JEAN TEO: My sister was in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), and my family often had debates over whether she would have been better off receiving “regular” education instead.
While the GEP showed her new ways of learning and introduced her to interesting classmates, I do not think it helped her to develop gifts she might not have otherwise developed in a regular class.
While my sister could have been the top student in a regular class, she was an average one in her gifted class. She also lost out on opportunities to participate in some interclass and interschool competitions because she had many more outstanding classmates.
My sister was in the programme in its early days, when it was probably still being fine-tuned. She and her classmates were so busy developing other skills that they neglected their core academic subjects. In fact, half of her class failed the additional mathematics mid-year paper in Secondary 4, which the rest of her school took.
My sister’s foundation in core subjects was weak, and this affected her in her A levels and, later on, in university.
When I was in secondary school, my classmates, who were top students in the Primary School Leaving Examination, were unhappy about being made to feel inferior to the gifted students.
Once, they asked a teacher for the same notes she gave to the gifted class, but she refused, saying they would not understand them.
Many of my classmates went on to become doctors, lawyers and bankers, faring just as well as, if not better than, those in the gifted class.
The GEP has been around for 30 years, but its benefits are still unclear. The Government should be clear on its aims.
A person could be gifted in many ways. Labelling someone as gifted too early in life, and putting him in a one-track programme, may stifle his development.
This letter was written by Jean Teo.
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