The results of the Gifted Education Progamme (GEP) testing was released last Friday. It caused numerous parents lots of heartache, especially when they found out that their little genius did not qualify for it. The top 5% were selected from an initial round of screening. This top 5% were then put through more tests with only the top 1% selected for the GEP.
The controversy this year surrounds the preparation offered by enrichment centres for these tests. Some argued that if the child was really gifted, why the need to prepare. Also, these tests papers are not made available to all and sundry. Then how did these centres have information on what the testing methods were like. Those who invested thousands of dollars preping their kids justified their actions by saying that the preparation exposed their children to various forms of testing, and additional knowledge acquired by their kids justified their spending. I say, let people do what they want. If they want to spend that money, its their perogative. If their children can learn from it, even better.
I know of a few children, real go getters, who did not qualify. Though their parents did not openly pressure them to make it for the GEP, these kids wanted it themselves. When the results were known,and they found that they were unsuccessful, these kids could not eat and sleep, and were unusually quiet, and kept very much to themselves. They experienced "failure" for the first time. These were kids who excelled at school. For some of them, though their parents told them it was alright if they did not get in, I think, the parents' "body language" or actions may have showed otherwise, if not, I think, their kids would not feel this way. Also, why all that bitching about others that made it!
I know of parents who feel that to qualify is the "be all and end all" for their kids. Some even stopped all of their kids "other" activities for a year, just to prep them to qualify. Some even express regret when their kids did not qualify. They feel like their kids have failed.
I tell these parents, that education is a journey, and the GEP does not mark the end of that journey. In fact, it is the start of a long gruelling journey. I liken it to climbing a mountain. The others are taking a well used path up a gradual slope, whilst the GEPers are climbing it using a steeper incline. They have a tougher route up. Both end at the same place, but the journey taken is different.
So what if your kids did not get into the GEP? They could be equally gifted, if not more gifted than some of those that did. Maybe they just had a bad day on the day of the testing. It's not the end of the world. Your kids can still excel in the mainstream. They would probably get better marks than most GEPers for the PSLE, as evident from prior years results. Anyway, they all start secondary schooling again on an equal footing, since now there is no secondary GEP.
Hubby and I were talking. We said we were glad we stumbled into this unaware. We did not even know the timing of the GEP testing, and when our daughter came home and asked if she should go for the tests, we told her: "No harm trying. But no stress, ok? It doesnt matter if you make it to the second round or not." Even when she qualified after the second round testing, we asked her: "Are you very sure you want to change schools?" We were quite happy with her school then, and she was doing well. We also reckoned that since we knew little about the GEP, we couldnt really help her much, as compared to the mainstream where we are familiar with the system and syllabus. We only started our research on the GEP and started talking to people about it much later...very near the deadline for submitting our decision. In fact, my daughter made most of the decisions herself, even the school of choice. We only supported her in her actions.
The GEP programme is not a walk in the park. In the first 3 months, we felt so sorry for her. She had absolutely no time for anything except school work, and more school work. One day she told me: "Mum, The amount of homework I have done in this one week is more than the homework I had for the last 3 years!!" And in the second year, the workload is even heavier. They have numerous projects all going on simultaneously. I am not sure what the P6 year is like, because like I said, we only cross bridges when we come to it. She just has to learn and do for herself. Sometimes she gets mad at me for not helping her with her work. She claims that a lot of her friends' homework are done by their parents. We also know of parents who do their childrens' assignments for them. I tell her that if we were to do it, then she will not learn from it. We try to support her in other ways - emotionally and physically, being there with her when she needs to stay up to do her work. Just sitting around nearby so that she doesnt feel so lonely. Looking up the internet for some things she does not understand, and explaining it to her. Giving her some ideas on how to approach some projects. But never doing for her.
To be able to keep up with all these, I believe, requires diligence, peserverance and maturity, not only giftedness.