Recognizing and Strengthening Gifted Children – SWR2

Migrant girls and children in particular are often not recognized as gifted. How could this change? What is the best way to support gifted children?

Download audio file (23.6MB | MP3)

Talent is still attached to many cliches

Prejudice and clichés make life difficult for many gifted people. Weird freak, little genius, lonely viper – stereotypes are everywhere. However, gifted children and young adults are erroneously categorized as peculiar or even pathological balls. The common assumption that they are less emotionally or socially stable than the average talent is untenable scientifically.

On the contrary: Longitudinal studies such as the Marburg Gifted Project show that talent is a very reliable predictor of success and life satisfaction. Bias against the most intelligent, so Dr. Tania Gabriel Bodson, Professor of Differential Psychology and Psychological Talent Research at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Heidelberg, but unfortunately they persisted even where they didn’t belong at all: in schools.

IQ goes up and down depending on promotion

In the 1960s and 1970s, many dismissed it as elitist to promote particularly talented people. This continues to this day. For example, there is a firm belief that weaker children will benefit from their education along with those who are smart. The opposite is true, says Tania Gabriel Bodson. They were in danger of being left behind.

Under the guidance of the lecturer, participants of the Children’s College Koblenz / Begabtenzentrum Rheinland-Pfalz 2013 determine lung volume through a simple experiment

photo radio dpa

(c) dpa / Thomas Fry

Another argument is often put forward by those who question support: that there is absolutely no need to support the brightest of the year, because they are already smart. Very high levels of intelligence should be seen as a possibility, says Tania Gabriel Bodson. Potential is innate, but it does not remain automatically constant throughout life.

Intelligence, even a person’s measured IQ, can increase or decrease depending on promotion. However, only within certain limits. Talent cannot be trained in anyone who does not have the appropriate genetic makeup. However, if gifted children are constantly challenged, they don’t have to put in any effort. They don’t really learn how to learn and they can hardly use their potential.

Teachers mainly support children from German academic families

Challenge is just one of the common problems that gifted people face. Because of their background, children are not expected to be particularly intelligent. This is particularly the case in Germany with children from certain groups.

This includes children with immigrant backgrounds or children from non-academic families. The thresholds and transitions to the next level or type of school or the obstacle to transferring to university are precisely those that talented students from less privileged backgrounds often fail to achieve.

The main problem with German support for the gifted is the lack of justice for girls, children and young people from immigrant backgrounds or from socially disadvantaged backgrounds (Photo: imago images, MongMultiply via www.imago-image)

The main problem with German support for the gifted is the lack of justice for girls, children and young people from immigrant backgrounds or from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

imago pictures

MongMultiply via www.imago-image

It often happens that teachers inadvertently give less support to a child of low socioeconomic status. These children do not look, speak, or act exactly the way many teachers would imagine a highly intelligent student. Tania Gabriel Bodson calls this the “match problem” – a gifted child is not accepted or accepted with difficulty solely by his or her social environment.

These appropriate problems can have serious consequences such as depression, anxiety disorders, and stress. And not the result of talent, but rather a lack of support.

Same conditions – but intelligence is mostly associated with boys

There is another very large group of children who are at risk of not being recognized and encouraged as gifted: girls. Still, special intelligence and high talents are more closely related to the male gender.

Boys are presented to gifted counseling centers two to three times as often. They are often identified as gifted and frequently benefit from measures of support, although both genders are often affected by talent. Also, niche areas that have a high social status are related to sexuality.

Male, white, weird - a common stereotype of genius (Photo: Imago Images, Nomad Sol via

Masculine, white, strange – a common stereotype of genius

imago pictures

Nomad Soul via

Ways to support gifted children and youth

Only a few federal states, namely Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Bavaria and Saxony, have special schools for gifted children and youth as well as their own classes for the gifted within regular schools. However, it is common for talented young people not to be completely separated from their classrooms, but to receive additional offers of support. The so-called “enrichment” measures, that is, in-depth and extended measures.

There is also a network of competitions throughout Germany, which are mainly funded by the Federal Ministry of Education. However, it is not promoted continuously, but only selectively. In general, it can be said that individual federal states are still in a different good position when it comes to promoting the gifted in mainstream schools.

Dr. says. Ingmar Ahl from the Carg Foundation who wants to improve the learning conditions for the gifted, ie what is known as acceleration. This means that learning stations can be played more quickly or skipped.

Main problems: equity gap and delayed financing

But for Ingmar Ahl, the main problem with German support for the gifted is and remains the gap in justice for girls, children and young people from immigrant backgrounds or from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. The fact that two percent of all children are gifted and ten percent have above-average potential is not reflected in the support program measures.

Moving to the next level or the next type of school, or the hurdle to going to university, is where talented people from less privileged backgrounds in Germany often fail (Photo: imago images, imago/Steinach)

Transition to the next level or type of school, or the obstacle to going to university, is where talented people from less privileged backgrounds in Germany often fail.

imago pictures

imago / stenach

The most important key to improving gifted promotion is not at all special school types or other segregation measures, as one might think. Instead, experts like Ingmar Cale advocate good individual support nationwide in mainstream schools. The primary focus is well-trained educational reference persons and counsellors.

For Ingmar Ahl, offers of qualified information, training, further education and further training for these occupational groups are the highest priority. The topic of talent is still not firmly established in the training courses of these professional groups. This urgently needs to change. In addition, the promotion of the gifted is not only a problem for the educational elite in high school. Rather, it should be rooted in the universal education system and earlier, far from this single type of school.

At the end of the day, it should be clear in every day care center and every primary and secondary school that they are also responsible for identifying and supporting gifted children. This applies to children of all parenting roles – so that many talented children and youth receive learning conditions that are right and good for them.

SWR 2020


  • Francis Brickell and Tanya Gabriel Bodson: Talent. CH Beck 2013
  • Elsbeth Stern and Aljosha Neubauer: Intelligence–The Big Differences and Their Consequences. DVA 2013

Script for broadcast

Leave a Comment