Feb 12, 2016

Why We Turned Down the Gifted Education Programme Offer

UPDATE [Sep 2018]

Well well well, what do you know... Ayd will be taking his PSLE in less than a week from now. Although things might have been a while lot different if he had transferred to a GEP school at Primary 4. Because Ayd is one who has the exasperating tendency to pile on too much pressure on himself so I really do not know how he would have handled the extra pressure that comes with the GEP programme. In fact, the wifey and I have to always remind him to take things easier so that he doesn't suffer a burnout. Which probably explains why he is still watching YouTube videos during his free time.

But in all seriousness, we have never regretted not 'forcing' Ayd to take up the GEP offer. The past 3 years may have gone by in a flash but we have seen how he had enjoyed school and being offered the opportunity to learn new things. And really, his happiness and mental well-being are all that matter.


UPDATE [Feb 2017]

Time flies. It has been a year since I wrote this post. Ayd is in Primary 5 now, and I am happy to say that he is doing well - well in terms of adapting to a new class, new friends, new teachers and coping with the extra workload that comes with being in Primary 5.

Over the past year, I will be lying if I said I did not consider how he would have turned out had he joined a GEP school. Did the wifey and I shortchange him by not allowing him to achieve his potential? Probably, but I guess we will never know.

And I don't want to know.

Because what I do know NOW is he is happy. He enjoys going to school and learning new stuff. On our part, we try our best to stimulate his appetite for learning by encouraging him to pursue his interests. At one time, he was self-learning coding online and now, he loves tinkering around with Excel. Yes, that spreadsheet software. Amazingly, there are plenty of fun and weird things that one can do with Excel and I have to admit that he is now better at Excel than me!

And I'm perfectly fine with that. :)


One and a half months into the new school year and everyone in the family is getting used to the familiar weekday routine once again.

Although things may have been a whole lot different had Ayd changed school.

You see, Ayd was selected for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) in November last year.

As GEP pupils are perceived to be advanced in their mental capabilities, the GEP curriculum is an enriched one that is pitched to challenge and stretch them. To be honest, when Ayd first passed me the famed brown letter from MOE's GEP Branch, my insides were a bundle of happiness, shock and fear.

Happiness for obvious reasons. Growing up, he was always just that little different from the rest of his peers. He doesn't like socialising much but hand him a book, and it'll keep him enthralled for hours. He peppers his conversations with facts and do-you-knows. One memory that will always stay with me is when I wanted to reward him with a present for doing well in his exams 2 years ago and asked him what toy he would like, he replied that he wanted a Math Olympiad book instead! So I'm absolutely happy for him that he was chosen to be enrolled in such a programme that would challenge his mind.

Shock because I really never thought he would be chosen. There are 2 rounds of quizzes that one must clear, with the first round being open to all Primary 3 students. I was confident he would clear that round but Round 2? Apparently only 1% of the entire cohort is admitted to the programme so yes, Ayd being selected was something I least expected.

But above all, I was fearful. Simply because for all of Ayd's mental prowess, he is someone who takes an agonisingly long time to adapt to a new environment. He took almost close to 2 years to adapt to primary school life. It was heart-wrenching to hear from him how he felt like the loneliest person in school because he found it hard to make friends. Classmates would not include him in their games during recess and he spent many recess breaks during the first 2 years wandering aimlessly along the corridors while waiting for the bell to ring. Those admissions by him totally broke the wifey's and my hearts. Fortunately, his form teacher assigned a 'buddy' to him during P3 and he has been improving ever since.

So I am not certain if changing to a new school will be asking too much of Ayd. On one hand, I know for a fact that he will relish the many beyond-the-textbook learning opportunities but on the other hand, I am worried if he will crumble under the challenges of being in a new school and environment, with new friends and teachers, increased workload... and being away from his older brother.

Yes, that last bit is highly significant too. Both boys are extremely close (even though they can get on each other's nerves at times!). They share the same interests, love the same cartoons, crack the same silliest jokes and I can even hear them chatting in their room well past their bedtime.

So if Ayd were to change to a GEP school, both of them will definitely miss one another terribly. Already, Ash was subtly sowing the seeds of staying put in Ayd's mind throughout the month of November last year!

For me, I would be lying if I said I did not wish for Ayd to take up the new challenge. We went for the GEP Open House and I was struck by the amount of interesting research and work that the students are put through. I could see Ayd was a little moved after the Open House but the wifey and I decided to leave the final decision to him.

We gave him a few days to make up his mind and in the end, he decided not to take up the GEP programme.

There were a few reasons behind his decision:

1. He was not sure how he would adapt to a new environment with new teachers and new friends.

2. He would be separated from Ash.

3. He was worried about the increased workload. (A typical school week will see students stay back to 4-5pm for at least 3-4 days)

BUT the one reason that he gave which totally floored the wifey and me was this:

4. He was afraid... that the new school's canteen will not sell fried bee hoon that is as yummy as the current school's.


Always trust Ayd to give a non-standard answer when you least expect it.

