Testing with talent
[b]We all have our own talents. The question is how to reveal, support and develop these talents. The Young Talents of Belarus state programme aims to give children the chance to fully develop themselves[/b]‘Hothouse’ conditions. I start my excursion into the world of children’s talents from Gomel Mayoral Office — an executive power. I’m told how the wunderkinds are discovered and how adults can help unveil potential. It’s common for parents to miss a child’s talents but teachers often succeed. On noticing an interest in art, sport or science, they can start developing it. “We are now paying attention to kindergarten children. Even at the age of two, we can notice aptitude, as the children learn to talk,” the Gomel region’s Education Department tells me. Children are able to develop their interests in music, dance, gymnastics and fine arts. Pre-schools are being encouraged to look out for talent countrywide.
‘Hothouse’ conditions. I start my excursion into the world of children’s talents from Gomel Mayoral Office — an executive power. I’m told how the wunderkinds are discovered and how adults can help unveil potential. It’s common for parents to miss a child’s talents but teachers often succeed. On noticing an interest in art, sport or science, they can start developing it. “We are now paying attention to kindergarten children. Even at the age of two, we can notice aptitude, as the children learn to talk,” the Gomel region’s Education Department tells me. Children are able to develop their interests in music, dance, gymnastics and fine arts. Pre-schools are being encouraged to look out for talent countrywide.
Gomel region’s database contains the names of around two thousand talented children under the age of six. They all boast sporting, artistic or intellectual capabilities, which are now being supported. No doubt, they are the future of our elite. “On entering school, at the age of seven, such children receive special attention,” explain education specialists. “Secondary schools extend the opportunities open to these children, teaching them in subjects which are of special interest to them. Optional classes are organised, alongside workshops and clubs at palaces of art and sport.”
Gomel has created its own model for the development of young talents. Children showing an aptitude for science are automatically admitted to the city’s Leader School, which offers courses in all 32 subjects on the school curriculum. The region’s top teachers work with the 700 pupils. Most are multi-Olympiad winners (in various subjects) organised in Belarus and elsewhere.
Gomel region has about 13,000 talented schoolchildren. Another thousand are on the republican databank of talented young people, awarded prizes of the Belarusian President’s Special Fund for Social Support of Gifted School and University Students. Of course, children don’t require the motivation of financial reward; rather, Belarus believes it’s necessary to mark their achievements and successes. Awards and scholarships are provided to teachers and talented pupils alike.
Special case. Year nine pupil Gennady Korotkevich, from Gomel’s gymnasium No. 56, is remarkable in being absolute world champion in programming (among schoolchildren). Never before has IT had such a genius. “His parents must take most of the credit,” say his teachers. Both work at the Mathematical Problems Chair of the Gomel State University (named after Frantsisk Skorina). Gennady’s father is a candidate of technical sciences while his mother is an assistant. Since childhood, they’ve been supporting the boy’s interest in mathematics.
Mother Lyudmila notes that they took their son to Mikhail Dolinsky, the most famous teacher in Belarus, when they saw his real capabilities. Mr. Dolinsky gave the boy a book on programming. He recollects, “Three months passed without my hearing news from Gena, so I thought he’d lost interest. Suddenly his mother came, bringing a notebook of programmes. She explained that her son had been playing football during the good weather but, now that it had ended, he’d begun solving computer problems. As a year two pupil, he took second prize at the republican Olympiad — enabling him to enter any Belarusian university without entrance exams. Once, he solved a problem regarding an object immersed in water, despite not having studied Archimedes’ Principle of Buoyant Force. He discovered it independently!”
In 2006, as a year five pupil, Gennady won silver at the International Informatics Olympiad for schoolchildren — only six points behind gold. Afterwards, he made steady progress, taking gold and ranking 20th in the world in 2007. He was seventh in 2008 and came first in 2009. Additionally, last year, he was placed second at the International TopCoder Competition. He is now ranked top among schoolchildren and tenth among global programmers, including professionals. None of his peers rival him.
For several years, this talented youngster and his teacher have received awards from the city’s Mayoral Office and regional administration. In year nine, Gennady won the 21st International Informatics Olympiad and was awarded a scholarship for 2010 by the Special Fund for Social Support of Gifted School and University Students.
Subtlety of hearing. Among the laureates of the Belarusian President’s For Spiritual Revival 2009 award is 40 year old Vladimir Katsuro, an athletics coach at Gomel’s Leader Children Sports School. His award acknowledges his achievements in the social rehabilitation of the disabled. Mr. Katsuro knows well the problems of his trainees, having only partial hearing himself. Vladimir is perfect at the triple jump; in thirteen years, he’s won dozens of competitions in this discipline. “I became European champion for the first time at the age of 16 — in the long jump. Then, I participated in the Olympics. I’ve spent two-thirds of my life at the stadium,” smiles Vladimir. “I began training children seven years ago. My primary task is to notice talent; then, I can help them overcome difficulties and open up their possibilities.”
One of the most promising trainees is Margarita Gralko. She was noticed in a swimming pool where, despite not being very good at swimming, she showed determination — useful for track and field athletics. Under the guidance of Mr. Katsuro, Margarita has won four gold medals and set a world record at Taiwan’s Delphian Games.
Classes are held in unusual silence, since the children need no words — only gestures. They train under the same sports methods as other teams, however, Mr. Katsuro explains, “Their coach works more thoroughly with those suffering from bad hearing. An individual approach is applied to everyone. We don’t just focus on sport; rather, we give the children physical rehabilitation. They come to clubs to improve their health and body posture. Future victories rest on interest and determination. The success of Margarita Gralko and other children who have won Delphian Games prove this.”
By Violetta Dralyuk