Gifted Students In The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia Education Essay

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Introduction

Making proper stipulation for gifted students is significant for the development and growth of one's society. They are considered as valuable future resources. In the year 1998, the interest in supporting gifted children in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia grew. They have established programmes in which they were able to identify gifted children. The General Administration for Gifted Students (GAGS) was established in Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education in the year 2000. (Bondagjy, 2000). There has been not enough research and development in the field of introduction of gifted children in Saudi Arabia.

According to Al-Ghamdi, 2007, there are very few programmes for gifted students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was run by the Ministry of Education. The programmes that do exist are new and in need of evaluation and further development in order to provide maximum benefit for gifted students. The Saudi Arabian government believe that the gifts and talents of the young people in the country are nurtured.

At the present time, in Saudi Arabia, gifted students who have special characteristics or abilities qualify for provision at the highest levels of services.

Since 1999, the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has demonstrated a strong interest in its gifted students by putting in place programmes that are developed specifically for these students; however, these programmes are rare and new. Therefore I feel it is necessary to carry out an in-depth study of the present state of gifted education, find out what is available and identify the strengths and weaknesses of what is being offered.

Objectives of the study

From the outset, it is acknowledged that the concept of giftedness and its identification is highly complex. As Gubbins (2002) points out, people all over the world are still asking questions about how we assess and nurture people's abilities. Whilst there are centres around the world focusing on research and development on gifted education, there are also experts (Borland, 2005) who question the whole concept of identification of 'gifted students' and recommend that what is needed is 'gifted education' without labelling a group as 'gifted'. Borland, however, states that there is agreement amongst experts that 'high achieving or high-ability students are among those who are the most ill-served when curriculum and instruction are not differentiated'.This study aims to make a contribution to the on-going debate in aspects of gifted education. It also hopes to add to the research literature by studying the nature of gifted education in Saudi Arabia, which has a different cultural social and educational background to many other countries where gifted programmes exist.

More specifically, the aims of this study are:

to explore the effectiveness and any possible weaknesses of gifted programmes in Saudi Arabia, by seeking the perspectives of all parties involved;

to draw conclusions about the Saudi programmes and make recommendations based on the data collected;

to make suggestions based on what is known about gifted programmes in other countries.

As previously stated, the study also aims to provide an overview of international literature on gifted education by reviewing gifted education programmes and the range of methods used in other countries.

The research questions

Based on the aims articulated in the previous section, the following specific research questions have been formulated:

How does the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia define gifted students?

How does the Ministry identify and support gifted students?

What is the nature of programmes for gifted students in the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

How effective are these programmes in terms of making provision in terms of the educational methods and resources for gifted students?

In 1969 the Saudi cabinet first recognized the necessity of identifying gifted students -Nafea et all (1992), but no actual steps had been taken for action. Between the years 1990 and 1996, King Abdul Aziz's City of Science and Technology, with collaboration from the Ministry of Education and the General Presidency for Girls Education, produced a project for extensive national research. The project titled: 'identification and care for Gifted Students' (Bondagjy, 2000) and consisted of three main aims:

To design a programme for identification of gifted students.

To design enrichment programme models for mathematics and science curriculum.

To enlighten Saudi society about the importance of the identification of gifted pupils and provision for their educational needs.

Regarding identification of gifted students, the project employs seven methods, which are:

Teachers' nomination

High academic achievement

High achievement in science

High achievement in mathematics.

IQ test

Torrance test for creativity thinking

Wechsler IQ test.

In 1998, a project (identify and car programme for gifted students) designed for identifying gifted students in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was implemented by the Ministry of Education (Alwasruh, 2005). This programme consists of four units:

Identification of gifted students.

Care and enrichment programmes for gifted students.

Training, planning and organization.

Finance and administration services.

This project was a very significant one in that it would serve the purpose of identifying and supporting gifted children of the kingdom. Therefore, it represents a landmark in the history of gifted education in Saudi Arabia. It provided the Ministry of Education with the opportunity to start special programmes for gifted students.

Gifted Students 'Care Centres' in Saudi Arabia:

The gifted students Care Centres are establishments charged with the task of offering educational, social and psychological care for gifted students. Such centres are supervised by the General Administration for Gifted Students. The administration body which controls each of these centres includes a Centre Director, assistants, teachers, behavioural specialists, laboratory technicians, learning sources specialists and general support technicians. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, at the time of writing this thesis, has 31 Care Centres for boys and 20 for girls (MOE, web, 2007).

Care Programmes for Gifted Students in the Schools of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The General Administration for Gifted Students emphasises that all students should be provided with equal opportunities, so that their abilities may be identified and their gifts and talents developed. In order to achieve this goal, the General Administration for Gifted Students provides a programme to train teachers so as to achieve this purpose.

