A programme's value may not always be reflected in quantitative terms ("Gifted programme lacks clear objective" by Mr Wee Wei Loong; Tuesday).
Gifted Education Programme (GEP) pupils do not take on more subjects; instead, they develop a deeper understanding of each topic of study.
For example, pupils are given opportunities to participate in advanced mathematics classes, and study literature texts such as Charlotte's Web and A Wrinkle In Time. These topics hone the pupils' deductive and inferential skills, while developing their critical thinking abilities.
The curriculum also includes the 16 Habits Of Mind, Paul's Wheel Of Reasoning and individualised study options, which allow pupils to choose their own areas of study. These help to groom their intellectual curiosity and expose them to a wide range of new ideas.
The GEP, with its innovative curriculum, best encapsulates the Ministry of Education's (MOE) goal of offering a more holistic education for our children, by defining education as something beyond academic, exam-centric pursuits.
The large number of GEP pupils attending tuition lessons is not a reflection of the programme's inadequacy, but shows how its goals differ from the conventional view of scholastic ability. GEP students, like others, can choose to attend tuition classes for extra support in preparing for the same exams.
There is the justifiable worry that the GEP is becoming too "elitist". Hence, the MOE should consider adopting elements of the programme for all primary pupils. In particular, attempts in recent years to promote the integration of mainstream and GEP classes should be lauded.
What the MOE must not do is sacrifice the progress made thus far by scrapping the programme altogether.
Ultimately, we must dispel the notion of the GEP being an accelerated exam-preparation programme. Rather, it seeks to develop something more in pupils - a joy for learning, along with critical thinking skills. Such intangible skills prepare pupils better for life's challenges.
This article was first published on Oct 30, 2014.
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