The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) in Singapore - Part 4 of 4
The results are out. There are children who received big brown envelopes with lots of documents inside that they couldn't even fit them into their bags. There are children who received letters or white envelopes to encourage them that they have already done very well. Did your child receive a brown one or a white one.
We went through that last year, thus I am here to share my experience.
In AJ's previous school, 90% of his classmates cleared the screening test and 30% of his classmates cleared the selection test. The number getting into GEP was sizeable, but it is common in more popular primary schools. School like Nanyang Primary has even more students. Some schools are more discrete, they would give out the envelopes privately. I thought this is a good practice. Some schools either openly give out the envelopes or tell the students in class. I find this a little too insensitive, unless everyone in the same class clear the test lah.
In that oversize brown envelope, there are information for parents, there are also information for the children. Do encourage your child to read those meant for him/her. One of the documents for parents is this:
Before you submit the choice of schools (4 choices), it is good to attend the GEP briefing that will be held on 12th Nov (next Sat) and also talk to the school representatives (they will be stationed at the individual booth on site) on the day of briefing. Some schools do arrange for school tour for you to see the school facilities and ask even more questions on the day of tour. By all means, attend those school tours of your shortlisted schools with your kiddos. Knowing more about the schools aid you in decision making.
The choice of school
The choice of school is pretty straightforward for those whose schools are already GEP centres. These children are the fortunate lot because their adjustment will be minimal. There are no worries of differences in school culture, distance of traveling to new school, new friends, new teachers, etc. Their only worry is the new curriculum.
But for those whose schools are non-GEP centres, here are some important considerations for the choice of school from my past experience (in order of importance):
1. SAP or non-SAP schools
AJ was previously from a SAP school, so he had exposure on Higher Chinese (HCL) since Primary 1. Because he has never experienced normal Chinese (CL), he does not know the difference between HCL or CL. But, for a child who came from a non-SAP school who is only exposed to normal CL in Primary 1 to 3, there will be a great difference if he/she is doing HCL in Primary 4. If the GEP centre of your choice is a SAP school, he/she will experience a great shock in the standard of Chinese when he/she goes there. Though your child can opt out of HCL from Primary 5 onwards, the poor child has to struggle for a year in HCL. This is on top of the adjustment needed for new curriculum, school culture, traveling distance, new friends, new teachers, etc.. I would strongly recommend you spare your child from that struggle, unless your child’s Chinese is already very strong.
2. Distance of traveling
New school means relearning of traveling route again. Unless your choice GEP centre is going to be nearer to your home, for most of us, it is quite the opposite. Do consider the school bus route or public bus route, its traveling time needed is important. The GEPpers stay back in school at least twice a week, excluding the extra day(s) they need for CCA. You certainly do not want to drain them out as their workload are heavy.
3. School Culture
Truth to be told, visiting the booth during the GEP briefing on 12th Nov and even attending the school tours will not help you understand much about the school culture. You may get to know more about the school facilities, but definitely not the culture. Like in all roadshows, the companies put up their best front. So do the schools, everyone is out there ‘promoting’ their schools. Unfortunately, you will only get to know the school better when you know someone in there. Alternatively you could do some research in forums like Kiasuparents forum, or those Facebook specialized groups.
Most GEP centres do not have affiliation to secondary schools with the exception of ACS Primary and Catholic High Primary. Aiyo, even Nanyang Primary and Raffles Girls’ do not have. That’s why this is the last consideration.
I cannot profess that I know a lot about the curriculum because my son has only completed the first year. MathTuition88 in Kiasuparents forum pretty much sums up the coverage for English and Maths. All the 9 GEP centres do the same thing for these 2 subjects. They also have the same common tests and semester exam papers.
For Science, they follow the E2K Science pretty closely, with more than 50% lab work. That is far more than what mainstream students would do. It is no doubt that Science lessons in GEP are a lot more interesting. Mother tongue follows the mainstream, pretty much.
I would say the curriculum itself is interesting and enriching. The children are challenged/stretched most of the time, doing things that are 2-3 years ahead of mainstream. A parent of AJ's classmate shared with me that she saw that the second son is learning things that prepare them well in IP secondary schools. This mom has an elder son in IP school who did not get into GEP then. This is how high the standard GEP has pitched itself, thus, it is really not for everyone.
What I like about GEP, on top of its enriching programmes, is its class size. In my opinion, a class size of 40 is hardly effective in teaching/learning. Unfortunately, teachers are having increasing administrative workload that takes away the joy of teaching (link). So this size will remain for many more years to come.
This is not in the case of GEP classes. The class size is only 25, making it a lot more efficient in teaching/learning. The 9 centres have a planned number of classes each centre can offer:
ACS Primary - 2 classes
Catholic High - 2 classes
Henry Park - 2 classes
Nan Hua - 2 classes
Nanyang - 4 classes
Raffles Girls - 3 classes
Roysth - 3 classes
St Hilda's - 2 classes
Tao Nan School - 3 classes
Since each class has a maximum size of 25 students, the allocation for GEP students is 575 (23 classes x 25 students) in total. However, due to low birth rate, from what I know, the number of GEP classes has shrunk in less popular centres. This year, Raffles Girls has 2, St Hilda's has 1 and Henry Park has 1. Thus some classes have 26 or 27 students, instead of the cap 25. Still, it is a small size compared to mainstream.
The GEP classes also have specialised subject teachers. Each GEP teacher only teaches single subject. This allows the teachers to better improve the delivery methods for the subjects they are specialised in.
Of course, it is not all rosy in GEP. There are ups and downs too. For a start, AJ had a difficult time adjusting to the new school culture, the new friends in class, the amount of workload and the more challenging work. He took more than 9 months to better adjust to it, and I wouldn't confidently say he has fully adjusted.
I, too, had a hard time coaching him because supplementary materials for Maths and English are not easily available in bookstores or online.
And because GEP is an expanded curriculum, there will definitely be less time allocated to PSLE drilling compared to mainstream classes (which I like though because I hate drilling). Some parents who have children in GEP may feel insecure in that sense, but I feel that if the child can cope with GEP curriculum, there is little to worry about PSLE. Hey, it's time we see beyond grades, right?
While we expect the intellectually gifted kids to be all-rounders, most of them are not. Their intellectual giftedness are often compensated with some sort of 'disabilities' like hyper-activeness, autism, asperger, etc., so please do not be surprised if there are such kids in your child's GEP class. They are generally mild, that's why they were in the mainstream previously.
I hope I have shared enough to give you a better picture what is coming ahead in GEP, and have helped you made a more informed decision. It is good to read other blog posts of parents who have/have no GEP kids too. I find these 2 good reads, both are parent bloggers whom I follow closely:
Lastly, all the best to the new batch of GEPpers!