Gifted Teenager in a Regular School
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Q: I am writing this email
on behalf of a friend as he is from a Chinese-educated background. They
are in Malaysia and his 2nd son is now studying in Form 2, who is 14
years old. He is way advance of his age. He spends his time reading
books like the following:
Physics ideas - Joanne Baker
Mathematical ideas - Tony Crilly
Author of Hyperspace Visions - Michio Kaku
Antimatter- Frank Close
The elegant universe - Brian Greene
Flatterland - Ian Stewart
Black holes & time warps - Kip s. Thorne forward by
The Principia - Isaac Newton
Perfect Symmetry - Heinz R. Pagels
He finds syllabus in school to be too easy and boring. He also lacks
social skills as his books are his only friends. He speaks of not going
My friend is worried. Do you have any advice that can help this child
and his family?
Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.
Your friend's son definitely sounds highly able, beyond his age group.
The local syllabus in schools in Malaysia is catered for the average
child with some good schools offering enrichment for brighter students.
Obviously, he would find school a breeze and eventually when it gets too
easy, it would be boring. This is not good as some children may burn-out
or suppress their potential. He is reading college level books, so
naturally the school syllabus would be rather basic for him. When gifted
children find the lessons less than meaningful, chances are that they
would get bored, disillusioned and sometimes disruptive or even cave
into their own worlds. He may not be socialising well due to the fact
that he has deep understanding of his subjects and the average peer is
far behind. Due to this, his peers may not understand him and find him
perhaps somewhat "weird". This is a vicious cycle, because he will avoid
his peers and his peers will drift further away from him. Gradually, he
will be a loner and drown further in books. On one extreme, this can
lead to extreme loneliness, isolation and eventually depression.
There is only one thing to be done; that is for him to be in the company
of his intellectual peers. And the way I see it, he may need much older
friends perhaps at college level. He does not fit in the mainstream.
Unfortunately, Malaysia is at an infant stage with its Gifted Education
Programme. Did your friend's son try for the UKM Permata Pintar test?
There are avenues if he is screened for further testing.
The good news that is Malaysia is actively progressing in their
programme for gifted children. I would suggest you contact the
Association for Gifted Children Malaysia (NAGCM). Get in touch with
the president who is a personal friend and mention that I had referred
you. They would be able to guide you well. Please do not wait any
further – this boy needs attention. Best of luck and I wish you well.