“You have it easy”, “Your child is always the best”, “You’ll never know what it is like to struggle”. These are the comments that the parents of bright students often hear. I would certainly not deny that parents of students with learning difficulties do have problems. For these parents it is a constant battle to try and find the best way to help their child, to build self esteem and to demonstrate perseverance. However, what many fail to realize is that parents of bright students often face very similar problems.
In a mainstream classroom it is often the bright students that are left to their own devices. Teachers spend the majority of their time assisting struggling students to achieve benchmark results. Bright students are often given a worksheet which they can work on independently. On many occasions capable students are asked to help others, taking on the role of teacher rather than building upon their own knowledge. In bright students this can lead to feelings of boredom and resentment which manifests itself as behavioral problems and disengagement. The same behaviors often displayed by struggling students.
In Victoria, the government has recognised the need to build upon the skills of our bright students – they are after all the people who will represent Australia on the world stage in the future. This is why select entry schools such as Melbourne High, Mac Robertson Girls High School, Nossal and Suzanne Corey exist. Recently John Monash Science School and Elizabeth Blackburn School of Science have been added to this list. But these schools only take an intake of students in later secondary years. What happens to these students before this?
Some primary schools do offer accelerated or enhancement programs. These programs involve removing a child from a mainstream class for a short amount of time during the week to work on particular projects. Although this is a great start, it doesn’t solve the problem and for many is seen as a token effort. Perhaps it is time that Victoria introduce something like the Opportunity Class Program run in NSW. In this program bright students are grouped and taught at both an accelerated pace with more challenging work.