Quebec has paid more than 30 million over the past three years for services intended for gifted students, but it is not known how many classes have been opened with these sums, nor what has actually been done with them. Moreover, the government considers that there is no “consensus” on a definition of giftedness.
The government has been paying millions for gifted students since 2020, without knowing concretely what has been achieved with this money.
In general, it is explained that it allows in particular “mentoring, the development of personal educational projects and the diversification of groups of gifted students”.
Giftedness affects between 2 and 5% of the population.
In March 2020, the provincial budget included a measure for these students for the very first time.
The Minister of Education then believed that, like children in difficulty, gifted students “have special needs and are entitled to receive different services”.
“We are opening this door this year,” added Jean-François Roberge, without however quantifying the number of classes that would be intended for these young people.
What types of classes have been opened? We’re told that “how [classes] work, how they’re named, and what they’re made of are local choices,” and we’re referred to CSS to find out how the money was spent.
In general, it is explained that these sums allow “mentoring, the development of personal educational projects and the diversification of groups of gifted students”, but also “the training and support of teachers”.
The Ministry of Education writes on its website that “there is no consensus on a universally accepted definition” of giftedness and that there is “no single profile of a gifted student or single criterion to recognize them”. You don’t diagnose giftedness, experts say, you “identify” it.
Full professor in the department of psychoeducation and social work at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières, Line Massé works closely with several CSS.
She explains that several of them first set up “simple things” for students who learn faster, such as allowing them to start working before the end of the explanations on a given subject, or giving them less of exercises.
Ms. Massé observes that the education community has “fought for years” to have services offered to students with special needs without a diagnosis.
In three years, the Montreal school service center received nearly $2 million to provide services to gifted students. It was impossible to know how many classes were opened or how services to these students were distributed. The sums “are used for the specific purposes for which they were dedicated”, we were told.
The Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service center has eight gifted classes in three schools. They are the ones who decide on the criteria for admitting students, taking into account “behavioral manifestations related to each of the skill areas”, explains its spokesperson Mélanie Simard.
It indicates that 291 students have adapted services in regular classes.
The Laval school service center will open next September a very first group for gifted students at Georges-Vanier high school. To access it, students may “have carried out an assessment by a specialist such as a neuropsychologist who concludes that they are gifted, or even be referred by their 6th grade primary school teacher or their management”, we are told.
Pediatric neuropsychologist Marie-Josée Caron explains that giftedness affects between 2 and 5% of the population – “2%, for purists,” she says.
As some schools suggest that students who would like to enter a giftedness program have an evaluation from a specialist, parents sometimes come to consult her on this subject.
“When the motive is giftedness, it’s often for educational acceleration and it’s often requested or suggested by the school environment,” says Ms. Caron.
It costs the private sector approximately $600 to obtain such an evaluation.
With private schools often selecting the strongest students, and multiple special public network programs doing the same, are gifted classes necessary?
Marie-Josée Caron does not believe that there are too many offers for gifted students, although there may have been “too much identification” of giftedness in the past.
“Private schools are part of the answer, but special purpose classes are a great offer. If in schools there are little options designed to cater [to gifted students], I think that’s a good idea,” Ms. Caron says.
Special programs for gifted students, where you see the subjects much more quickly, “create a diversity that was not offered” at the present time, also believes Line Massé.
“There are young people who are just looking forward to going to university,” she illustrates.