Mahnoor Cheema, a 17-year-old student in Britain with an IQ of 161, is advocating for better support for gifted students in state schools.
About the student: Cheema, who arrived in Britain from Lahore, Pakistan, at the age of 9, was denied the opportunity to advance academically at the Colnbrook Church of England primary school and at the Langley Grammar School despite her exceptional intelligence and academic achievements, including passing 33 GCSEs and taking 28 A-Levels. Her IQ of 161 is reported to be higher than theoretical physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Cheema’s disappointment: Instead, Cheema was given extra math and placed in a “nurture” group to help her make friends. Her teachers reportedly discouraged her from sitting so many GCSEs, claiming that she was already overburdened. When her parents became involved, they were reportedly dismissed as “pushy,” according to The Times.
Calling for support: Now, Cheema highlights the need for recognition and support for talented students like herself, lamenting the waste of potential she sees in the education system.
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“I feel we are wasting so much talent in the U.K.,” Cheema said. “I feel so sorry for that nine-year-old girl when I look back at my experience. I am sure I am not alone. I think there are so many kids who had talent to do so much but it was wasted because no one recognized their potential or knew what to do with it.”
Cheema asserts that educational institutions should recognize their responsibility to support gifted children, similar to the support provided for those with special educational needs. She criticizes the British education system for its perceived slowness in teaching mathematics, citing examples of more advanced curricula in Pakistan.
Cheema also expresses her struggle to connect with peers due to her intellectual differences, having engaged in advanced reading of philosophers like Plato and Socrates while classmates preferred more typical adolescent literature like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
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Where is Cheema now?: Now settled at Henrietta Barnett School, Cheema enjoys extracurricular activities like swimming and horse riding, demonstrating her well-rounded nature. She is a member of Mensa, reserved for the top 2% of the general population in intelligence tests.
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