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A Twist to the Gifted Education Programme

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.


  1. Drop the name “Gifted”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Other leadership roles, such as the class monitor, prefect, etc, can be assigned to the promoted students.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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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Happy 51st Birthday, Singapore

It is August again. To wish Singapore a happy birthday, here is a haiku for Singapore:

In a beautiful

breezy rainy eighth-month sky…

shout “Happy Birthday!”

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Once, my student asked me to write a haiku. A haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. The haiku poems consist of three lines. The first and the last lines of a haiku have five syllables and the second line has seven syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

If you would like to play language game with Primary school students, haiku is a good option. It is short and seldom rhymes, so it is easy for beginners to start making poems of their own.

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Note 1: Strawberry generation is a hot topic. You might find similar writings on the same topic.

Note 2: The above is prepared for my student for his examination.

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Thank You, Singapore!

Singapore is 50 years old this year!

Every Singaporean and permanent resident household receives a SG50 funpack. Every funpack is different. Here are the items that are inside the funpack for my family.

1. The tote bag that contains all the items. (It reads “Never mind lah!”)


Tote bag in red and white

2. Some related booklets



3. The national flags. (One inside the plastic bag)


National flags

4. Snacks and drink (haw flakes and lollipop)


Snacks and drink

5. Figurine of Singa, erasers, Snap card game, etc.


Singa figurine, erasers, etc

6. I was wondering why the image is mirror image, and then I realize it is tattoo.



7. The most important thing that I was looking for: “NDP 2015”


“NDP 2015”

I do not unwrap the items. They will be kept for my children and grandchildren to see, excluding the snacks and drink, of course!

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Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 4

Continuation from Let’s Learn Mathematics (Primary Level) — Model Method 3

Here is another example on comparison model to compare two or more items.

Question: 8 similar dictionaries and 12 similar assessment books cost S$196. Each assessment book costs S$2 less than each dictionary. How much does each dictionary cost?

First, draw the model based on the question.


Comparison model based on the question

Each assessment book costs S$2 less than each dictionary, thus 8 similar dictionaries cost S$16 more than 12 similar assessment books.

S$2 x 8 = S$16

From the model, we can see that the total cost is 8 units of dictionaries, 12 units of assessment books and S$16. To find the cost of a single unit, we subtract S$16 from the total cost.

S$196 − S$ 16 = S$180

Total units = 8 + 12

= 20 units

S$180 ÷ 20 = S$9

The cost of a single unit is S$9. The question asks for the cost of each dictionary, thus we need to add S$2 to get the final answer.

S$9 + S$2 = S$11

Each dictionary costs S$11.

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Disclaimer: The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

When Good Memory Doesn’t Help

I have been emphasizing on the understanding of Mathematics questions umpteenth time. Most of the time, a student is unable to solve the problem because he or she does not understand the Mathematics question.

There is this student who has very good memory but the good memory does not help him in solving Mathematics questions.

Background of the student: When he was in Primary One (7 years old), his Mathematics teacher at school has scolded him a lot of times and almost given up on him. He has developed a phobia for Mathematics since then. Thus far, in Primary Two, he is surviving in Mathematics by “memorizing” Mathematics questions.

Let’s look at the example 1,

Jane had S$ 5. Her father gave her S$ 10 as pocket-money. How much money does she have now?

5 + 10 = 15

Now she has S$ 15.



Example 1 is a common question for lower Primary Mathematics. The keyword is “Her father gave her”, so the operation used is addition. The question is straightforward and can be solved easily.

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Let’s look at example 2,

Jenny had S$ 5. Her mother gave her some amount of money. Now she has S$ 15. How much money did her mother give her?

Both examples look similar, but they are different. After reading the question to the aforementioned student, he insists to use the operation addition to solve the problem because of the phrase “her mother gave her”. He told me, his school Mathematics teacher taught him, gave = addition.

Therefore, I spent time explaining the question to him and finally we solved the problem using the operation subtraction.