The teachers' duties include the introduction of a complete gifted programme prepared by the General Administration for Gifted Students. These programmes start at the beginning of every school term. Among the responsibilities of the teacher is the use of modern methods which help to improve students' skills of leadership, social and scientific research skills, as well as improving the parents' knowledge about the importance of provision for gifted students. The duties of teachers also include the liaison between the various Care Centres of Gifted Students.

The number of schools that have had benefited from this programme, between the years 2002 and 2004 was 264 boys' schools and 97 girls' schools (Alwasruh, 2005).

Support for Gifted Education

The Foundation provides funds and support to students in the six main centres for gifted education of the Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia. These centres are located in Riyadh, Jeddah, Taif, Madinah, Dammam, and Al-Hassa. They work on identifying gifted children and providing them with enriched educational activity. They also assist in the teaching of the whole community about the nature of giftedness and about the role that talents and talented people will play in the future of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, the Foundation is committed to providing training for all those who interact with the gifted children (KACFG, web, 2007).

The KACFG is the first and the biggest foundation to support the education of the gifted and talented in the Saudi Arabia, as it supplies programmes and support with substantial funding.

Literature Review

This chapter provides a pervasive review of literature relevant to the identification of and provision for gifted students. The contents of this review constitute the basis for the empirical work and the subsequent analysis. It starts with an examination of a range of definitions and conceptions of giftedness. Theories and research relating to various aspects of gifted education are reviewed, accompanied by a critical analysis of various points of view on the complex and contested conceptions of giftedness which provide a theoretical framework for this study.

In this section literature on methods of identification of gifted students is reviewed, which will be followed by a review literature on aspects of provision of educational opportunities that will extend and/or enrich the learning of the gifted students. It could be argued that using accurate methods of identification is critical in determining the nature of provision. For example, Gubbins (1995) believes that identifying gifted and talented students is not just about answering the question, 'who are they?' but it must also address the question, 'how do we find them?' and 'what do we do when we find them?'

The process of identification may differ from one programme to another. In some programmes, the only means used for identification is the use of standardized tests. In others, the standardized test is only one of the factors in the identification process and in addition to test scores, nominations and recommendations of teachers, parents, staff, and even self-nomination are used (Blackshear 1979; Denton and Postlehwaite, 1984; LPS 1995). ( check spelling of of Post..)

Bondagjy (2000) believes that a single test to determine general ability may not be sufficient and that subject specific tests may need to be used:

Standardized tests of intelligence offer a good base for staff to identify potential capability, including that of some pupils whose performance is otherwise undistinguished as poor. In a few schools the tests are used in isolation without reference to individual aptitudes in specific areas of the curriculum, either as a short cut for selecting pupils for special enrichment courses, or for determining the composition of teaching groups of. This is less useful than if combined with a subject-specific test. (Bondagjy, 2000, p.20)

Standardised tests are used widely by the supporters of the theories of a one-dimensional view of ability, which go back to the first theories of intelligence, such as Spearman's theory ( date) mentioned in the previous section, which has been received with enthusiasm and also with scepticism and rejection. The arguments against this single-dimension view of ability (based on general intelligence that consists of areas that are highly correlated with each other and that are mainly intellectual and tested using IQ tests) led to the creation of multi-dimensional theories of ability, such as that of Renzulli, (1978) Gardner (1983,1993), Sternberg (2000) and others. The multi-faceted theories of giftedness are viewed by many to be more appropriate to define and identify high ability. These authors along with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ( date ) and Benjamin Bloom (1985) have all made compelling arguments for a much broader conception of giftedness. Chongde & Tsingan, (2003) describes the contribution to the more liberal conceptions of giftedness as:

Many western theories of intelligence focus on its physiological or cognitive components. However, Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (1983, 1993), Robert Sternberg's triarchic theory of intelligence (1985) and Stephen Ceci's bioecological theory of intelligence (1996) are much broader in scope. They combine and extend aspects of the biological, hierarchical and contextual views of intelligence which include interactions between mental processes, contextual influences and multiple abilities. (p.)

The following section provides greater detail of the specific models of identification of giftedness and associated views on high ability, which have informed the nature of data collection in the present study.

Saudi Arabia has conducted research to find out the best approach to gifted education, but of course for females who are severely restricted in the subjects they are allowed to study, these moves are somewhat 'academic'. An interesting survey of computer use in Arabic countries was made by a Jordanian, Subhi (1997). He recommended that gifted pupil's records should be computerised for easier monitoring of their progress, and he has designed a programme to help this. The problem, he found though, is that although there are computers in Jordanian schools, there are very few of them and the teachers do not generally know how to use them.

