Saturday, November 19, 2005

Another failed attempt at social engineering? I wonder…

Is GEP another fail attempt at social engineering after our Eugenic programme and infamous graduate-mother scheme? I really wonder…

Weekend, November 19, 2005

A gifted student? Sorry to hear that
Pupils in GEP often ostracised, have trouble coping: Study

Loh Chee Kong

Some of them did not even want the honour in the first place.

They parents coerced them, bribed them with cash and goaded them into joining that most exclusive of clubs — the Gifted Education Programme (GEP).

But in many cases, the club turns into a nightmare. These bright youngsters find themselves struggling to cope with demands that they are not prepared for and often end up being ostracised by their own classmates for the badge that distinguishes them. Now some 20 years old, the GEP is not a bed of roses.

Mr Don Shiau, who conducted a study on such "gifted" students last year as part of his university honours programme, presented some poignant findings on Friday at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect's Sixth Asian Regional Conference.

Said Mr Shiau: "This study does not show GEP students are not as capable as we think but it demonstrates some of the unseen pressures they face."

GEP students lead strange lives. On the one hand they go to school with general-level students so that they can mingle. On the other hand, they have their own exclusive facilities, teachers and curriculum.

They are selected for their high intellectual ability. And yet they are expected to develop moral values and leadership qualities. And then, there is the constant pressure to excel.

Mr Shiau, now an executive at the Ministry of Finance, interviewed 16 "gifted" children from Primary 4 and Primary 6 to find out what they felt about it all.

Many of them did not join the programme out of choice, he found. Their parents made the decision on their behalf and the gifted children were often "ridiculed and ostracised by their non-gifted peers", he said.

True, during the GEP orientation, the Primary 4 students were warned about the difficulty of the programme and were constantly told that they were no different from mainstream students. But the differences were highlighted in subtle ways.

For example, in the run-up to the Primary School Leaving Examinations, the schools would also compare the performance of the Primary 6 students in GEP to their mainstream counterparts.

And between Primary 4 and Primary 6, their lives changed. While the Primary 4 students said that they were regarded with admiration by their peers, the Primary 6 students complained that they were stereotyped and subjected to heckling and verbal abuse. As a result, they had few friends outside the GEP.


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