Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GEP 2013

The GEP, or the Gifted Education Programme (more details here) Screening Test was conducted in August. The entire Primary 3 cohort of Singapore was invited to sit for the test, which comprised of two papers: English and Mathematics.

About 4000 pupils, approx 10% of cohort, are selected after the Screening Test (commonly known as Round 1) to sit for the GEP Selection Test (known as Round 2) in October. 

In late Sept, M came home with the news that he got through the Screening Test, together with another 11 from his class. In fact, over 90 kids from his school were successful in Round 1. That is a whopping 34% of the school cohort!! 

To think that the school discourages any form of preparation for the tests and the teachers certainly made no reference to the GEP or the screening tests, the high success rate is mind-boggling to me. But this also pinpoints to a clear fact that this school is attracting a high % of academically-driven parents/kids. Many of M's school mates are familiar with some of the top-of-the-market tuition centers, so needless to say, a lot of resources have been invested in the kids. Perhaps I should not be so surprised after all. 

Anyway, the Selection Tests (Round 2) are supposedly much tougher, comprising three sections covering English, Math and General Abilities (paper 1 and 2), to be tested over two days. Out of the 4000 pupils sitting for Round 2, only 500 (slightly over 1% of cohort) will be eventually invited to join the GEP. 

The GEP is known to be a highly demanding programme and only those whom the programme is meant for (i.e. those who pass the English, Math and GAT tests with flying colours on his own merit) breeze through the three years and still achieve excellent PSLE results at Primary 6.

While the mainstream students begin revising and preparing for PSLE at Primary 5, the GEP students only do so two months before PSLE. They are kept so busy with the GEP curriculum, which teaches/exposes them to content/skills that are not related to or tested at PSLE, that that they won't have extra time to revise ahead anyway. Hence, there are GEP kids who struggle daily with the advanced curriculum, and having to have tuition for multiple subjects just to catch up with their peers throughout the three years. These kids also ended up faring poorly at PSLE, some much worse than their friends who remain in the mainstream classes.

I always feel sorry for these kids whenever I hear about them. I can't help but wonder if these kids were hothoused and/or attended the GEP preparatory classes in order to be selected. If they were truly gifted academically and hence suitable for the programme, they should find it challenging but still manageable and excelling at PSLE even with little preparation, unless of course it is a case of the selection process gone wrong.

So even though the GEP is a coveted programme, we are only interested if the programme truly matches the needs of my child. We did not prepare M at all for both the screening and selection tests, nor send him for any form of GEP preparatory classes as we believe that he should be tested on his true abilities.

Day One of the Selection Test took place today. 

As usual, M can't remember the questions. He finished both papers though and found the English paper easy despite the length, but he is unfamiliar with the types of questions in the GAT. He thinks he should still do alright as there were only a few that he had to think for a few more moments. 

After the tests, many classmates of his commented that the GAT was very easy and they had done these questions before in the intensive GEP preparatory classes. He asked me innocently (with his typical double blink and a small pout expression) afterwards how come he did not get to attend such classes. While it was not a complain or grumble, but his unspoken words 'that his friends now have an unfair advantage' did send an instant pang of guilt through me and for once, made me rethink my stance. 

There will always be those who attend such preparatory classes and be successful in the selection tests because of that instead of their true abilities. These kids may struggle later, but that is their problem and a consequence that they should be dealt with. However, the other real problem is for every place that goes to such a child, someone who truly deserves it will be deprived the experience.

Tomorrow, he will sit for the second day of the test. Whatever outcome it may be, I shall be strong for him. Focus on the experience gained and remember that being the top 10% of cohort is already not a mean feat, so he should be proud of himself.

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