Uneven playing field in Singapore's education system (GEP)


New Member
In recent years, there is a disproportionate number of children, of a similar profile, entering the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) in our local primary schools. It is commonly known that some parents send their children for preparatory classes for the GEP tests when their children are in the lower primary years and even during the preschool years. Their main aim is to get their children admitted into the GEP at primary 4. Over the years, the general public has called for the GEP to be abolished as it only benefits those who have the means and resources to prepare their children for the screening and selection tests. Those who are truly and naturally gifted but who come from the lower strata of society have been greatly disadvantaged.

However, this uneven playing field has become even more unequal because of the presence of enrichment centres opened by a certain profile of teachers. These centres are specially catered to a certain language-speaking children who learn mainly Math and General Ability skills in their mother tongue. The teachers in these centres have rich accents and don't speak with our local accent. Hence, even if local children attend these classes, they find it difficult to understand the teachers' rich accent.
Parents are allowed to attend these classes alongside their children so that they can supervise their children on their own, and these classes are usually attended by a similar profile of parents. This has bred a new army of 'kiasu' parents.

According to a friend who teaches in 1 of the 9 GEP schools, she has noticed a disproportionate number of children, born to this similar profile of parents, being admitted into the GEP, especially in recent years. She observed that in the past, GEP children were typically local born and raised, and possessed genuine, natural intellectual giftedness. They also came from a diverse mix of family backgrounds and races, and were born to both blue and white collar workers. However, in recent years, children born to local parents are being sidelined to the mainstream, even those who are naturally gifted. A lot of bright mainstream students do much better than these "Geppers", as they're called, in the PSLE. This is clearly a waste of resources and manpower poured into the GEP.

Enrichment centres run by such profile of teachers:
- One Target Education (postal code 307636)
- Coco Education (postal code 159049) Most 'kiasu' parents enroll their children in both centres.

GEP teachers have provided feedback about this worrying phenomenon to the GEP branch in MOE for a long time now. However, the response from MOE has mostly fallen on deaf ears. The response from the heads is typically that they cannot do anything to stop this influx because in their opinion, children who clear the tests through hot-housing are displaying intellectual intelligence too and thus, can't be denied a place in the GEP. Another GEP branch head even went so far as to say that local children should therefore work harder to compete against children of this profile. My friend told me an anecdote in which some of her students have openly declared that they will return to their home country when they grow up or that they may not serve National Service, or that Singapore is just a stepping stone for them. They are clearly here to exploit our education system and milk everything that is worth.

In the future, these Geppers, who should be contributing to the country, and deemed future leaders, may disappear in a sizable number especially when the economies of their home countries prove too strong a draw for them. If nothing is done to curb this uneven playing field which has become even more uneven, our social fabric, which comprises equality for all regardless of race, language or background, may show up more loose threads than it already has.