The rapid development of special education for the gifted in Taiwan from 1962 until the present is summarized. The comprehensive system of gifted education, using either the special class or the pull-out model, that serve a very large number of learners is described. In Taiwan, high IQ and high overall academic performance learners are called intellectually gifted and those with specific talents in academic subjects (linguistic, mathematics, and national science, in particular), or in aesthetic or athletic domains are called talented. The identification procedure of gifted/talented students in Taiwan is very strict and systematic, based on multi-assessment and step-by-step screening process. Although the number of the students served in the special programs has been steadily increasing, much remains to be done in order to develop the maximum potential of all gifted/talented students. These include proper identification procedures, program expansion and integration.
The rapid advance in living standards and technology in Taiwan has brought expectations and concerns related to its economic and social success. The government's interest in education for gifted and talented students grew out of recognition that an island with few natural resources must develop its human resources. Steps have been taken during the past decades not only to improve education generally, but also to give greater attention to the education of individuals with special needs (Wu, 1992; Wu & Cho, 1993). In 1962, the Fourth National Conference on Education asserted that gifted education be implemented for potential development of the gifted and talented as well as for the benefit of the society. As a positive echo, two pilot programs in primary schools were conducted in the Taipei area in 1964. Four years later, compulsory education was extended from six to nine years, and accompanying legislation specified that special education was to be provided for both gifted and disabled children. In 1973, the Ministry of Education launched an experimental program throughout Taiwan for intellectually gifted elementary school students. The experimental program was extended to the junior high level in 1979 and to the senior high level (in math and science) in 1982. Today, all of these programs are operated through the public school system in which the government plays an almost exclusive role in setting up and funding special education programs.
Programs also expanded to special talents in music, fine arts, dancing, and sports since 1973. However, in contrast to the schools for the gifted mentioned above, these programs could also be administered by private schools.
Stages of Development
The development of gifted education in Taiwan can thus be divided into four stages. In the first, or dawning stage before 1973, gifted classes were established in three primary schools and professionals started promoting gifted education through educational conferences. The 4th National Conference on Education was held in 1962 and included discussion of topics on special education for gifted learners. Next came the initial experimental stage (1973-1979) when 11 primary schools participated in gifted education programs. The special class model was used, aimed at students with high IQ. Next came the extended experimental stage (1979-1984) when gifted education programs were extended to junior high schools. Both special class and pull-out models were applied, special talent classes were set up, summer camps, science workshops, and professor-moderated seminars were held, and mathematics and science competitions were conducted. Programs that provided exemption from entrance examination for students talented in music, fine arts, dancing, sports, mathematics, and science were tried out. Finally, came the promoting stage (after 1984). The Special Education Law (SEL) was passed in 1984 (revised in 1997), where gifted/talented education was …