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Gifted Youngsters Get A Little Boost
A child of just 12 years old has been chosen as one of 50 young teenagers to study at the University of Science and Technology of China which is based in Hefei, Anhui Province.

The term will start in September. The special program for gifted children was the first of its kind in China when it opened in 1978.

It's open to students below the normal college age who do well in the national college entrance exam. This year there were a record 1,764 applications.

A total of 76 (54 boys and 22 girls) were short listed for the second round of the competition.

The final decision was made after further tests in maths, physics, chemistry, and English language, as well as a psychological profile.

"The tests will help us pick those with the best scientific and creative potential and overall capacity," the university's vice-president, Cheng Yi, said.

The students have skipped several years of primary and secondary school and are mostly under 15.

Ma Wengan, program director, says that most of the nearly 600 students in the past have been successful later on, academically and professionally.

More than 70 per cent have gone on to post-graduate studies both at home and abroad, and over 100 have received doctorate degrees.

Zhang Jiajie, an alumnus of the gifted teens program, was the first in China to get a doctorate at the university of California, in cognitive studies.

That's the field of study dealing with cognition and perception that is connected to psychology and linguistics.

Shi Zhan, who entered the university at the age of 13, made his mark by devising a mathematical model of the movement of microscopic particles during his PhD studies, and became an advisor to PhD students at the Curie Institute in France when he was only 30.

A number of other prominent universities followed with similar programs in the 1980s, but few were as successful and a number were closed down.

Experts believe that University of Science and Technology's success lies in its tailored curricula and unique instruction methods that cater to student interests release their potential.

Unlike other college students who concentrate on a specific field from their freshman year, the gifted youngsters do not choose a major until their third year.

"After two years of broad-based education, most gifted students are well-grounded and know precisely what interests them most," said the university's president, Zhu Qingshi.

"They are more likely to succeed when pursuing something they're most interested in."

Campus life helps the youngsters to cope with a variety of difficult circumstances and get along with their peers.

The university also encourages them to exercise more and do other study off campus to get them to learn more about the world.

In addition, there is a psychological counseling center to help them through the tougher problems.

(China Daily August 28, 2002)

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