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Gifted Education Programme (GEP): What To Ask At The Briefing Session

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The selection tests for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) are over. Successful pupils will receive a letter of invitation, and a briefing is traditionally held in November.

If your child is selected for the programme, and you’re undecided about whether or not to accept, try reaching out to parents with children already in the GEP, to find out what the learning experience is like.

Below, we highlight some questions that you could bring up at the GEP briefing session, along with insider thoughts from a GEP parent to help you get a better picture of what to expect. (Click here to read our full interview with her.) Please seek your own clarifications during the briefing for the most accurate and updated information.

Questions On PSLE Concerns

A commonly asked question by parents during GEP briefing sessions is this: Will the programme ensure that students are adequately prepared for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)?

GEP Parent: “GEP kids sit for the regular PSLE papers. This means that some GEP content will not be tested in the PSLE at all. The GEP is meant to keep these extremely high ability children interested in learning and bettering themselves. It doesn’t automatically guarantee that a child will do well in the PSLE.

Thus, for parents who think that getting into the GEP is a straight route to good PSLE grades, please think again. Such parents will be frustrated, as they will see their children spending time on topics, exercises, and projects that will definitely not be tested in the PSLE.

I know of cases where GEP students didn’t do as well as hoped. Most of them do decently, but it’s not the stellar grades that you might expect. Parents should not think that being in the GEP is a guarantee of record-breaking PSLE grades.”

Some parents also wonder: Do GEP students gain direct entry into the Integrated Programme in secondary schools?

GEP Parent: “[T]here is no special treatment for GEP students in the PSLE. You will qualify for a school based on your PSLE results. Even if you’re going by the Direct School Admission (DSA) route, you are on equal footing with everyone else who is DSA-ing. Another way of putting this is that there’s no prestige element to being in the GEP. Let’s say a GEP kid does badly and goes to a neighbourhood school — the ‘prestige’ would be short-lived anyway.”

Questions On The Selection Process

Parents may also fear that their child was somehow shortlisted by fluke, especially if they had never thought of their child as being “gifted.” But if you have not sent your child to GEP preparatory classes, you might want to place your faith in the Ministry of Education’s selection process. After all, they have been doing this for decades. All the same, do seek the clarifications or reassurances that you need. For instance, you could ask: How have you made sure that everyone selected is suitable for the programme?

GEP Parent: “[At the parent briefing session that I attended,] MOE seemed to have the utmost confidence in their GEP selection procedure. They kept assuring us parents that their selection process is accurate in sieving out the gifted ones. I believe that the chances of getting into the GEP are slim if you don’t have the natural aptitude.”

Questions On GEP Outcomes

Some outcome questions that you can ask include: How have former GEP students turned out? How have you determined that the programme is truly effective for high-level learners?

Parents will be unlikely to find published research on GEP graduates, so it will be interesting to ask what studies have been carried out on the programme, or if former students have been surveyed about how the GEP has benefited them in their studies or career journey.

In the short term, one possible outcome of switching to the GEP is that your child could have a more fulfilling time learning alongside like-minded peers.

GEP Parent: “For his first three years in primary school, I had never received any complaints about my son talking in class. But in Primary 4, every single teacher complained to me that he was talking in class!

In hindsight, I realised that he couldn’t really ‘click’ with anyone when he was in the mainstream. One reason could be that I was very strict about his screen time, whereas his mainstream classmates were mostly avid phone gamers or console gamers. All the boys wanted to talk about was electronic games, which my son had little experience with. He did feel left out, especially during the Pokemon Go craze where he felt he couldn’t participate in that shared experience. But when he entered the GEP, he found that most of the kids there were avid readers, just like him. So he now had friends he could talk to, and connect with.”

Questions About The Programme

The GEP briefing is your best chance to ask questions about the curriculum, especially if you’re unable to link up with experienced parents. You could ask a broad question about how the GEP curriculum differs from the mainstream curriculum, or more specific questions pertaining to your child’s learning interests or weaknesses.

GEP Parent: “I would say that the GEP curriculum is deeper and broader compared to the regular mainstream curriculum. It’s meant to keep the gifted kids engaged and stretch them as far as they can go.

In many topics, they delve into the historical background. In Math, for example, they would be learning about the numbering systems of ancient civilisations. And they don’t just cover it as an “interesting to know” enrichment item — the GEP kids have to do homework on these areas as well.

Topics covered are also sometimes more advanced. My son, in Primary 5, [learned] about topics which, in the mainstream curriculum, would be covered in Secondary 1 or 2. We know this because my husband is a secondary school math teacher… I should add that GEP Chinese is even tougher than Higher Chinese.”

Questions On Procedure & Logistics

The briefing is also a chance to raise questions that you might have about the school posting process. For instance, what if your child doesn’t get his or her preferred school and would rather opt out of the programme? Or what if you’ve had a change of heart after schools are allocated?

For those who don’t live near the GEP schools, you may want to enquire about the factors that will decide where your child gets posted to.

If you have more than one child, switching schools will introduce logistical challenges for your family, and you can bring these up at the briefing too. If your child is transferring to a school that your younger child will not be able to join, you can also seek advice during the briefing.

Questions On School Stress

There’s no doubt that students will have to work harder once they’re in the GEP. A question that is usually asked at the briefings is: What happens if GEP students don’t meet the grade requirements to stay in the programme?

Parents have also asked about the stress levels of GEP students, and whether any school support is provided to help them adjust to their new setting. These are very valid questions, as a child’s emotional and mental health should come first.

Want to talk to other parents about the GEP? Join the conversation here!


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