I can understand the frustration of the school Mathematics teacher when he or she needs to spend time to explain one question to only one student who does not seem to understand. He or she has the whole class to take care of; giving attention to only one student is not an option.

Nonetheless, I hope that school Mathematics teachers do not teach the students, especially younger students, to memorize questions. THIS DOES NOT HELP!

I have upper primary students who face the same problem because of the understanding issue. With the phobia and the memorization, the same problem is repeated in a cycle until they meet a teacher who can patiently explain the questions to them. By then, whether they are willing to accept the “understanding of the question” method is another problem to solve.

For parents, if you find out that your children face problem at school, please communicate with the school teachers in a tactful way. Extra lessons or remedial lessons for your children are meant to help your children. Also, listen to the advice with an open heart. It may be difficult to accept that your children are slow in learning (Who would want his or her child to be labelled as stupid?), but cooperation with the school teachers will help the children more.

Furthermore, parents can also help the children at home by doing revision together with the children. No matter how busy is your schedule, I believe there is nothing more important than the children. When the children grow old, it is more difficult to mend the problem.

Even if there is no feedback from the school teachers, parents may take the initiative to ask the school teachers on the progress of the children and how they are coping at school. Some children might be too shy to ask questions even though they do not understand. This will create bigger problem in future.

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1. The Mathematics questions are purely created for discussion purpose. Any resemblance to actual questions from books or schools is coincidental.

2. The student is a case study for parents, teachers and tutors alike to understand why your children or students have phobia in Mathematics. Hopefully we can create a joyful environment for children to learn Mathematics.


She Made a Decision

I can still remember the reactions of my classmates when I told them I am going to complete my test quickly and go to meet my idol. I was in my early 20s, when meeting my idol was more important than my university test. Anyway, I did complete the test, I just left early. Also, I made sure that I did well in other assignments and final examination so that the final mark of the subject was not affected badly.

That was the decision I made. After so many years, no one remember which subject or what mark did I get. But I remember the experience of the long queue and the warm smile from my idol.

Thus, when my student told me, she “sacrificed” the Chinese language CA2 examination to try to complete for an arts project that she cares a lot; I was not shocked at all.


Will you scold your child for getting this result?

Nonetheless, I would like her to understand some important points in making a decision:

1. One must be ready to take the consequences

She failed her Chinese language CA2 examination. Even if she got 100 marks for her Chinese language SA2 examination, she would still need to face the music as overall she still fails the subject.

2. One must consider the priority

Her other classmates were focusing on the examination rather than the arts project. Different people have different priorities. I will not say that she made a wrong decision, but I want her to consider the following:

(a) What is the percentage of the marks of the arts project go to the final mark of the subject?

(b) Likewise, what is the percentage of the marks of the Chinese language SA2 examination go to the final mark of the subject?

(c) Which subject do you put in more effort? The one that you are weak at or the one that you are good at?

The answers are obvious. We put in priority for higher percentage of the marks that go to the final mark of the subject and put in more effort in the subject that we are weak at. You may have different point of view, which leads us to the third point.

3. Worth it?

In the end, she failed her Chinese language CA2 examination and did not complete the arts project. Also, the arts teacher has decided to extend the due date to one month later. What has she gained?

For my case, I gained the experience that I cherish for the rest of my life, it was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I won’t regret it and I can show my children and grandchildren of my idol’s signature. Most important of all, I did not fail the subject.

For her case, I do think that it is too big a sacrifice. Things have happened, I hope she learn from this incident and make better decision next time.

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

August is a month of celebration for Singapore. 

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Selamat Hari Lahir, Singapura!



Singapore is 49 years old this year!

As I am learning Japanese, I would like to wish Singapore a happy birthday in Japanese too:


(If you would like to use the Japanese phrase to wish your friend a happy birthday, you may use お誕生日おめでとうございます or お誕生日おめでとう depending on how close you are to him / her.)