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Should You Enroll Your Child in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP)?

GEP (the Gifted Education Programme) is a Singapore-specific educational programme that aims to identify and nurture the top 1% of students from every academic year. The programme has since expanded into an all-encompassing education system that fosters the academic growth of children who are gifted at every level of their development.

While there have been some concerns raised about the selection process, GEP still remains one of the most rigorous ways to select students with exceptional potential. In this concise article, we will describe the ins and outs of GEP, including benefits, drawbacks, what to expect, and more.

Benefits of GEP

As a gifted educational programme, GEP has many benefits. Among them are:

1. It provides a high quality education for children with advanced needs. This is especially important given the increasing number of such children in Singapore. It also ensures that these children receive a high standard of education, which can be crucial when they enter the workforce as adults.

2. In addition to providing a high quality education for children with special needs, GEP is also good for society as a whole. Many studies show that having talented individuals in positions of power increases productivity and innovation. Additionally, having gifted people working within government institutions helps ensure that the country continues to progress economically and socially.

In terms of the programme itself, GEP consists of two major components. The first is an application process that carefully evaluates a student's academic needs and aptitude. The second is a special curriculum that allows for more in-depth teaching of select subjects.

The curriculum is typically more interactive than traditional education, with the use of a number of interesting and active teaching methods, like 'making' and hands on projects.

3. It also allows students to explore their own interests through their innate capacity for learning. This unique approach helps spark creativity and cultivate the child's natural abilities.

GEP is a good programme for gifted children because it allows them to learn in an environment that better caters to their needs and interests, as opposed to standard high school educations which are typically less specialized and more generalized.

4. And when you give a bright child freedom to improve in a subject that they are interested in, their inherent disposition towards that subject lets them get better quite quickly - many times rising to national or international levels.

Drawbacks of GEP

While there are benefits of being enrolled in the GEP, there are also some drawbacks to consider. In general, there are three negatives that have been identified: the selection process, the social lives of gifted children in the programme, and later overconfidence in life.

1. In terms of selection, GEP is not perfect. There are numerous cases of promising children not being identified, as well as the inverse (children with little right to be in the programme that were selected either due to nepotism or familial connections).

Many gifted adults in Singapore specifically criticise the latter as being a normal part of GEP, and measures are being taken to improve programme selection all the time.

2. In addition, some parents may feel that GEP deprives their children of a "normal childhood", leading to social ineptitude or an inability to make meaningful connections with people and the world at large. However, this is a matter of perspective, as many GEP alumni feel that they had fulfilling lives, made connections, and were not deprived of anything.

3. While not a drawback from sheer statistics, recent declarations by program participants suggest that GEP children may develop an over-inflated ego or mild superiority complex due to their abilities, leading them to act in an overconfident manner at times in life.

Though at first glance this sounds negative, it can also be positive in the right light - overconfident people typically achieve more and are more likely to get their way in social situations. Still, it's important to keep this in mind if you're considering enrolling your child in GEP.

Similar Programs

This article focuses on GEP's benefits specifically, but similar programmes exist elsewhere in Asia.

For example, in Korea, there are five highly advanced ‘gifted’ institutions that require rigorous scores on examinations to enter, and entrance gives you opportunities to grow in a thriving learning environment that fosters intellect.

China has the ‘Special Class for the Gifted Young of University of Science and Technology of China’, which has a special focus on learning crucial science and technology skills to help achieve more in these fields.

But all programs share similar sentiment: give your child access to a fertile learning environment, and watch them grow into high achievers with a strong aptitude for success.

History of the GEP

GEP first began in 1984 during a period of significant transition by the Ministry of Education in Singapore. The people were pushing for educational reform, and wanted to deviate from the current status-quo system that treated every student the same.

This focus on diversity of learning approaches happened in many other Asian countries, leading to better programs for both the gifted and the mentally challenged.

Initially, GEP was restricted to screening only the top 0.25% of students in the country. Later, this expanded to 0.5% and 1%, and now, the selected students have the choice to go through a screening exercise that consists of a short exam on both language and mathematics.

Depending on their performance on these two exams, screened students are later selected by their performance on a more rigorous set of tests on language, math, and 'general ability' - GEP's shorthand for a battery of intelligence tests.

If your child is selected, you get notified by your school after October during the school year with a special invitation. You then will have the opportunity to move your child to the gifted version of Primary 4 in the next school year.

GEP Schools in Singapore

Currently, not every school is eligible for GEP. The following institutions are those that host gifted programmes (if your child is selected, they will need to transfer):

- Nan Hua Primary School
- Saint Hilda’s Primary School
- Catholic High School (Primary)
- Henry Park Primary School
- Nanyang Primary School
- Raffles Girls’ Primary School
- Anglo-Chinese School (Primary)
- Rosyth School
- Tao Nan School

These schools are noted for their attention to student development, wide array of interactive learning approaches, and fantastic teachers.

GEP Preparation Courses

As a result of GEP being such a highly vied-after program, many preparation courses in private tuition centres have been developed to supposedly improve the likelihood of your child passing the screening and selection portions of the exams. However, we strongly recommend against enrolling any child in such a course.

GEP was created specifically for gifted learners, not gifted test-takers. It's therefore quite demanding and difficult. Simply passing the course may let your child get into GEP, but it does nothing to prepare them for the actualities of growing up side-by-side by highly intellectually gifted students, and this can wreak havoc on their quality of life, sanity, and confidence.

It's better instead to let your child thrive at their inherent educational level. Working and growing next to people near them on an intellectual level will foster their social skills, personality, and other qualities that are just as important to their development.

When you call your child 'gifted', what you're really noticing is that they've outpaced their current learning environment by several years.

This often means they're learning at a faster rate, and can master concepts quicker than other students are taught at their age. But this doesn't necessarily mean that they are significantly more intelligent - it can also simply be a reflection on the poor standards of their school or other students, or reflect favoritism on the part of a teacher.

It's important to note that this bias doesn't always mean they're more intelligently or will do well in GEP - it just means they're advanced in their school relative to others their age.

So, Should You Enroll Your Child In GEP?

In summary, enrolling your child in GEP has both benefits and drawbacks. It can be an overwhelmingly positive experience for your child, should they be intelligent enough to pass the selection tests. They'll see substantially more comprehensive learning, introduction to new topics, and better mastery of fundamental principles that will help them excel later on in life.

On the other hand, though, if they don't reach this standard, or if you're otherwise satisfied with their current school and class, then it might be best not to bother and risk placing unnecessary expectations on your child.

The standard educational system isn't "bad" - for many it works exceptionally well and allows them to grow up in a highly engaging social environment that lets their inherent qualities manifest.

Whatever choice you make, be sure that you think it through carefully before making a final decision.

We hope that this article helped you learn about the benefits and drawbacks of GEP, and hopefully move closer to knowing whether or not you should enroll your child in the gifted education programme!

Thanks for reading, and best of luck.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.