Is their child exceptionally gifted or is she just a cut above the rest? When UK-based Neha Ramu,12,took the Mensa test (an association of people with high IQ with branches across the world) in February this year,it finally ended the suspense for her ophthalmologist parents Ramu Muniraju and Jayashree. Neha achieved a score of 162 on the IQ test the highest score possible for someone under 18 years of age.
The score ranked her higher than Albert Einstein,Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates,who are all thought to have an IQ of 160 (Einstein never took any IQ tests since none existed during his time). We first realised her potential when she took the entrance exams for secondary schools in the UK. She did extremely well having scored full marks with minimal preparation. (In the UK,children have to take an entrance exam after Grade five to get into top middle schools). Our initial feelings on her (Mensa) achievement were of shock and happiness. Even though we knew she was above average intelligence,we did not realise how gifted she was, says Jayashree.
Born in India,Neha moved to London in 2007 with her parents,when she was seven years old. A seventh grade student at Tiffin Girls School,a reputed grammar school in Kingston upon Thames,Nehas Mensa score has just been the latest in a series of high achieving performances. In January this year,she wrote her SATs,a standardised test in the US for 17-18 year-olds and came out with a high score of 740/800 and gained eligibility to be a part of a special programme at the Centre for Talented Youth (CTY),Johns Hopkins University,Baltimore,USA. The three-week course gave her an insight into the workings of the nervous system. We were working five days a week,watching dissections,learning how the brain functions. It was very exciting. Id love to be a neurologist when I grow up, says Neha,over phone from her house in Surbiton.
While she found the Mensa test quite difficult,her curriculum in school is stimulating,says Neha. Mathematics and chemistry are easy,but I need to work on the rest,just like my friends do, she says.
For all her precocity,her life is not much different from her peers. I get back from school around 4 pm,read or play video games for a couple of hours. Study hours are usually of two hours each,on a school day,so it leaves me with plenty of time to pursue my other interests, she says. A big fan of Harry Potter and an avid gamer,Nehas current passion is the army cadet corps in Kingston that shes determined to join. She is just like any other kid,with interests in swimming,reading,and watching television. We make opportunities for her like the online courses from CTY which she enjoys doing at her own pace, says her mother. Jayashree says her daughters benefitted immensely from the fortuitous exposure to education systems both in India and the UK. The approach in India is more exams-oriented and fast paced,but it gave Neha a good foundation. The schools in UK are more practical,and they do not have any tests or exams or ranking system till they reach grade five. Each child in a class will work at their own pace. I personally feel the Indian education system is better. It might appear stressful to outsiders,but our kids can cope with it. UK has probably provided Neha with more awareness of the opportunities available, she says. The only thing that they guard Neha from is pressure. We encourage her to take her own decisions. There is definitely more expectation from her now,and she feels more confident. We ensure theres no pressure from our side.Although she can skip a grade now,Nehas decided to stay on in the same class with her friends, says Jayashree. My friends in school were really happy,but they just cant seem to believe its actually me, says Neha,with a laugh. The outpouring of congratulatory messages have been overwhelming,but she says the celebrations will happen when she comes to India this month to her extended family in Bangalore.