Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Mother's Persistent Plea for Gifted Education

Mrs. Lala Castillo, now directress of the Philippine National High School for the Arts and formerly principal of the grade school (St. Scholatica's College) where all my three daughters went, loves to tell audiences at Parent-Teachers Conferences the story of how, when I was pregnant with my third (and youngest), she and her teachers would try to avoid me and pray that I would give birth to a baby boy.

You guessed it – St. Scho is an all girls’ school and they were not too happy with this very persistent parent. I still had another daughter who was about to enter pre-school, and the prospect of having three Chua daughters at St. Scho must have been a daunting thought.

I suppose they were getting tired of my pushing for a gifted education program. My eldest daughter was in second grade, and from the time she was in prep, I had been pleading for them to introduce this special program at their school. I was not proposing the segregation of bright girls from the rest of their classmates, but I could see that a uniform teaching plan was not beneficial to those who were ahead and to those who were lagging behind. I argued that since they had a program for the slow ones, then they should also have a program for the fast ones. Their needs were just as real. Besides, I got into St. Scho because they boasted of "group instruction with individualized pacing." I felt that the needs of my daughter and other girls like her were being overlooked.

After a few years of pleading with them, and showing them all sorts of literature on gifted education, they did try but the teacher they sent for training had to resign and relocate when her father got sick and eventually died. With due respect to the departed, St. Scho’s program on gifted education seemed to have died with him. But eventually, they tried again, and in the ensuing years, more and more teachers were sent for training, including sending the principal and assistant principal to the U.S. to attend conferences on gifted education. In time, they had a full-blown program across all the grades that went beyond even my own expectations.

Now that my girls have all graduated from St. Scho’s grade school and their gifted education program is firmly in place and making the school proud, Mrs. Castillo and I can joke about the time when they wished I had a son instead of a daughter.

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