What will the tests be like? Should I let my child have a head start by preparing them for the selection tests? Will my child be overwhelmed with the programme such that they have little time to prepare for PSLE? These are common recurring questions parents usually ask when they receive the letter from MOE to indicate their approval for their child to sit for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) screening test. Given that there is much praise to the GEP and students in the GEP are said to be intellectually stimulated, it is not surprising that parents will go the extra mile to ensure their kids have an equal chance to enter the programme as well. However, before enrolling your kid into a preparatory course, it is essential to delve deeper and know a bit more about GEP.
Overview of GEP
The first thing that you would need to know about the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) would be none other than an overview of the programme. This programme is specifically created to cater to the needs of intellectually gifted students. Its curriculum is starkly different from the mainstream curriculum as it is designed to be more enriching so as to meet the needs of GEP students. GEP students will learn to be self-directed in their learning as they learn skills for independent research and will be even tasked to do explorations on their areas of interest.
Motivations of establishing the GEP
The motivations and history of establishing the GEP in Singapore have come a long way back. It all started in 1981 in which the minister of state for education in Singapore and his team went overseas to countries such as Germany, Russia and Israel to observe the running of gifted education programmes in these countries. Israel’s education model suited Singapore the best and as such their gifted programme was emulated. 3 years later, the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was established in Singapore in order to provide quality education for gifted students. The changes were part of the Ministry of Education (MOE) plans to improve the education system so as to hone the skills and potential of the intellectually gifted students in Singapore.
The programme was deemed essential for intellectually gifted students. By establishing the GEP, it provided a much more conducive learning environment for gifted students since these children will flourish under stimulated learning environments. Staying in the mainstream class or school might not be beneficial for them or even disruptive to their learning. Some of the goals of the GEP would include developing students to their fullest intellectual potential and stimulate higher level thinking. It also aims to enhance aspirations for individual excellence and fulfilment. Academic and intellectual goals aside, the GEP is also aiming to cultivate a holistic education for gifted students. They aim to cultivate students with strong social conscience and commitment as well as moral values.
Schools that offer GEP
When the programme first started out, there were not many schools offering the GEP especially since this is a new programme with a more enhanced curriculum. Much preparatory work was to be done. For instance, the Gifted Education Branch was set up to recruit teachers and select suitable students for the programme. Teaching training sessions and training courses were also mandatory for selected teachers.
The first four schools that offered GEP were Raffles Girls’ Primary School, Rosyth School, Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ Secondary School. The first two mentioned were primary schools while the latter two are secondary schools. Over the years, there were gradual changes made to the number of GEP centres. As teachers and gifted students slowly eased into the new curriculum, there were more GEP centres established. As of today, the primary GEP centres are Raffles’ Girls Primary School, Rosyth School , Anglo-Chinese School , Nanyang Primary School, Henry Park Primary School, Catholic High School , St Hilda’s Primary School and Nan Hua Primary School. In addition, the secondary GEP schools would include Victoria School, Raffles Girls’ School, Raffles Institution, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Dunman High School and Nanyang Girls’ High.
Enrollment and selection process
Now, you might wonder what the enrollment and selection process is like? The process of selecting will be a two-stage exercise, firstly a screening test for students in all primary schools and secondly a selection process in October for students that got through the first round. The selection process will be done in primary three for all students enrolled in Singapore government public schools. The first screening test in August requires students to sit for two papers, English and Mathematics. The paper consists of 100 questions which tests students on their vocabulary, reading and reasoning skills. Students that are successful in the first round will be eligible to sit for the second screening selection test in October. This round of tests will require students to sit for three papers, namely Mathematics, General Ability and English Language tests. Subsequently, successful students will then be offered a place in schools that offer the gifted education programme.
What differentiates the GEP and regular syllabus?
In general, the main difference between the GEP and regular syllabus would be none other than the rigorous nature. The GEP curriculum is known for stretching students intellectually via exposing them to broader and more in depth subject content. Topics covered are also more advanced. For instance, GEP students would be tasked to not only learn a wider range of vocabulary but also to carry out independent research on the etymology of the words. Maths classes would entail students learning about the numbering systems of ancient civilisation and historical backgrounds of key concepts, things which are not covered in a mainstream class. Heavy emphasis is also placed on Social Studies subject in the GEP as the programme aims to nurture students who are well read in the history of Singapore and our society. English lessons are also advanced as students are exposed to literature books which are only introduced in Secondary schools for mainstream students. Undeniably, it is a demanding yet enriching programme for intellectually gifted students.
