By Annette Chrysostomou
Are your children extremely bored at school but love learning and are extremely bright? Exceptional students and their parents have until December 4 to register for the exams that might enable them to get a scholarship for a three-week stay in Anatolia College’s Centre for Talented Youth (CTY) in Greece next summer.
“We always look at the disadvantaged students but not at those who are not suited to the current education system because they are ahead,” interim director of the CTY Greece Georgia Tsoulfa explained, “so we had the idea to do something for the advantaged.”
The concept was developed at the Johns Hopkins university 30 years ago and CTY Greece has taken advantage of the university’s experience.
At the time, psychologist Julian Stanley focused on exceptionally bright young people and their capacity and enthusiasm for academic challenges that matched their advanced abilities. This led to the development of a centre where young people aspire to reach their potential. The CTY likes to sum up their philosophy with the famous quote by Albert Einstein: “I have no special talent. I am passionately curious.”
The programme offered at Anatolia college in Thessaloniki and Athens, which is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is unique, not only in Greece but in South Eastern Europe.
It is interactive with an emphasis on how to learn rather than what to learn. Students rather than their teachers set the questions and explore the answers, and unlike what usually happens in conventional schools there is no memorising of material.
Via the CTY the organisers are now reaching out to Cyprus, and thanks to a contribution of €60,000 from Lidl supermarket there is money for at least 20 full scholarships for Cyprus residents.
In fact, 25 students from Cyprus attended this year for the first time.
The three-week residential summer course for those in the first three years of secondary school is taught in English and offers science courses such as cryptology, genetics and mathematical modeling and humanity subjects as diverse as philosophy, film making and microeconomics.
The primary school students from year three to six attend a day programme which is in Greek. They get to choose from, among others, an ‘introduction to robotics and automated control system’ and ‘the magic of mathematical thinking’.
Potential students have to pass tests, but unlike other exams, these don’t need any preparation. Greece uses two, developed by the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Talented Youth, the School and College Ability Test (SCAT) and the Spatial Battery Test (STB). Children can take either or both. The SCAT includes verbal and mathematical questions and the STB is for enrollment in science courses only.
The tests which for Cyprus students are available both in English and in Greek are aimed at testing for all abilities, and are not just for those who are good at reading and writing. “There are questions which show shapes and ask students to show which side would show if you turned them,“ Tsoulfa explained, “and this is something that students who don’t like to read often excel at.” They are all multiple choice questions, so there is no writing required. Sample tests can be found on the college’s website for those who want to have a look.
Of those who pass, the best can get a full scholarship – if they need it. They are vetted for income after the results are out. Students from families with an income of less than €33,000 a year qualify for a full scholarship, those on less than €55,000 a partial grant (50 per cent).
Gifted students can look forward to three weeks of intense studying. There are seven hours of instruction a day, plus a set of activities that the pupils choose themselves.
Obviously, this is not for everybody. “Seven hours of lessons every day in the summer?” Tsoulfa said. “The children really need to want to do it, and have that curiosity it takes.”
Those who do, benefit enormously, the director stressed. “There are fantastic opportunities. For example, can you imagine a kid coming from a school in a village and they are allowed to dissect a heart?” This is something that is possible in one of the well-equipped labs at the college.
And as each student has only one subject for the entire time of their stay the ability to acquire in-depth knowledge is great. Plus, they are in the company of intellectual peers, often for the first time.
“We were told by students this is the first time they have someone to talk to,” Tsoulfa said.
Are they not disappointed when they have to go back to their own sometimes background? It would appear not.
“They take their new methods with them and apply them. And that is the idea,” the director explained. “We don’t want to create a college that isolates the talented from the others but to create islands of learning that spread.”
Christina Chrysanthou, mother of 14-year-old Elisavet who spent this summer at the college studying cryptology has nothing but praise for the programme.
“As a parent I think it was very good. It gave her the courage to go on and now she wants to apply the new teaching methods and the way of thinking when she goes to university.”
“I didn’t think it was possible to learn so many things in such a short time,” Elisavet added.
She didn’t mind coming back to her public school in Cyprus, but says “if I can go back there I will.”
This year’s exams in Cyprus are on December 11 at the English School in Nicosia and cost €30. For more info and to register see http://www.cty-greece.gr/