Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts is abolishing the minimum age to obtain a diploma of primary education, allowing gifted children to obtain a certificate from the examination board before the age of 8.
“We should not look at the age, but at the knowledge and the ability of the child,” Weyts said in a statement. “Those who can and want to move on more quickly should also be able to do so.”
Today, children have to be at least 8 years old before they can obtain a certificate of primary education from the examination board, but according to Weyts’ office, a small number of highly gifted children are ready for this earlier.
“Without a customised approach, gifted children often become tired of school and do not get the chance to develop their potential at their own pace. Every year, there are a few children who run up against the minimum age,” reads an explanation from his office.
These exceptionally gifted children will now be able to get their primary school diploma and move on to secondary education before the age of eight, as there is no minimum age for starting secondary education in Flanders.
About 2 to 3% of the Flemish population is considered highly gifted.
This is the first time that money is being released specifically for a Flanders-wide policy on giftedness, with funds going towards an expertise centre and guidance projects, and regulations are also being adapted with this target group in mind.
“Without a tailor-made approach, the education of gifted pupils can be really miserable,” Weyts said.
“Children can then become very unhappy and even underperform. From now on, we want to take much more account of what they need. The minimum age of eight was more emotionally than rationally based and did not take into account the children who can and want to go on to secondary school faster.”