Well, that's the point as far as educators go. Why do smart kids get bored, drop out or just tune out, and not use their talents more fully? Many educators believe that it's because they are not engaged in learning when, to these kids, it's dragged out painfully slowly and bores them to tears. If the smartest kids are not being served by education, shrugging and going, "they're smart, they'll get by somehow," isn't terribly helpful. Boredom is the greatest killer for initiative, curiousity, and all those cool things we want our kids to develop.
All children should be kept engaged and interested. Not just the gifted.
Yes. But it's harder to do when you have a wide range of abilities in one class.
Let's say your school has 200 children in Grade 8. Your goal is 25 children per class (which is *very* optimistic in these times). That would be 8 classes of Grade 8 children.
Now, if you mix them randomly, you will have 8 classes that are approximately equal in distribution of slow-average-fast learners. For maximum efficiency, you pitch your teaching speed towards the average students. That will suit them. The slow learners will have trouble going at that speed, and the fast learners finish the material much faster than the rest of the class.
The school will realize, first, that the slow learners need extra help. So, the school implements various special educational methods to assist them, and help them keep up with the majority of the class. This is clearly an important issues, because otherwise these children may fail, or at least get very discouraged.
However, the fast learners, to the school's eyes, don't have a problem. They're passing, aren't they? Maybe even getting top marks. So, the fact that they're bored and unchallenged is put at the bottom of the priority list.
The idea of identifying children as "gifted" was that instead of having 8 identical classes, you might stream the fastest learners into one class, which would expect them to learn at a rate faster than the "average" classroom was set up for. This would, it was thought, be the most efficient way of teaching. Otherwise, you will expect the teacher to be teaching three (or more) versions of the same material, at the same time. At some point, the overwhelmed teacher is going to say to at least one of these groups, "you're on your own," and it's usually the fast learners.
The downside, of course, is the labelling issue. Once labelled "slow," "average" or "fast/gifted," it is hard to break out of that slot. Kids who were "slow" in Grade 1 because of, say, health or social issues, may need more challenge once those have been overcome, but are left in the original classification. And while educators may say that the segregation was simply one of learning *style*, not intellectual *capacity*, it's obviously easy for people to assume that "slow, average and fast" means "stupid, average and smart". Therefore, segregation versus mainstreaming has been one of the most controversial topics in education for many years.
In many ways, I feel mainstreaming is very beneficial. But I've also seen cases of one extremely smart student sitting in the back of the class, bored out of their skull as their friends are moving at a pace that is comfortable for them, and it's hard not to think, "this is a terrible waste".