Child prodigy Laurent leaves TU/e without graduating

Nine-year-old Laurent Simons is leaving TU/e without graduating, it has been announced today. Only late last month the parents of this child prodigy said the sky was the limit was for their son, "certainly here at TU/e". Tonight the news was released that Laurent will be leaving the TU/e prematurely due to a difference of opinion between his parents and the university concerning the progress of his academic study. Professor Peter Baltus, Laurent's mentor, wishes to say no more than that he finds it 'a great pity'.

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photo Norbine Schalij

In a reaction on the university's website, TU/e reports that a meeting was held today with the parents of the nine-year-old student of Electrical Engineering. The boy's mentor, professor Peter Baltus, Program Director Sjoerd Hulshof and Dean Bart Smolders discussed with Laurent's parents the progress of his bachelor's program. 'In that meeting Laurent's father repeated his emphatic wish that his son gains his bachelor's degree at the age of nine. This wish means that Laurent must successfully complete his program within ten months, a program for which the normally allotted time is three years. Laurent is a boy of unprecedented talent who studies at an exceptional pace. However, in view of the number of exams that Laurent would be required to pass before his tenth birthday on December 26th, the university regards the envisaged completion date as not being achievable,' the university's reaction states.

In the meeting it was proposed that the schedule be relaxed a little, so that Laurent gains his bachelor's degree at TU/e in mid 2020, says the university. 'This remains, in every respect, a phenomenally fast schedule. In our view, this timeline offers Laurent the chance to sufficiently develop the skills associated with last phase of the program, such as insight, creativity and critcal analysis, without excessive pressure being put on this nine-year-old student. We are of the opinion that a faster schedule is not feasible, and is deterimental to Laurent's academic development.'

"A great pity"

Laurent's parents have decided not to accept this schedule, and to terminate Laurent's program at TU/e. 'We feel this is regrettable. We think that Laurent benefits from continuity, to enable his very special talent to develop fully.' When asked, mentor Peter Baltus will say only that he finds it 'a great pity' that Laurent has stopped. "This is all highly sensitive, it would not be wise for me to say more on the subject."

In its reaction, the university also says: 'As a university we have greatly customized our provision in order to facilitate Laurent's rapid study pathway. This has required a great investment on the part of lecturers and employees who are already under considerable work pressure. It is regrettable that this customization has not resulted in the successful completion of the program. We are proud that our employees, in particular Laurent's mentor professor Peter Baltus, have supervised and helped Laurent with great dedication. His supervisors have greatly enjoyed working with him, not only due to his huge talent, but also because Laurent is a very likable boy who is very eager to learn. For this reason, we are still open to the possibility of the program being resumed, under realistic conditions.'

Quality requirements

The university emphasizes that Laurent was given no concessions in terms of the quality demanded of his program. 'His study pathway has been in accordance with the Education and Examination Regulations of the Bachelor's program in Electrical Engineering. Laurent was required to successfully complete the same practicals as other students, and he was required to study the same courses and sit the same exams. The university did, however, accommodate him with regard to timing: Laurent Simons was allowed to sit exams at unique times and to complete practicals at an accelerated pace. This required additional work of many people at TU/e, because all the exams and practicals arranged for Laurent had to take place separately. Not, it should be said, that this is unusual. Provided they have good grounds, special students, those who are competing at a high level, for example, may be given their own adapted schedule.'

Bullying

Last Friday, Laurent's parents let it be known that they wished to sue a small number of TU/e lecturers due to bullying towards Laurent, writes the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. 'Motivated by envy, they are said to have kept him waiting, been obstructive and even to have insulted him,' writes the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. TU/e spokesperson Ivo Jongsma wishes to say the following on this matter: "This past week, despite the dedication and hard work of TU/e, Laurent's parents have actively sought out the media and made negative comments about the quality of the supervision offered. We do not recognize ourselves in their statements, neither in the broad picture painted, nor in the details stated."

Cursor's editors have as yet been unable to contact Laurent's parents. However, Laurent's parents posted the passage below, which is an extract from an email sent by the program director in response to the TU/e's reaction.

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