Geniuses are falling through the cracks of mainstream education – Why is that, and what can we do to change it?

We hear stories of inspiration about people who overcame incredible odds and prevailed. It is part of human nature to cheer on the underdog and rally against the challenges holding them back.

While challenges that come to mind are often the ones named above, it’s rare to think that a challenge for some people is their own genius. But the fact is that “geniuses” suffer a great deal in a world that, for the most part, is ill-equipped to nurture. In fact, according to research from TES Global, gifted students are one of the three types of students at highest risk of being stultified by a mainstream educational system – academically and socially.

Unfortunately, few teachers have ever received training to recognize brilliant minds, let alone educate them. Dr. Joseph Shapira, Chief Scientist of the Robo-physics Committee at the Technion STEMlab, explains why it is imperative that we make a change in how we approach these prodigies.

“We are reaching a point in technology where we must train the minds of those who have the ability to grasp the complexities of STEM subjects with a deeper learning from a young age,” he said. In an effort to do so, he has conceived and pursued changes in the methods of education to keep up with the times and developments in fields of science and technology.

Dr. Shapira’s vision of education is currently being implemented by Ofir Danino at Anieres Elite Academy. Anieres is an exceptional science and technology high school in Israel that was designed and developed by World ORT and Naale, where the most exceptional young minds from all over the world receive the highest quality of education available from 9th-12th grade in science, technology, engineering and math.

Ofir Danino, an electrical engineering graduate from Technion and Israeli entrepreneur, explains the value, and furthermore the necessity, to prepare our future scientists and engineers with a unique interdisciplinary education called Robophysics: “The development of systemic thinking skills, teamwork and internal motivation are 'soft' skills required for life. High school students in the Robophysics program receive this preparation in the framework of our program, which also paves the way for academic science and engineering studies at universities such as Technion.”

Take for example Sammy Z. from Toronto, Canada. Currently, Sammy is thriving at Anieres Elite Academy, one of Naale’s free high school programs in Israel. He explains how grateful he is for the academic and social opportunities afforded to him at Naale’s Anieres Elite Academy. “It was important to me and my family that I go to a Jewish high school, and while there were some after-school programs in robotics back home, the opportunity for deep learning at Anieres supersedes anything that was available to me in Canada,” he said. He describes what the advantage of a like-minded social network means to him, “The boarding school offers a social experience unlike anything else. Learning and living with kids like me is something that I couldn’t have found elsewhere, even in a teen youth program geared towards my interests.”

Derin D., a tenth-grade student from Istanbul, explains that from a young age she knew she’d have to study abroad to follow her dreams of technology and medicine: “I looked all over the world, from America to Europe to Israel, I didn’t think I’d find what I was looking for in a high school, only in universities. When I learned about Anieres I was thrilled. From all my research I found nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”

Aside from providing students who might otherwise fall through the cracks of conventional education with the academic stimulation they need, Anieres provides them with the friendship and peer support that is integral to any teen’s growth.

“Within a month of coming here, I made so many friends, who are also my study partners and classmates. I was so worried about the social aspect of school before, but it’s been great,” Derin proclaims.

Derin explains that the process, once discovering the Naale program, was quite simple. Within a few minutes of logging onto the Naale Elite Academy website she was able to register and find a screening day, where applicants take both academic and psychological tests before being accepted or placed within the network of high schools in the Naale program. These schools range in academic and religious tracks – with some feeding into Israeli universities, including The Technion, where Anieres top students have the opportunity to complete their BA.

Although offering the same education that Anieres provides is not something that all schools can do, it is an example of the possibilities that come when education matches the minds of those being taught. And that’s a lesson we can all learn from.



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