It looks as though most, if not all, Arab countries are willing to recognise and help the gifted, and several have made forays into out-of-school activities, but the overall outcome is still difficult to define.

Some authors (such as Sternberg et al., 1986, Ziegler and Heller, 2000) believe that a consensus is yet to be reached on what is meant by the term (gifted), and yet multiple efforts have been made to establish criteria for this, which include components such as motivation, creativity, task commitment, and problem solving. However, personal talent is described by Renzulli (1999a, p.4) as "exceptional ability to select and achieve difficult goals that fit one's interests, abilities and social contexts". In his view, personal talent is a capability developed in the field of self-management that is concentrated by the individual in the direction of selected outcomes that contain well-being, happiness, personal relationships, hobbies as well as career achievements. He proposes that personal talent can be referred to as a range where those in the centre of this continuum can be explained as personally competent, while those at the high end of the range can be categorized as personally talented.

On the other hand, Masten et al. (2002) argue that resilient individuals learn how to overcome obstacles in order to achieve their anticipated goals, and that this can be described as personal talent. Also, Bland et al. (1994) refer to specific characteristics of resilience as an indicator of exceptional abilities and talent regarding children from poor backgrounds. In this regard, Marker et al. (1996) propose that numerous of the principles of distinguishing curriculum for gifted and talented learners support the development of personal talent. They refer to learning environments that foster independence, flexibility and high mobility as being potentially more promising for fostering personal talents than the more traditional teacher-centred classrooms that concentrate on lectures with academic content. However, some researchers regret the fact that research on giftedness has been somewhat biased, having mainly concentrated on IQ-related abilities that address academic skills, and by-passing or simply ignoring other basic skills such as vocational skills (Bals, 1999), practical intelligence in everyday life (Sternberg, 2000), and, most importantly, social skills (Persson, 1997). Motivation is another issue that has been the focus of research with regard to gifted children. According to Sternberg (2000), some theories depict motivation as an assisting internal factor in the expansion of giftedness. One of these theories is Gage's dynamic theory of giftedness which depicts motivation, volition and self-management as interpersonal catalysts that help convert gifts into talents. However, these theories have failed to provide guidance in assisting youths of high ability to develop motivation. For this reason, some researchers (for example, Colangelo et al. 2000; Alrasheed, 2001) believe that talented students should be identified and given tasks at a higher level than the normal school curriculum. Renzulli (1999b) is of the opinion that gifted students should be producers of knowledge rather than mere consumers of existing information. He believes that specific programmes and services for the talented and gifted are the only solution to allow them to live up to their potential. This idea is further supported by Reis et al (1995) who argues that it is not fair to make a gifted child sit in a classroom where learning something new will not happen until the second half of the year.

Historical review of school counselling in the KSA

Initially, in 1981, the Ministry of Education established the General Directorate of Guidance and Counselling. Since that time, guidance and counselling has become formalized and recognized as a profession, and counsellors have been appointed to deal with psychological, social, educational, and vocational problems and deliver protective counselling (Ministry of Education KSA, 1999). It should be mentioned here that the model for and practice of guidance and counselling in SaudiArabian schools was derived from western sources, mainly the United States. More than two decades have passed since the guidance and counselling programme was established in Saudi schools. Its development has progressed at a slow rate and, currently, it faces various problems. The major difficulty relates to the definition of the role and function of the school counsellor (Al-Gamdi, 1999) which is unclear to principals, teachers, parents, students and school counsellors themselves. Due to this problem, counsellors have found themselves overly involved in paperwork and administrative tasks and duties not related to school counselling. Additionally, counsellors often complain about lack of support and cooperation from others involved in the counselling service, especially parents (Al-rebdi, 2000). In this situation, if school counsellors in Saudi Arabia are to provide better services for students, their role must be clearly defined. It is also necessary for those involved in counselling to have a clear view of what counsellors should and should not do. Added to this, counsellors must choose carefully how they spend their time and energy. As the role and functions of the school counsellors become clearer, they should be able to respond better to the needs of their students. Furthermore, in 1981, following decree number 216/k issued by the Ministry of Education, the Social Educational Administration was replaced by the Student Guidance and Counselling Service, and guidance and counselling in Saudi schools became formalised. That same year, the name was changed again to the General Administration for Guidance and Counselling (Ministry of Education, 1999).

The responsibilities of this administration are as follows:

1- To plan, prepare and develop the programme and services of guidance and counselling.

2- To provide professional staff who are capable of delivering such services to all students at various stages of education.

