By Lois J. Gray
Gifted education practices are very different in South Korea than in the United States.
“Gifted education is a far more established field, both for research and practice, in the United States,” said Laurie Croft, professional development administrator with the University of Iowa College of Education’s Belin-Blank Center. To share some of that knowledge and expertise, Croft is helping organize a July 18-31 visit of 22 Korean teachers to the UI campus and local community.
Welcoming ceremonies will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Monday, July 19, on the Sixth Floor of the Blank Honors Center with special remarks made by Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo, UI College of Education Dean Sandra Damico, and UI International Programs Associate Provost and Dean Downing Thomas.
Croft said that during the mid-1990s, the South Korean government formally began strengthening gifted education programs.
“One part of this was to encourage professional development for teachers of the gifted, both at home in South Korea and abroad, at centers such as the Belin-Blank Center,” Croft said.
To continue fulfilling this goal, the Korean teachers will visit the UI campus this month as part of an exchange between the UI College of Education’s Belin-Blank Center and the Daejeon Metropolitan Office of Education. This year’s exchange will mark the 8th year the UI Belin-Blank Center is hosting educators from South Korea.
The educators — 11 men and 11 women – include elementary, middle and high school math and science teachers, two high school inventiveness teachers and two team leaders.
During their two-week visit, the educators will engage in a variety of activities ranging from attending presentations on different facets of gifted education to touring the UI Natural History Museum and eating in Burge Residence Hall.
“The goal of the program is to share information about best practices in gifted education between the staff of the Belin-Blank Center and these Korean educators, all recognized as having expertise in the field,” Croft said. “The Belin-Blank Center will share information not as familiar to these teachers, including the role of acceleration in the education of gifted children as well as ways to enhance creativity among students.”
Croft said that learning opportunities work both ways, with the South Korean educators sharing their current practices in the identification of gifted learners, extra-curricular enrichment programs and their emphasis on the cultivation of talent to develop responsible and wise leaders for Korean society.
Although South Korean gifted education has more national government support than gifted education in the United States, the field is more established in the United States.
“Although the U.S. federal government plays little role, the National Association for Gifted Children, universities and their scholars, statewide Departments of Education and state organizations and local communities have long been engaged in supporting the needs of gifted education,” Croft said.
“Some U.S. cities trace the history of their gifted programs back to the 1800s. On the other hand, some states have recently defunded gifted education, and No Child Left Behind has diminished the effectiveness of some gifted programs,” he said.
Nevertheless, Croft said, 29 states have at least one high school affiliated with the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, and over 20 early-entrance-to-college programs are available for young scholars who are ready for academic challenge beyond the high school level.
In South Korea, gifted education didn’t officially begin until 1983, she noted.
Croft added that the Belin-Blank Center’s publication, “A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students,” is being translated into Korean and soon will be available in print and online as a service to the center’s Korean colleagues. It is currently available in seven different languages in addition to English.
“Part of the Belin-Blank Center’s mission is its dedication to the worldwide gifted community,” Croft said. “Exchanges of greater understanding about the nature and needs of gifted learners will enable all of us to provide the most effective services for gifted learners.”
Photos: South Korean educators participate in hands-on learning activities at a past gifted education traning program hosted by the University of Iowa College of Education Belin-Blank Center.