GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The Centro Educativo para Altas Capacidades (Cepac), a special school in the western Mexican city of Guadalajara, provides a nurturing environment free of bullying and labels for child geniuses.
The Cepac provides children with high IQs a place where they can learn and develop their talents.
Unlike the majority of schools, the lessons, homework and learning process at the Cepac are all designed to challenge students and stimulate additional learning, the school’s principal, Julian Betancourt, told EFE.
The Cepac, the only educational institution of its kind in Mexico, is run by the government of Jalisco state, whose capital is Guadalajara.
“A student who is here needs, like a river, a current to carry them to wider spaces. That is, they need challenges, links to universities, mentors. That is what the Cepac focuses on, (providing) a space where mirrors become large windows so that the student’s potential is developed, seeking the person’s happiness,” Betancourt said.
The school does not have classrooms, opting, instead, to offer students labs and workshops related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art, with tech support provided so that students can go beyond the knowledge imparted by teachers.
After two years in operation, the Cepac has established links with several universities and Google for Education, which brings technology into the classroom.
The school has won 50 prizes competing in technology, mathematics and innovation contests at the national and international levels.
The more than 100 children and teenagers enrolled in elementary and secondary courses at the school all have above-average IQs.
Having an aptitude for science, mathematics, communications or the arts allows the Cepac’s students to learn at a faster pace than other children in their age groups.
Although this would appear to work in the students’ favor, the reality is that the majority of kids with high levels of intelligence tend to be segregated, misunderstood and labeled problem children by a school system designed to have teachers give lessons at a certain pace and within set parameters, Betancourt told EFE.
In Mexico, according to Cepac figures, three of every 100 children and young people possess high intellectual capacities or are considered intellectually gifted. Of every 10,000 children and young people who fall into these categories, just 15 are taught at educational institutions designed for them and the rest go through the school system without being identified as gifted.
A RADICAL CHANGE OF LIFESTYLE
Milo Rodriguez is a 14-year-old, third-year secondary school student who speaks German, Chinese, Japanese and English. Until two years ago, he attended a traditional school in which teachers reprimanded him if he talked back or questioned material he was being taught.
The teenager told EFE that since enrolling at the Cepac in the last school year, his life, attitude and willingness to learn had changed dramatically.
“My life changed completely since I started at this school. I feel that the way of teaching is completely different and the way of viewing the student is not as a child, but as an equal, a disciple to whom they can impart knowledge that can later be applied to life,” Rodriguez said.
The key to achieving success with gifted students is to stimulate learning and provide support, as well as to instill the idea that everyone is equal and should be shown respect, teacher Juan Francisco Flores said.
“The teacher becomes a sort of tutor who facilitates the learning process and (provides) the tools needed by (the student). We don’t give answers, instead inviting the students to be the ones who go and find their own alternatives and answers in the face of the problems that might present themselves,” Flores said.
The teacher said the Cepac gave students opportunities to learn on an equal basis.
“It’s a place that provides the same possibilities for everyone, we start with the idea that we’re all the same,” Flores said.
In every conventional classroom, there are between one and three gifted children, and it’s important that their parents monitor them, they be assessed and have access to schools where they can develop their abilities, Betancourt said.
“A country’s biggest resource is its minds, not just natural resources. Empowering this population is about thinking about the possible leaders of tomorrow, people who think based on a democratic culture,” the principal said.