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On 5 October night, Talking Point on Channel 5 was showcasing an interesting topic: I Want to Be in GEP!
What that episode of Talking Point wants to find out is whether you can train the gifted as parents are sending their children to enrichment classes to prepare the children for a series of test at Primary 3. There is a father who doesn’t believe in his son making his own choices, and thus spend more than S$7000 for GEP Preparation Course. As the episode proceeds, it is clear that the children do not want to be in GEP; rather the “I” in the title actually refers to the parents.
Another mother buys assessment books from Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 for her son who is in Primary 5.
Correspondingly, what is so special about the GEP?
The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was set up by the Ministry of Education to cater to the intellectually gifted students. This programme aims to develop gifted children to their top potential and it places a special emphasis on higher-order thinking and creative thought.
Through the aforementioned series of tests, the top 1 per cent of the student population will be selected to enter the programme.
It is a good initiative by the MOE, but the problems come when parents misunderstand the purpose of GEP and start preparing their children for GEP, which as shown in Talking Point, it is not a good idea after all. The child may pass the tests and get into GEP but later suffer stress because he / she cannot keep up with the syllabus.
Students in GEP are also complaining about the high expectancy of teachers on their work and they feel stressful. Being in the GEP means less free time, more homework and demanding teacher for the students.
After reading on books on stress, competition and learning for children and a blog written by a student in GEP, I wish there is a twist in the GEP.
- Drop the name “Gifted”.
- As the mother of Primary 5 student finds out, the GEP is just learning two years in advance. Is it true? If yes, I would like to suggest giving Primary 5-equivalent tests to Primary 4 students. If they can score 95% or above for all subjects, promote the Primary 4 students to Primary 5.
- For students who have been promoted, assign them as young teachers to teach their peers. In this way, all parties involved are benefited. The teachers can prepare for activities that challenge the promoted students, the promoted students can be trained on leadership and the peers can learn better. Learning to work with students of different levels actually prepares students in real life.
- Other leadership roles, such as the class monitor, prefect, etc, can be assigned to the promoted students.
- Rather than giving more homework, the teachers can identify which areas interest the promoted students and allow them to explore in the same classroom or a separate classroom. Some activities to challenge the mind are Sudoku, Rubik’s cube, chess, debate, etc.
- The promoted students continue to take the national Primary School Leaving Examination like other mainstream students. When they are in secondary schools, provide them with the real life problems that we are facing, and let them experiment and come out with a solution. These are projects to challenge the mind and benefit the country.
- For secondary students, they can expand their knowledge in quantum physics, astronomy, plant science (to make a better Garden City), etc. Let their interests guide them; they will be more enthusiastic to learn what interest them.
- If the promoted student chooses not to be promoted, he / she can stay in the same level as his / her friends and do activities in suggestion 3 to suggestion 7.
- The promoted students are allowed to take “time-off” from school as long as they can keep up with the syllabus.
Why I do not start with Primary 3 students? — Primary 3 students are still young and a year difference means they have a year to develop their intellects.
Why I want the promoted students to teach their peers? — From GEP, we know that the students are labelled as “smart” and they compete with their friends who are not in the GEP. Their teachers also always compare them with those who are not in the GEP.
Competition ⇒ Stress ⇒ Not performing optimally
By teaching their peers, they learn how to explain better and able to identify which knowledge they lack. Also, if the promoted students only mix with like-minded students, will they be frustrated when they meet a mediocre colleague who can’t see things eye to eye as them?
By allowing the students to explore their areas of interests, we will create lifelong learners, instead of learning robots who can learn best but cannot apply knowledge to real life.
The above suggestions are my two cents. Any comments are welcome.
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When I board the bus, a boy is crying beside two school bags. A woman is standing beside the school bags, guarding the school bags (and the boy).
I sit down just two seats away from the boy and observe. This is not something that you encounter everyday. The woman does not make any effort to stop the boy from crying. The boy is crying, shouting and mumbling at the same time. Other passengers are looking at the pair, wondering what is happening.
The bus has travelled a few bus stations away and the passengers are getting impatient.
Someone offers a seat to the boy but is rejected.
Someone asks the boy to keep quiet but we get more shouting and crying.
Someone says he will call the police but he does not.
An innocent preschooler says the police will catch the boy and the mummy hushes the preschooler immediately.
An elderly woman calls the boy a spoilt brat softly so that the boy won’t hear her.
The bus captain calls the control station but nothing can be done as the trip needs to go on and the woman accompanying the boy should be responsible to calm the boy down. He calls the control station twice!
The boy moves to sit down. He is closing his eyes, sobbing still. It is almost time for me to alight. I get ready my travel card and a tissue paper. I offer him the tissue paper when I walk to the bus door. He wipes his tears.
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I do not know what happens next. From observation, the woman is his domestic helper. The domestic helper calls the boy’s mother after the bus captain calling the control station. The boy says the domestic helper doesn’t let him eat. Well, they are on the way home and food is ready at home. It is just that the boy is hungry at the moment, hungry and tired, and maybe stressed from school.
No one, NO ONE, tries to understand why the boy is making a fuss, not even his domestic helper. Everyone is blaming him for causing a scene in the bus. Only I offer him a tissue paper. I feel sorry for him. I would be making a fuss if I were at his age, hungry, tired and stressed out.
I really hope that Singapore can be a better place for children to live. It takes a village to raise a child. But what if the child is in a village that does more harm than good? The boy is just in primary school. How is he going to cope when he goes to secondary school?
I have been reading books on brain and emotional stability and how childhood experience will “haunt” a child even after he or she becomes an adult. I do hope the boy can learn from his experience and do not let the incident haunt him when he grows up.
This encounter has opened up my mind and my eyes on how strangers can be so “harmful” even though they mean no harm. They just use the wrong method. The tissue paper will dry his tears, why no one has ever thought of that?
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