3- To provide students with the appropriate care applicable to their ages and their psychological, educational and social needs.

4- To assist students to develop their capabilities, potentialities and talents, to allow them to face their problems and to help them feel comfortable with themselves and with the community in which they live.

5- To attain a high standard of mental health in a way that reflects the targets and goals sought by educational guidance in general (Ministry of Education, 1999).

Saleh (1987) pointed out that, due to the immediate need for professionals to monitor and guide the counselling service in schools, the Ministry of Education sought personnel from among the existing social education supervisors to act as the supervisors; counselling and guidance programmes in addition to carrying out their normal duties. The Ministry of Education also sought personnel from within the existing teaching force, provided they had the relevant experience, to work temporarily as counsellors in schools. To meet the need for school counsellors in all schools, the General Administration for Guidance and Counselling allowed those with a Bachelors degree in psychology, social work or sociology to perform the role of the school counsellor until enough trained professional counsellors could be provided. In order to meet the need for trained full-time counsellors to work in schools, universities in Saudi Arabia were requested to offer guidance and counselling programmes at masters' level. Statistical information for the year 2000 shows that there were 229 counselling supervisors and 3381 school counsellors overall (Ministry of Education, 2000). By 2003, the number of counsellors had increased rapidly toabout 4000(Al-Rebdi, 2004). The Ministry of Education (1999) defined the term counselling as the interactive process though which the counsellor assists the student to understand himself and recognise his capabilities and potentialities and gives him a more enlightened approach to his problems and how to face them. Counsellors also help students to enhance their responsible behaviour and to show conformity with their community.

Counselling gifted students

Landau (1990) noted that gifted students might become isolated and alienated. Moreover, Rogers (1983) pointed out that in an egalitarian system children not only lack the opportunity for confirmation and social acceptance, but they also often lack the freedom to learn. The need for confirmation and emotional support is well known in the literature which focuses on giftedness and talent (Csikszentmilalyi et al., 1993; Kelley, 1999; Stednitz, 1995). Donna (1999) suggests that teachers and counsellors need to encourage minority students to consider a teaching career in general and gifted student education in particular. Ford (1995) however, believes that from an historical point of view, the counselling of gifted students has not been an important part of educational and counselling discourse. He points out that misconceptions and stereotypes of gifted students as being immune to social, emotional, and academic problems have contributed to the lack of counselling for these students, and in cases where counselling is available it is only limited to academic, assessment and placement issues.

According to Ford, the fact that more children are entering school with serious personal and academic problems should entail an expansion in the responsibilities and roles of counsellors to meet the needs of all children who seek guidance and assistance. But nonetheless according to Alrasheed, (2001) the limited availability of counselling services has failed to meet the enormous need for counselling services and research regarding gifted individuals. In this respect he endeavoured to provide counsellors, classroom teachers and educationalists as well as parents with advice regarding the understanding of the academic and social needs of gifted and talented students. Persson (2005) considers mentorship as a possible solution to aid the immediate psychological and intellectual needs of gifted individuals, particularly received mentorship. According to Person, mentorship could be direct or indirect by cooperating with the student to find a mentor of his choice, given the fact that not all gifted students would be likely to choose their counsellors to be their mentors. Person expresses the conviction that mentorship is the only viable counselling solution in an egalitarian context, which lacks recognition and particular provision for gifted individuals. Ford (1995) outlines the goal of counselling as that of promoting healthy self-concepts and ensuring psychological growth. Bearing that in mind, counsellors must have an awareness and understanding of the many issues that hinder gifted students and affect their psychological, social and emotional well-being. He recognises the role of counsellors in ensuring that such students remain in gifted programmes once identified and placed.

Finally the concept of counselling needs to be defined within a context where it is not a task assigned merely to a particular group. Instead, as Brown et al. (1992) suggest the task has expanded from an initial concern with educational and vocational guidance to the remediation and prevention of personal, interpersonal, vocational and educational concerns. Consequently, according to Persson (2005), the aim of the intervention is for the individual to gain an understanding of self and context, in which case individual differences become a sensitive and even problematic issue, particularly in cases where gifted individuals are involved.

Research Problem

There have been few programmes for gifted students offered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Even though there has been programmes existing, it is new and is for further evaluation to be able to develop it more for the students. It has been believed that if there has been more developed programmes for gifted children then they will be more enhanced and so, benefiting the country.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have put up programmes for gifted students but is new and rare. There has been studies regarding the support of the authorities in the schools on how to support gifted students.

The research questions

Based on the aims articulated in the previous section, the following specific research questions have been formulated:

How does the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia support gifted students?