Academic curriculum aside, students in this programme have many opportunities for outdoor exploration. The GEP is designed to make learning exploratory and stimulating. As such, there are many interesting activities offered such as video editing, coding, photography and even podcasting. In addition, GEP students are also required to take on Values In Action (VIA) activities so as to cultivate civic responsibility and moral values in them. Such activities are also beneficial for bonding with students from the mainstream classes.
A common end goal for both the GEP and regular syllabus would be that students are required to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). However, some of the content covered in the GEP would not be included in the PSLE. As such, this raises concern amongst parents that their child is unable to ace PSLE given that most of the time is spent on completing projects and assignments.
Can and should parents prepare their child for GEP?
When it comes to preparing your child for the GEP screening and selection tests, there are varying perspectives to this decision. Some parents believe that the GEP is for the naturally gifted, precocious students that exhibit intellectual giftedness. Therefore, they believe in letting nature take its course and if their child is not cut out for the programme, it is no use forcing it. Personally for me, I am for this perspective as I strongly believe that the GEP is a demanding programme and the child will only suffer if he or she lacks the innate intellectual capability. However, there is also another side to the coin as parents believe in moulding their child into GEP worthy students. More often than not, these parents are worried about depriving their children from additional exposure and an opportunity to enhance and broaden their learning. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this mindset, in fact it is great that parents are eager for their child to expand their learning and become better versions of themselves. However, a word of caution would be that preparation should be done moderately and not forced since there is only a certain limit that their potential can be realised.
How do parents prepare their child for GEP?
Preparing for the GEP selection tests is by no means an easy feat. This problem is compounded by the fact that GEP resources are limited and difficult to source for since students rely very little on textbooks and more on projects and exploratory learning. So how are parents still able to prepare their child before sitting for the screening tests?
Tuition centres have rolled out a multitude of GEP preparation courses every year to help students and parents prepare for the challenging selection tests. These boot camps and preparatory courses aim to expose students and familiarise them to common question types seen in the round one GEP screening exercise as well as the round two selection test. As there are no past years GEP papers available to the public, such preparatory courses are highly sought after. While it is true that preparation does increase the child’s chances of entering into the GEP, it does not guarantee entry into the programme since the success depends on other factors such as the child’s natural aptitude and intellectual ability.
Additionally, there are many blogs and web pages documenting tips for acing the GEP tests. Among those are tips such as practising Maths Olympiad questions as the difficulty level of these questions are similar to those that appear in the selection tests. For the English paper, it is advised to read broadly and widely. Learning new vocabulary words in advance is also encouraged given that words which appear in the screening tests are usually foreign to Primary Three students. More importantly, preparing for the GEP tests should not pose too much stress on the child. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn novel things and stretch their mental capability to their fullest potential.
What’s next after primary level GEP education?
So, what’s next after primary level education for GEP students? The ministry of education recognises the importance of providing opportunities for continuous learning and recognition. As such, students who are currently under the GEP in primary school can opt to attend Integrated Programme (IP) schools that offer School-based Gifted Education (SBGE). The IP is a rigorous programme that is similar to the GEP curriculum. It focuses more on self-directed learning and assessments are mainly in the form of team and individual projects and weighted assignments. A unique feature of the IP is that students in this program are not required to take the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE ‘O’ Level) examination and are allowed to go straight to junior college.
All in all, the above are some fundamental things that parents ought to know about for the Gifted Education Programme. While it is definitely worth the celebration that your child is successfully enrolled in the GEP, parents should not be overly concerned and determined to get their child into the programme. It all boils down to the child’s learning attitude and aptitude as gifted children are innately intelligent and are able to excel without much effort. It should also be noted that being in the programme does not exclude the child from sitting for the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination). It is thus always crucial for parents to read up more before making an informed decision.