Isn't the crux of the problem- as with 11 plus preparation - that parents want their children to be suitably challenged and working with a highly motivated peer group where appropriate?
It seems to be - though why parents actually want this is another matter. I suppose there must be a huge genetic imperative to see one's offspring get one over on the next person; to consider one's child to be superior in some way and therefore worthy of special treatment which will launch it on the road to - where? A fabulous career that parents can boast about? I really don't know.
Are those who are not gifted also less motivated and independent?
I'm kind of hoping this is a joke. Those who are not 'gifted' as you put it tend to be lower social class - odd that 'giftedness' seems to be over-represented in the middle classes. And possibly suggestive of the not entirely controversial notion that it has more to do with life chances than innate superiority.
If we find a way to 'look inside the brain' and through a series of CAT type test make the decision on who is worthy of a selective education through this alone? Are the truly bright by degree also more motivated, hard working and independent? Many schools use the CAT type test to identify the truly gifted anyway I believe. Is this the fairest system?
'Worthy of a selective education'? Ouch. The 'fairest system' would of course be one where opportunity was granted equally to all, regardless of supposed 'giftedness' - which I happen to be very sceptical of, as a concept, even though all of my children have at various points been identified as such.
I have quoted from this report before, and of course international league tables are a nasty reflection of the neoliberal marketisation of education and need to be handled with care, but:
successful Pisa countries also invest something else in their education systems: high expectations for all of their students. Schools and teachers in these systems do not allow struggling students to fail; they do not make them repeat a grade, they do not transfer them to other schools, nor do they group students into different classes based on ability
OECD Report, 'Does Money Buy Strong Performance in PISA?' (My emphasis)
So even if (which I don't believe it should be) our aim is to produce 'top class' students who do well in international league tables, we are wrong to believe that segregating by ability will ever achieve this. And for the record, neither will small classes:
size of the class is unrelated to the school system’s overall performance; in other words, high-performing countries tend to prioritise investment in teachers over smaller classes.
It's very easy to get carried away with the idea that there are special children who need special educational provision. And so there are. But they tend to be the ones with severe physical or cognitive impairments, whose parents generally have to fight tooth and nail to get any kind of specialist equipment, education or care for them.