Updated  
November, 30 2011 09:06:15

How should a child prodigy be treated?

by To Nhu

In recent years, there have been not a few cases in which children under school age show the ability to read and write, calculate with precision and speak English fluently.

The parents of these kids often feel very proud of them, and many start to think that their children show the signs of prodigy, or exceptional talent.

But is this the truth? Should these children be called "prodigies" and how should their parents raise them?

When asked with these questions, Nguyen Anh Tuyet, a lecturer in the Psychology Department of Ha Noi National University of Education, said she has witnessed dozens of such cases already. Among her own family, there were four people who knew how to read and write at the age of two or three before they reached school age.

Tuyet said, however, we could not just conclude that these people were prodigies. "Prodigies are very rare and there might be only one in a billion or one in a generation."

According to Nguyen Phuc Giac Hai, researcher of the Human Potential Studies Centre, the case in which one is able to read and write and calculate at a young age is strange but not particularly rare.

One example is Hoang Than, a student at Dai Kim Secondary School in Hoang Mai District, Ha Noi. Than knew how to read at the age of three, won an award in the national innovation competition for the youth and entered first grade at 5, one year earlier than usual.

Because of his brilliant performance, Than was moved to the third grade just a few days later. Now, at 11, he is studying in the 8th grade, where students are typically 14 years old.

Than is exceptionally good at mathematics, computing and English, but he has not made any notable achievements to receive international recognition.

Cung Van Hoa, Than's uncle who raises him, said that Than was sent to Ha Noi by his parents of the Tay ethnic minority from northern Tuyen Quang Province so that he could be better educated.

Hoa said Than seemed to have a double personality. He was serious about his studies like a mature student, but was as carefree and childish as an 11-year-old outside the classroom.

Although Than studies with older students, he has to overcome certain disadvantages because of the physiological and psychological differences, including learning to achieve good results in gymnastics with exercises meant for the older students.

Hoa said he didn't want people to call Than a prodigy as he was afraid the boy might become vain after getting used to all the praise.

"Natural intelligence is an advantage but a "healthy" environment is the most important factor that helps a person to grow up well."

Trieu Trong Tuong, principal of Dai Kim Primary School, Than's first school, said that he was an exceptional case as he learned to read and write by himself without the help of his parents.

When Than was moved to a higher level class, the teachers doubted his being able to keep pace with other kids, but he managed to achieve excellent results.

Tuong said a child like Than should be encouraged and well trained to develop to his fullest, but people should not expect too much of him, which would naturally put pressure upon him in the future.

Tuyet of the University of Education said the four members of her family who knew how to read and write at a young age all grew up to be good students and workers, but they showed no exceptional aptitude in any field. One of them even failed the high school entrance examination once.

According to Hoang Phuong, a mathematics professor of the Lighting Viet's Intellect Club, who succeeded in training five 6th grade students to perform well on a university entrance exam for mathematics, intelligent students may achieve excellent results which are seemingly beyond their age if they are well trained.

Phuong said that he only wanted to prove such fact by training these students, and that they should not be easily called "prodigies".

"A brilliant child should develop both intellectually and physically. In addition to their academic achievements, they should also keep good health and develop good social skills," added Phuong. — VNS

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