Gifted children are not born but made. Given the opportunities, proper curriculum, proper stimulation and timing, all children can perform at the gifted level. Top this up with technology-rich learning environments, educationists believe children will have a flying start, an advantage they can carry into their teens.

Understanding this, FasTracKids, a United States-based school-readiness enrichment programme, has harnessed the latest technology ot provide accelerated and enriched education for children ages three to 10 years old.

The programme is delivered via the FasTracKids Learning Station, an interactive whiteboard, vide instructions and CD-Rom based lessons.

The curriculum comprises 12 traditional and non-traditional subject areas - Biology, Technology and How Things Work, Goals and Life Lessons,Mathematics, Natural Science, Communications, Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Literature, Speech, Drama & Art, and Economics. The programme, which is offered locally via Summer Academy (formerly Children Intelligence Academy) is fast being recognized by parents as a means to enrich the knowledge of preschoolers.

The approach taken to stimulate young minds, no matter their intelligence level, is the plus point of the programme, says Julie Lee, academy director of Summer Academy.

And parents of preschoolers wanting to give their children a head start are increasingly seeing the FasTracKids programme as a platform to help children develop their gifts and talents at an early age.

Unlike rote memory learning in schools, the programme provides instruction in which the curriculum and teaching methods are structured to challenge children to stretch and expand their knowledge, capabilities and performance.

" While the normal school curriculum is geared to an average child, the enrichment education offered by FasTracKids challenges children to use logical memory, apply what they have learnt and develop at their own pace ", explains Lee.

Children who don't perform well in school have shown tremendous improvements because our approach focuses on the overall enrichment of a child - academic, mental, personality and leadership. Parents are seeing the results and like this approach which realizes the true potential of their children.

Since kids generally find technology exciting and enjoyable, and are becoming increasingly adept to it, a technologically - advanced educational system such as FasTracKids provides children opportunities to learn, grasp knowledge and understand in the way they know best.

With the use of CD-ROMs, hi-tech interactive touch-screen technology, video instruction and classroom activities, the programme teaches kids how to apply and transfer knowledge, encourage creativity and brain development, develop speaking and communication skills, and encourage leadership and personality development.

The key idea, says Lee, is not to teach children more information but rather how to take information, process it, turn it into intelligence and communicate it back to their peers in a way that they can understand best.

" Building the child's thinking process and enhancing communications skills is the main objective of the programme. It does not focus on basic academic achievement but rather on overall enrichment of a child's academic, mental, personality and leadership qualities ", adds Lee.

The FasTracKids programme covers four two-hour sessions a month for two years conducted by certified teachers. Children are taught to deliver video-taped presentations and use the interactive touch-screen technology.

All classrooms are equipped with video cameras so the children can make presentations. A parent web-based site offers additional material to reinforce the teaching.
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