Support of gifted/talented students and promotion of giftedness/talent in elementary education in the Canton of Zurich
Background and aims
Promoting giftedness/talent and supporting gifted/talented students are part of the fundamental mission of the mainstream school (see, in German, www.vsa.zh.ch -> Handreichung Begabungs- und Begabtenförderung). As for supporting gifted/talented students, most gifted and highly gifted students are taught in regular classes or sometimes within an Integrative Förderung (IF) [integrative support] program in regular classes. In accordance with § 5 of the Verordnung über Sonderpädagogische Massnahmen [ordinance on special needs education measures], the communes/municipalities can provide at their own cost additional education measures for gifted students. As a fundamental mission of the schools, promoting giftedness/talent pertains to all students and takes place mainly in regular classes as well. Students can show talent in diverse fields; the term 'talent' does not indicate the degree of talent.
As a basis for determining any further needs for action in these two areas, the Office of Elementary Education (VSA) lacks systematic data on the type, extent, and implementation of the offerings. The aim of this research project is therefore to inventory the situation in the schools in the Canton of Zurich.
This commissioned study will examine the following questions:
- What do the schools offer for promoting giftedness/talent and supporting gifted/talented students?
- How are the measures and offerings organized and implemented?
- What personnel and financial resources are allocated?
- How do the responsible school principals rate the existing measures and offerings?
- What needs for further action are there and at what level (school/municipality/canton)?
The online survey of the schools and school principals was conducted in October-November 2019. The survey was designed after consultation with the VSA, and the online questionnaire was tested in a pre-test. The questionnaire, designed to examine the research questions above, contained mostly questions with given response categories and some open-ended questions. For comparability with a previous survey on supporting gifted/talented students in the Canton of Zurich (Division for Educational Planning, Canton of Zurich Department of Education, 2005), questions from that earlier survey were used. In addition, various characteristics of the school participating in the survey were recorded (such as number of classes, students, level of education, municipality).
Included in the survey were all schools at the primary and lower secondary levels in the Canton of Zurich. The list of schools provided by the VSA contained a total of 487 schools, which were contacted by email. Judging by the rate of return so far, the currently predicted total response rate is approximately 55 per cent.
At present, the data are being cleaned and then statistically evaluated in view of the research questions above.
The results of the survey will provide a differentiated picture of the current situation regarding promotion of giftedness/talent and support for gifted/talented students in the Canton of Zurich. The research project will produce facts (what, by what measures, to what extent, and so on) but also analyze the experiences and opinions of the school principals surveyed to gain a better understanding of why and how the offerings are implemented and organized. This stocktaking is important also because it is sometimes suggested that highly gifted students do not receive sufficient targeted support in the schools. The results should identify such gaps and serve as a basis for stimulating improvements.