The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) will remain controversial as long as there is no clear objective for it ("Is the gifted stream still relevant?"; last Saturday).
What are we assessing? Are we looking at academic grades, speed of learning, or former students' contributions to society?
The report said the GEP nurtures the top 1 per cent of each cohort, and that most of them scored within the top 10 per cent of each Primary School Leaving Examination cohort. Does this suggest that the GEP has underperformed?
Educators should consider a retrospective comparison between pupils in the GEP and the top 1 per cent of other pupils.
It has been 30 years since the GEP started, and there should be enough data to show if the money spent on it has paid dividends.
I was selected to participate in the then-novel programme 25 years ago, but I declined. I took the "ordinary" education route and eventually had classmates in junior college and university who were in the GEP. I could not tell them apart from the others. We all graduated, found jobs and contributed to society in our own ways.
If the justification for the programme is that the brightest children need special help, would not everyone else need even more help?
Bright pupils who are bored in class and far ahead of their peers ought to be allowed to skip levels to advance faster. Giving them more subjects to study would leave them with less time for a "normal" childhood.
People are gifted in different ways - be it in intelligence, physical attributes, music, the arts or sports. A standard programme will not cater to their differing needs.
Gifted children need personalised mentoring and freedom from other distractions to nurture their talents.
Wee Wei Loong
This article was first published on Oct 28, 2014.
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