Does the authorities in the schools help in the development of the programmes?

How do we determine the effectiveness of the programmes with the school counsellor, principal, and teacher's help?

Sub-questions

Two sub-questions will also be explored:

Do the teacher, student counsellor and principal who work with gifted students have special qualifications?

What is the level and nature of the response of gifted students to these programmes?

Research Design

The design of the study is intended to determine: first, the relationship of the roles of student counsellor, teachers, and principals to the performance of the gifted students; second, the effectiveness of the programmes in developing the capacity of the gifted students.

Instrumentation and Data Collection

The researchers visited the [Insert name of University Library or City Library] for journals, articles and studies needed for the research paper. The researchers gathered time-series data from different physical training institutions to assure of its validity and consistency.

The primary data will be gathered using quantitative method, as this is best useful with questionnaires. The use of quantitative method will be appropriate for the research because the results in the questionnaires consist of numerical information, mostly based from the ratings included in the questions. Quantitative methods are used to provide reference to numeric calculations and are often used with questionnaires that have a specific goal and a target to achieve. This is helpful in the research, and its instigation in the process needs to be further culminated so that the problem is solved with efficiency and precision.

In gathering data, the researcher would like to clear certain ethical issues that might hinder the processing of data. First, confidentiality will be kept at all costs. As the main reason why questionnaires will be used in the research is for the respondents to feel secure and to be assured that their answers will not be related to who they are. There may be instances wherein the respondent will divulge information that will be detrimental to the company, or to its competitors, depending on the case. Hence, there is a better chance at more responsive respondents if they can be assured of their confidentiality.

Second, the Data Protection Act will be followed at all costs. The compliance with the act will be transparently said to the respondents so that they are further assured that anything they say in response to the questions asked them will only be used for the benefit of the research and not in any other practices. It should also be clear to the researcher that any information regarding the respondents cannot be released to anyone who is not immediately connected with the research unless permission from the subject respondent has been secured beforehand.

Third, the research must always bear in mind the objectives of the study and never stray away from them. A researcher who has no definite purpose in doing the research is going nowhere and is exerting effort in a research that is not delimited properly and punctually. The purpose of the research is explicitly stated at the beginning of the research and is implied in every step of the realization of the research so as to not delineate the researcher from his goals.

Lastly, the researcher must opt to practice objectivity. As the researcher, he is expected to keep an open-minded approach to the topic, keeping from his mind and personal bias in the subject matter or on the people involved. The reason for doing research is to test existing information, validate, prove or disprove existing ideas, or to test the limits of a certain prospect. Given this simple definition, it is clearly seen that in no form is the personal opinions of the researcher expected to hinder in the subject. Any act that might be biased or subjective will hint of the research's failure to achieve its goals.

Planned Method of Analysis

The researchers plan to analyze the different test conducted through constant evaluation of the gifted students and how they perform. There will be a weekly evaluation in terms of how the programmes and the role of the authorities, and the effect of it to their performance. The performance in the field will be evaluated by the gifted student's progress and development.

Conclusion

This study adds to a growing body of literature that reinforces the importance of examining the programmes for gifted students adopted by the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for further development. There is no, to the researcher's knowledge, research that investigates such programmes. This study is identified as being the first study at the level of a doctorate research project which evaluates the gifted programmes in the Ministry of Education from the point of view of the students, the schools and the workers in such programmes. The study further attempts to use the most effective methods of collecting information, which the researcher obtained data in the form of questionnaires, interviews, observation and documentation. The mixed methods employed in the research made it possible to triangulate both qualitative and quantitative research. Further to these methods, the study used the most popular electronic program (SPSS) to gather and analyse the data as well as to design the tables and diagrams.

The study focuses on the research questions at every stage of the research, either theoretically or practically. The researcher also oversaw the validity and procedural aspects of the questionnaire through sitting with students and workers when they answered the questions in order to clarify any ambiguity and confusion on their behalf. In general, the results of the study agree with many of the theoretical studies mentioned in chapter two. Finally, this is a serious explorative study, which has sought to determine the influences of these programmes.

There were 31 Gifted Student Centres for male students and 20 for females in 2005 according to those informants in a position to be specific. Rationales for these centres echoed the "official" line that was available, for example, in a brochure from the AL-Qasim Gifted Students' Care Centre in 2006.

When asked whether the Ministry of Education provides academic extension or non academic extension programmes for gifted students in their schools, the focus group interviewees stated that the Ministry of Education has adopted academic and non-academic "enrichment" programmes for gifted students (such as evening activities, Thursday programmes and summer forums), T Mention was also made of other programmes introduced by the Ministry.

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