Five reasons why international gifted students need more support

Five reasons why international gifted students need more support

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International gifted students, like local gifted students, deserve an education consistent with their needs and abilities. Lihi Engelsman from BeyondIQ explains.

International families usually relocate to the Netherlands for a limited time because of a parent’s job. In these cases, most families choose to enrol their children in an international school because of the more familiar curricula offered and the opportunity to study in English.

Some of these relocating families decide to stay in the Netherlands for longer, so they will either move their children to a Dutch school or keep them in the same international school until they graduate. In both cases, an international child studies for a few years in a multicultural school where the primary language is English. If the child is gifted, they could have difficulty finding a programme that suits their abilities and might spend years unchallenged and unidentified in the school.

When I first started my business, I was eager to learn about existing English-speaking programmes for gifted students in the Netherlands. To my surprise, I found only a few international schools that offered programmes for gifted students, and they were only one-hour-a-week programmes, at best. While many schools in Dutch education offer full-time gifted classes, part-time enrichment programmes, and pull-out options for high-ability students, many international schools in the Netherlands are still trying to establish gifted and talented programmes without knowing exactly how and when they want to start.

Why do international students need more support?

Here are five reasons why international gifted children need even more support than local students:

1. New and unfamiliar environment

From earning top grades in their home country without putting in much effort, international students arrive in a new and unfamiliar environment where they encounter challenges that they have not experienced before. As a result, their giftedness is often masked, and they may become underachievers.

2. Lack of programmes

Imagine an international student who was accelerated in math in their previous school, but the new international school does not offer any acceleration programmes. In this case, the student is forced to adjust and is probably required to learn content they already know. This situation can often lead to boredom, demotivation, and even a loss of passion for the subject.

3. Language barrier

To prove that the student is gifted, schools send the child to take an intelligence test that is mostly performed in the Dutch language. Many international students who need to take this kind of test do not have Dutch language proficiency. This language barrier can result in false test results and mistakenly indicate that the child is not gifted.

4. Heterogeneous classes

International secondary school students are not divided into levels as they would be at Dutch secondary schools (the Dutch secondary school system is streamed). This mix of abilities in the international secondary school creates a heterogeneous class where the teacher needs to pay attention to a wide range of academic levels. Therefore, the chances are high that highly talented or gifted students are not appropriately challenged and supported.

5. No enrichment programmes in English

If gifted students are identified as such, they often struggle to find professional support or enrichment programmes in English since most programmes in the Netherlands are only offered in Dutch.

Increasing demand

When I ask parents of gifted children what their biggest challenges are when parenting a gifted child, I receive answers such as "the school's lack of understanding of what giftedness means," "the lack of gifted and talented programmes for children at international schools," and "lack of resources to challenge my child." There is an increasing need for gifted education programmes among the expat community both in and outside schools, and the demand is increasing rapidly.

A holistic, complex concept

It is time to prioritise gifted and talented education in every school, including international schools. Pull-out programmes, advanced classes, varied grouping strategies, acceleration, and differentiation of curriculum are only part of the educational modifications every school should adopt once a child is identified as gifted. We need to view the child's giftedness as a holistic, complex concept that includes eminent capabilities, but also challenges and difficulties.

International gifted students, like local gifted students, deserve an education consistent with their needs and abilities. If we do not meet their needs, they can constantly view learning as boring, unstimulating, and repetitive. This view of learning can affect their career choices as well as their personal lives, and we, as educators, have the obligation and ability to change that.

Beyond IQ views education for gifted and talented students as a necessity rather than a luxury. They offer consultancy services for international families with (potentially) gifted children and provide enrichment programmes and workshops for international schools in the Netherlands. If you have any questions about your (potentially) gifted child, please contact Lihi Engelsman.

Lihi Engelsman


Lihi Engelsman

Lihi Engelsman is a gifted and talented education specialist whose work focuses on English-speaking international children in the Netherlands. Lihi has considerable expertise in working with primary and secondary students,...

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