China parents hoping genes yield geniuses
Many signing kids up for DNA test that claims to identify innate talent. -ST
CHONGQING, CHINA - Masses of one-child parents in China are taking up a new tool in their quest to groom their children into the next Yao Ming, the basketball superstar, or Hu Jintao, the country's top leader.
DNA tests that claim to be able to identify a child's innate talents are now available in China, and some parents see it as a way to give their children a head start in life, according to reports.
In the most prominent example, a youth training centre in the south-western municipality of Chongqing launched a grooming programme in June that is tailored around a child's DNA test results, China Daily and CNN reported.
For about 3,000 yuan (S$630), parents can sign their children up for the test and five days of summer camp at the Chongqing Children's Palace, where the kids will be evaluated in various settings, from psychology and sports to art. Parents will then be offered recommendations on what their children should pursue.
The parents of about 30 children aged three to 12 have signed up for the programme, according to CNN. 'It's better to develop her talents earlier rather than later,' said Madam Chen Zhongyan, whose four-year-old daughter Lai Hongni is participating.
Mr Zhao Mingyou, director of the training centre, told CNN that when he first heard about the technology earlier this year, he knew it could be a success in China. 'Nowadays, competition in the world is about who has the most talent,' he said. 'We can give Chinese children an effective, scientific plan at an early age.'
The DNA test is conducted by the Shanghai Biochip Corporation, one of the national centres for biochip design and engineering, China Daily said.
Scientists claim a simple saliva swab collects as many as 10,000 cells that enable them to isolate 11 different genes, from which they can extract information about a child's IQ, emotional quotient, memory, athletic ability and more.
Examining one child's results, Dr Huang Xinhua, a leading scientist on the project, told CNN: 'This child is very thoughtful and focused, so I suggest she go into management...For basketball, we can test for height and other factors.'
The centre, where famed pianist Li Yundi was groomed for nine years, said it would test up to 1,000 children and select 50 of the most gifted for training.
Genetic testing to discover children's talents is already available in the United States and other countries like Singapore.
Mr Gong Kang, an official at Shanghai Biotech, another firm offering such technology, told China Daily that the concept was introduced in China last year and 'quite a number of children in Beijing and Shanghai have already been screened'.
Clinical psychologist Rob Blinn said the test has limited applications: 'You're not going to be able to predict that someone's going to be like the next Einstein. It's more like this person may have an IQ that's maybe five or 10 points greater than this other person because of the absence or presence of these particular genes.'
Professor Yu Wei of the education science department of China's Northeast Normal University said zeroing in on an area so early in a child's development could cause him to end up dysfunctional. 'Gifted children may be excellent in a particular field, but lag far behind in other areas. Their lives will be destroyed if they are looked upon as tools or machines.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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