At the age of seven, Zakaria Ait Oumessaoud (Zac) was accepted into Mensa International, a high IQ society reputed to be the oldest and largest in the world.
At that time, he had an IQ score of 130, based on an assessment by the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children, a number which ranked in the 98th percentile globally, or the top two per cent.
His visual spatial intelligence, or the ability to perceive and analyse visual information around him, scored higher, in the top one per cent in the world with a score of 147.
The young genius has earned much praise from his tutors.
“It is a very rare occasion to have a child accepted as a Mensa member,” said Stella School Principal Lisa Kim Lee, where Zakaria attends as a Year 5 student, noting the stringent IQ requirement.
The average person’s IQ ranged from 85 to 115.
“We are proud to have one of our students in Mensa, and hope to see more children in Brunei be part of the society,” she said.
Zac’s mother, Josephine Tan, first noticed this spark of genius when he was two. While out shopping, she asked Zac to count the number of delivery motorcycles parked by a shopping centre.
Zac took one quick look and in a few seconds, replied with a correct count of ‘14’, much to her surprise.
It turned out Zac had a natural love for numbers, jumping right into multiplication at the age of two and by the time he was six, he was able to multiply double digits.
Josephine recognised that Zac would need to be constantly stimulated and challenged. “People think that gifted children, being already clever, will be fine on their own. This isn’t the case,” she said.
Left alone, they would get bored and their results will just drop drastically, she said. So she placed him into a Kumon programme for mathematics, which Zac completed swiftly, mastering exponential functions, algebra, trigonometry and calculus over the span of 14 months – an astonishing feat for a programme that was meant to take three to five years.
Zac is now nine and is waiting for approval from the Ministry of Education to take the ‘O’ Level mathematics exam.
His tuition teacher believed him capable, according to Josephine, adding that since Zac completed the Kumon programme, she also believed that he is capable of doing ‘A’ level examinations too.
“The Kumon maths programme starts from kindergarten maths all the way until ‘A’ level maths,” she said in an interview with the Bulletin.
While Zac’s ability in mathematics continues to grow, Zac also demonstrates a maturity beyond his age.
“He understands how much he knows and doesn’t know,” said Josephine.
“He’s always curious about the sciences, exploring and learning new materials.”
He is sensitive and compassionate to other people’s experiences and is always willing to help others, she said, adding that if he continued to maintain these qualities, he would be able to do well in life and eventually contribute to society.
Perhaps indicative of his empathy, when Zac was asked what his ambition was, his response was broad, vague and endearing.
“To help people and save lives,” he said.