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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gifted Education Programme

An interesting letter in the Straits Times forum today:

Gifted scheme: Has it achieved the set goals?

THE Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was introduced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 1984. It sees the participation of the top 1 per cent of each Primary 4 cohort (about 500 pupils) every year.

Special teaching and learning techniques have been used to groom these top pupils in the hope of achieving the following goals, as stated by MOE on its website:

- To develop intellectual depth and higher-level thinking;

- To nurture productive creativity;

- To develop attitudes for self-directed lifelong learning;

- To enhance aspirations for individual excellence and fulfilment;

- To develop a strong social conscience and commitment to serve society and nation; and

- To develop moral values and qualities for responsible leadership.

It has been 23 years now since the implementation of the GEP. If the intake had been constant at 500 per year, there should be 11,500 of such GEP graduates and students to date.

And those in the first batch would be 33 years old now.

It is believed among experts that by the age of 30, top-performing individuals would have flourished in their careers.

Could the MOE comment on how well it has achieved the goals set by itself with regard to GEP students? They are remarkable students with extraordinary school grades.

Tremendous efforts are put in by the GEP teachers and educationists to groom these bright kids. Taxpayers' money has been pumped in to craft the best syllabus to develop our creme de la creme.

Can MOE highlight the significant contributions made to society by the working GEP cohort?

The ministry should also explain how humane values have been injected by the individuals in the following key areas:

- Science and technology

- Music and the arts

- Sports

- Politics and economics

- Social work and religion

The GEP project has gone through more than two decades of experimentation. It is time that the MOE takes stock of the results and improves the programme further, if necessary.

It would be good if the MOE shares its findings with the public - especially with parents, teachers and educationists who are the actual stakeholders.

The findings might also motivate other students to excel.

George Lim Heng Chye

While I don't agree that the age of 30 should be a magical benchmark for all careers, I share his curiosity about the performance of GEP students.

Where are they now? Are there any notable scientists, artists and entrepreneurs from the GEP route? Are GEP students on the whole doing better than normal-normal students?

It'll be quite interesting to know.


Fox said...

The pioneer intakes had 200 to 250 students per batch. Only 0.5 percent of each cohort were enrolled in the GEP.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Fox, and welcome to Fresh Brainz!

From your figures, a conservative estimate would be about 5000 students in total. It will be interesting to know the proportion of them who are in the top 0.5 percent of their current careers now.

Anonymous said...

How about students with clear abilities in leadership and high level creativity, but who so not get the proper grades to be placed at the top 1% of the cohort, as not all highly creative and those with leadership ability get top marks.

I feel there is a gap between high level gifted education (top 1% to 5%), and those who are distinctly above average (top 10 to 20%) but not 'gifted'. Well at least in Australia anyway...

Anonymous said...

Oh and the other 90% (or 99%) in this case, not to be anti-intellectual, but (like some of the comments on the straights article) how about the rest of us, having my self miss out on giftef education by 5% (~90% is needed) I feel doomed to mediocrity.

I feel the work (at that program) is challenging, but dammit it I was ready to die trying.

Fox said...

Of the people who are or were in the GEP, the majority of them would still be in school (primary, secondary, post-secondary, university). It used to be that only 0.5 percent of each cohort would enter the GEP but they expanded the programme in the late 90s to include 1 percent of the cohort.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Anon 8:56 / 9:03,

Indeed, not all creative individuals or leaders get top marks. That is only one possible metric of their abilities. Thus you shouldn't feel doomed to mediocrity simply because you missed out on GEP education. Anyway education should be a self-motivated, life-long activity, not merely what somebody teaches you in some specific programme.

To Fox,

Good point, although in the case of sports (and possibly music), there should already be notable differences ,since 30 is "old" in this profession.

Looks like we will have to wait a number of years to see the results.

Anonymous said...

One factual clarification for the letter: since 1983 saw the recruitment of both Primary 6 and Primary 3 students, the first Primary 6 batch would be 36 years old, and the Primary 3 batch currently 33.

The first poster's figure of 200-250 is split over 2 intakes (Primary 3 and Primary 6) per year. Rosyth and RGPS were the pioneer GEP primary schools, with corresponding secondary school classes in RI and RGS only.

Many of the GEP students from the early years have moved on to successful careers. Several are moving upwards in the government service as scholars. A couple have done well in the arts - Beatrice Chia is a good example. Quite a few have moved overseas - the academics and the IT professionals. One participated in the Mount Everest climb. Quite a few were chessmasters - Hsu Li Yang comes to mind. Many of the rest became bankers, doctors, lawyers, consultants and teachers. Tracey Ho is an alumnus from the programme who is a prominent computer science academic in the USA currently. Without naming names, there are a few radical thinkers blazing their paths in different fields currently.

Very few of those from the pioneer batches disclose their background; interestingly enough, in my experience, most GEP students in the early years saw the singling out as being 'gifted' as something more awkward than pleasant. This seems to have changed somewhat in recent years among "GEPpers", as they came to be called in the last few years, though this may be due to broader changes in the nature of children in Singapore. ;)

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Anon 4:15,

I didn't realize that Beatrice Chia was from the GEP. Thanks for the interesting details!

Fox said...

It will be interesting to know the proportion of them who are in the top 0.5 percent of their current careers now.

Probably only a small fraction of them.

RI takes in the top 5 percent of PSLE school leavers but you would hardly expect the RI alumni in medicine to be in the top 5 percent of their field.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere on the papers few years back that the GEPer's mainly in the medical field where the best and brightest are, if I'm not wrong.