Impact of Cultural Differences on a Gifted Child
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Hope you are well. I have a 8 year old son and 4 year old daughter. My
son has been studying in Australia for 2 years and my daughter was only
attending preschool for 1 month. Her teachers in her school loved her
for being smart. Now she is in one of the International School in Klang,
Malaysia in term 2010 she hardly attended complete 1 month class because
she couldn't adjust to weather and was falling ill frequently. But in
her term 1 the 1st week of school, her teacher commented that she wants
to answer, raise her hand up always even she doesn't know the answer and
she said she is very active and socializing is good but no
concentration. She was unhappy that she wasn't taking instruction. So I
told her that she is very attentive and wants to more things which
interest her. I also told her that since she just started school in
Malaysia to teach her the ways to concentrate and be attentive in class.
I also highlighted to her that she was identified as Gifted Child in
Australia and we were going through the assessment and we came back
Malaysia before the assessment was complete. The teacher told me that
she didn't notice that she is talented. But my daughter is very active,
smart, attentive to things, memory is very good etc and she repeats
everything she does in school.
Now in Term 2 only 4 days of school, after 1 month holiday, teacher is
complaining that she very good in socializing, active but not paying
concentrating in her work.
I am very upset because she in only 4 years old (just turned 4 in
December 2010) and i am sending to international school thinking that
she will get best exposure but seems the teacher is not very
co-operative concerning my daughter. I admit my daughter is aggressive
and she love music, art reading etc. She is also very loud in class
compared to other kids and outspoken. I thought it was good because even
teachers in Australia told me that she is very smart and independent.
But now several complaints from the current teacher who hardly knows her
for 1 month is already complaining. Please advise me on this.
I clearly see a cultural adjustment issue here. While Australia has gone
rather deep in research and practice in Gifted Education, Malaysia is
still relatively new in this area, more so for younger children as the
attention and focus is for older kids. Unfortunately, this is a setback
for your daughter as teachers in Malaysia are hardly equipped with
awareness of giftedness, let alone training on how to handle such kids.
I believe the international school that your daughter goes to may not
cater for the needs of a gifted child. If she has been diagnosed as
gifted in Australia, I believe she is advanced compared to her peers.
The main complaint from her teacher is that she is not paying attention
- which is probably due to lessons that she may find less interesting,
meaningful or stimulating. Gifted children need challenges and she is
probably not getting enough of it at school.
The teachers are only able to handle the majority of students and not
trained to handle a child who is seen as different, hence the
complaints. You may need to speak to someone in authority at the school
and express your concerns. You daughter may need differentiation
education or something more challenging which the school may not be
ready to offer. The teacher is not able to understand her needs and
would probably conclude that your girl is just not able to pay attention
In the Malaysia culture, children who are obedient, more quiet and pay
attention - is viewed as the “model” child. Anything that deviates from
the norms may be viewed negatively. You really need to speak to someone
at school, or else there is a chance of your daughter being burnt out
and falling in the cracks of the system. Look around for other school
for a possible transfer if the current school is not willing to
cooperate. I would also like to suggest that you join the
National Association for
Gifted Children Malaysia for support and help. Get in touch with
them for some help. They are extremely supportive and may be able to
Wishing you the very best in your journey and I hope you will find
Malaysia more pleasant to live in time to come. Best of luck!