2 generations of GEP students under one roof

Thirty years after the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) kicked off, it has now seen at least one family with two generations going through it.

Take the Siow family, who lives in a semi-detached house in Bukit Batok. Orthopaedic surgeon Siow Hua Ming, 42, and his wife, Dr Karen Soh, 40, were in the GEP. Their two older sons - Matthew, 13, and Mark, 10 - are also among the top 1 per cent of their school cohorts.

Their daughter, Kayleigh, nine, is waiting for the result of the GEP selection test she took in August. Their youngest son, Luke, is 11/2 years old.

The couple entered the GEP in Secondary 1: she, in Raffles Girls' School, and he, in Raffles Institution (RI).

Dr Soh, a medical director of an aesthetic clinic, recalls: "It was just doing your best and seeing where you ended up. My parents didn't expect me to get into GEP. I did well but I wasn't one of those shining stars who topped the school."

From discussing the plot of American action film Top Gun to learning binary numbers, the syllabus was never dry, she adds.

"They let us do projects on a subject of our choice, so I did research on torture methods used during the Japanese Occupation, as I was curious. The focus wasn't so much on the grades," she says.

She was surprised when her playful sons made the cut for the GEP. Matthew, who is now in Year 1 in RI's Integrated Programme, went from Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) to ACS (Primary) after passing the test. Mark is in Primary 4 there.

"The boys enjoy GEP very much as the teaching methods are more creative," says Dr Soh, adding that they did not undergo special training to enter the programme.

Matthew enrolled in an enrichment centre when he was in Primary 4, which helped to pull up his grades. Dr Soh also sends Mark and Kayleigh there as she feels the smaller classes and extra practice are useful.

Does Kayleigh, who is now in Raffles Girls' Primary School, feel any pressure?

Dr Soh says: "Her brothers tell her to join the programme because they had a good time, but it's okay if she doesn't get in. Every child is different, so we can't impose standards."