He doesn't like streaming, and furthermore he wants a system where students have more options to pursue what they're really interested in and feel they have the natural ability for. To put it another way, he doesn't want students to be penalised for what they're bad at, but to be judged on what they're best at.
I tend to agree with Tharman's philosophy. Who knows, perhaps these sorts of changes will be more effective than PM Lee's baby bonuses in encouraging Singaporeans to have children. Many Singaporeans avoid having kids precisely because they don't want to make their kids suffer through our local school system.
Gifted kids to take 'integrated' path+++++++++
TODAY Thursday • September 21, 2006
Loh Chee Kong
IN TWO years' time, the much-debated Gifted Education Programme (GEP) will quietly fade away from secondary schools.
In its place, the Ministry of Education (MOE) wants GEP students to join schools offering the six-year Integrated Programme (IP). This means that GEP students, who are identified in Primary 3, will no longer march to a different beat in secondary school. Instead, they will follow the same curriculum as other bright students who are picked for the IP when they are on the verge of leaving primary school.
In a circular issued on Monday, MOE informed the parents of GEP students in Primary 4 and 5 that it would no longer offer a centralised gifted programme at the secondary school level. The parents of the current batch of Pri 6 pupils were informed in April that they would be the last cohort to be offered the programme, MOE's deputy director of its Gifted Education Branch, Dr Tan Bee Geok, told Today.
There had been criticism that the 22-year-old GEP programme was "elitist". But Dr Tan stressed that the latest move was merely recognition of the fact that more secondary schools were now offering innovative programmes to develop talented students.
Dr Tan said: "We are just informing the parents in advance not to choose the O-level track. This group is so able that it doesn't need to take O levels. And most of the students which GEP schools would have taken in at the Sec 1 supplementary intake would now choose to enrol in the IP anyway."
Each year, some 500 students — or the top 1 per cent of each cohort — are selected in Primary Three to join the GEP. These students could go on to a centralised MOE programme in secondary schools.
But Dr Tan said that the landscape has changed since the IP – a six-year-programme that starts in Sec 1, with students skipping their O levels — was introduced in 2004. Then, four out of five "gifted" students picked this programme over the four-year GEP course, said the MOE. The number fell further this year, with only 13 students opting to stay in the GEP over the IP.
The IP, the new favourite, embraces some 2,000 students in 12 schools, including Raffles Institution, River Valley High, Dunman High and the National University of Singapore High School.
In contrast, only Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Dunman High and Nanyang Girls' High now offer MOE's GEP.
Noting that most of its former GEP secondary schools are now IP schools, the ministry said in the circular: "With such a small enrolment, it is not possible for the MOE to continue to run the secondary school GEP."
GEP students who wish to take their O levels can still do so in "schools with school-based special programmes that nurture pupils who have special aptitudes and talents", the circular said. Examples of these schools include ACS (Independent), St Joseph Institution, Methodist Girls' School and Catholic High School, said Dr Tan.
And although the GEP students would follow the same curriculum as other "very bright students", they would continue to be developed at these secondary schools, which would increase in number as Singapore creates a diverse education landscape, said she added.
Dunman High School principal Sng Chern Wei told Today that his school was looking to implement enrichment programmes which would allow both GEP students and non-GEP students "who are talented in some subjects" to work together.
Said Mr Sng: "It makes sense for the gifted children to opt for the IP because they can be exempted from the O levels and benefit from a more seamless process.
"The approach is definitely moving toward one where the gifted education model is realigned to provide more opportunities that will allow talented students who fall outside the GEP to benefit, and which will also allow our GEP students to have more opportunities to interact with students who come from a non-GEP background."
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