Who is the Mensa membership really for?

Meet George Wee.

He is a maths whiz who can solve all his Primary 4 problem sums.

But George is only six and still in kindergarten.

He is so smart, he was accepted into the Mensa Singapore, a non-profit organisation for the high IQ society.

George is not the youngest, though.

The youngest ever accepted here is a two-year-and-two-month-old boy who was accepted last November.

"George loves maths problems and reads science books all the time," said his mother, Mrs Gwenda Wee, 34.

"The thing about George is he picks up skills very quickly."

While other children are learning their ABCs, George is solving sums like: What is "A" when 2A + 4 = 6. That's algebra.

"Algebra is interesting. It has both letters and numbers," said George. "I want to learn what it's about."

His sister, Genevieve, was also accepted into Mensa. She is only four.

When asked if they have high IQs, their parents, who are both engineering graduates from Nanyang Technological University, said they were just "normal people".

To confirm if their bright children are gifted, more parents are sending their children for psychological tests.

The Singapore chapter of Mensa stopped testing children under 14 about seven years ago, but will accept psychological reports.

Why are parents pushing their children to get tested?

Dr Lily Wong, executive director of Advent Links-SAUC and Education Centre for Children and Family Studies, said: "When parents register for their kids to be in Mensa, it really isn't for the child.

"I personally think it is for the parents. They want their children to be ahead of everyone else.

"So what if your child gets accepted into Mensa? They may be intelligent enough to answer complicated questions, but are they intelligent enough to live the rest of their lives? That, to me is the more important question."

'BORED'

Mrs Wee said she registered George and Genevieve with Mensa because she wants them to be with other people like them.

She said: "George tells me that when he goes to school, he gets bored in class because the work is too easy for him.

"Hopefully, being a part of Mensa will help them socialise with people of their calibre in the future."

Her husband, Mr Wee Keng Han, 36, a junior college chemistry teacher, added: "For now, all they receive are e-mails from Mensa about activities, but most of them are for kids slightly older than them.

"We'll just wait for George and Genevieve to get a bit older before they can start going for the activities."

Smart children

George and Genevieve Wee were recently accepted into Mensa Singapore, which organises six tests a year.

It accepts members who score at the 98th percentile or higher on approved IQ tests.

That means they represent the top 2 per cent of the population.

The Straits Times reported that since 2011, Mensa Singapore has taken in around 70 per cent more children under 10 each year.

In the last four years, seven children who are around the age of 2½ have joined the society.

IQ test is mostly on cognitive ability

Although George and Genevieve Wee have high IQ scores, educational psychologist Lily Wong said that intelligence should be more than just about a child's cognitive abilities.

"Super smart kids must be all-rounded. They should be better than other children their age," she said.

"For example, socially, they should be able to interact beyond their age and their emotional IQ must be of a certain level.

"Typically, children at three are mostly selfish and it's all about 'me', but if they are super caring and sharing, then they display a mature sense that most of their peers wouldn't have."

Mrs Gwenda Wee and her husband Wee Keng Han put their children through the Stanford-Binet Intelligence test.

It measures, via verbal and nonverbal sub-tests, five cognitive aspects including knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, working memory and fluid reasoning.

The children were given scores of 160 each by their educational psychologists and the results were submitted to Mensa.

Mr Wee told The New Paper that he paid $700 each for George and Genevieve to complete the test.

Dr Adeline Chan, educational psychologist from Adele Educational Psychology Services, administered both children's tests.

She said: "I've never seen such high scores for kids their age in my 20 over years as an educational psychologist.

"The IQ test usually takes kids their age about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to complete, but these kids took less than an hour to attain such high scores."

Dr Chan said the test can be done in one visit by any qualified and registered educational psychologist.

"I have seen other gifted children. Their scores, however, were between 130 and 140.

"It is also uncommon that two siblings see the same score as each other. George and Genevieve are really a rare case," she added.

Dr Chan said that the average score for children their age is between 90 and 110.

George and Genevieve are classified as "very gifted".

According to the test results, the Faith Kindergarten pupils display "advanced higher order thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills compared to his age peers".

Said Dr Chan: "The test does not necessarily go too much into their social capabilities and their emotional IQ. It really just focuses mostly on their cognitive capabilities."

Mr Wee said the idea to send their children for an IQ test came when he realised "they had too much energy".

HYPERACTIVE

Mr Wee said: "They would sleep at midnight, but wake up quite early and still be hyperactive throughout the day.

"My wife and I searched online for what the possible reasons were and one of the websites explained that they were probably not using their full mental capacity because they were 'really smart children'."

However, it was not a surprise to the couple that their children have high IQs.

Mrs Wee said: "The books they read made it clear that they are comprehending things beyond their age.

"They have always been interested in more complex subjects for their age."

Joining Mensa, they insist, wasn't "part of the plan".

It was after getting the test results that they made a decision to sign them up in hopes it would "benefit the kids' future".

crobert@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 9, 2015.
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