATE student.

Is it fair to label some learners as GATE students and not others? Source: Shutterstock

How is education different for a GATE student?

Advised by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), education for GATE students does have its differences.

It is the NAGC’s belief that educators have an extremely important role to play in the nurturing of gifted learners.

“Teaching gifted children is both exciting and challenging. Research shows that teachers encounter wide ranges of knowledge, skills, and abilities within their classrooms. Teachers must have the skills to differentiate their instruction to help children across the achievement spectrum to learn and grow every day,” the NAGC notes.

A few factors they believe will guide gifted children to study success is special strategies like acceleration, flexible ability grouping, and specialised pull-out programming where they are taken out of a regular classroom for one or more hours a week and provided with enrichment activities and instruction.

The debate surrounding GATE

Over the years, GATE education has been at the centre of criticism and debate.

Against the notion of GATE education, New York Times reporter Eliza Shiparo recently questioned the future of New York’s gifted programmes.

“To get into a gifted and talented elementary school programme in New York City, children must ace a single, high-stakes exam – when they are 4 years old. This admissions process is now a flash point in an escalating debate over how to desegregate the nation’s largest school district.

“Although New York’s school district has mostly black and Hispanic students, the city’s gifted classes are made up of about three-quarters white and Asian students. Experts say the single-exam admissions process for such young children is an extremely unusual practice that may be the only one of its kind nationwide,” Shiparo explains.

The equality debate surrounding GATE is steadily gaining traction.

By trying to promote diversity and individuals who are deemed exceptionally talented, they may just be furthering educational segregation – and in some cases, racial segregation in schools.

There’s also the fear that GATE programmes place too much pressure on young students’ shoulders. In a bid to impress their parents, children as young as four may feel the need to push their intelligence to the next level.

Ultimately, all school students are gifted and talented in different ways.

Granting one child the ‘gifted and talented’ label and not the other is bound to create feelings of envy and trigger low self-esteem in the classroom.

It’s also worth mentioning the effects that GATE students have on teachers. Schools will be expected to provide educators that have received training in gifted education, or to have the budget in place to support GATE training for teachers who are inexperienced with these types of learners.

In some ways, a teacher will have to evolve into a GATE teacher by fostering higher-level thinking, considering individual student strengths and weaknesses, and providing a variety of learning experiences to challenge all students.

After all, gifts are not without their pitfalls, and the label may come with complications for GATE students, such as pressure to adjust their abstract thinking and the ongoing plight for perfection.

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