And so, that's all about there is to it really. 

Of course, there have been numerous occasions when I had questioned myself if I had made the right decision in letting Ayd make the choice himself. Should I have pushed him a little more to accept the GEP? Am I short-changing him by not enrolling him in the programme? Will his potential be forever left untapped?

Well, no real point in dwelling on the what-ifs.

I'm certain that the GEP has its merits but I believe getting into the programme - or any school for that matter - is only the beginning. It is most definitely not the finish line. If Ayd is not able to handle the additional stress of being in a new environment or cope with the workload in a highly competitive environment, the GEP might do more harm than good for a young mind like his.

Sure, stress is all part and parcel in the life of an adult and it is something that our kids will have to learn to cope with. But until then, I do not wish to kill his joy for learning - especially seeing how much he enjoys going to his current school now.

So as much as I secretly wish that Ayd did take up the GEP offer, I also know that his happiness is the ultimate thing that matters. Because if there is one aspect of parenting I learnt after all these years, it is to never let my kids be the victims of my unfulfilled ambitions.

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Mummy Edlyn said...

Thank you for sharing on how you are bucking the trend, and not succumbing to the kiasu parents syndrome (or promoting it either)! All the best to Ayd :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing. I think most of the kids at that age are concerned about the school, their friends and yes, canteen food. My girl was so stressed about this GEP test! I told her that at the end of the day, it's up to her. She can go and try for it or simply don't go for the test. I've also told her that even if she is selected, she has the choice to take it or decline. But utlimately, the decision is up to her. She, of course, didn't bother to take the test. Hahaha...

I think we as parents should let our children be children. GEP, elite schools, etc may or may not help them. At the end of the day, it's how they grow throughout their educational journey and reaching their goal is more important. And we also stress character development - I think this is as important too.

Kudos to both of you to let your child be who he is. :)

7-8 said...

30 years ago like Ayden I got an offer, like Ayden I didn't want to go, but I was overruled by my father.

Today, I am grateful to my father for preventing me from making what would have been the stupidest decision in my life. (even though I was still young then.)

What you have to consider is not whether it is a change of environment for him, but which environment is actually better for him. If your fear of the unknown prevents you from going to a better place that would be a big big shame. What matters is whether you are using the right criteria to assess the situation. Work wise, there could be more pressure, but it could also be more fun for him. Socially, it is hard to tell, it might be better because he'll be amongst people more similar to him. Or he just won't fit in. As for fried bee hoon, it should not even be a criterion at all.

Personally I thrived when I was in that program, but I'm also aware that some people did not thrive. (But they got out and they thrived anyway.) The GEP isn't want it was in the 80s, but some things never change. Be very careful with your choice.

ClearTear said...

Kelvin, He's good he will be good everywhere, I totally agree with you letting him decide, I would too. As long as they are happy, and do well on the whole, I think thats most important. You and your wife are great parents, I knew so since the day i met you both haha. And i hope i can be like both of you :D

Andrea said...

As an ex-gepper myself, my parents had made the choice of NOT letting me go to gep in primary school, not for any of the above reasons (though the canteen reason sounds legit), but simply because the nearest gep school was too far. On hindsight that did save me a lot of travelling time and maybe unnecessary stress in primary school. I did gain some by not attending gep in primary school, being that I knew the people in my neighbourhood better (neighbourhood primary school), and my Chinese didn't deteriorate (yes the gep test does not test your skills in mother tongue and the impact is evident). I can say quite surely that it didn't affect my academic progress at all. Ultimately when your son goes on to secondary school, he has another opportunity to join gep (which was what I did since I would be going to the same school anyway). In terms of programmes, he can always sign up for extra-curricular ones at this age, if he so wishes to. A gep education is fun, yes, but it benefits your son in so many other ways to be with other peers as well.

Ann Q said...

Glad I'm not the only looney mother who said no to GEP.

Love the star on your kid's signature. He is a star and he know it!

beanienus said...

I chuckled out loud when I saw the fried bee hoon comment, he must be a foodie! :) You and your wife are so incredibly grounded, well done. As a professional in the early childhood education, I see parents who are often at the other end of the scale.

As parents, all of us want the best for our children but I often tell myself to take a step back (very hard!) because sometimes our definition of "best" may not be the same as theirs. I enjoy the honest thoughts in this post. :) Am sure that Ayd will do well, regardless of where he is.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a Gepper, I must say there's pros & cons in choosing either way. From my observation on the geppers in my son's school, they are definitely not the most sociable batch of people... in fact most of them are pretty low in EQ. But somehow like birds of the same feather flock together, they do mingle well with one another in their own special way. My son was closer to his fellow geppers than his previous group of friends from mainstream. Mainly bcos he felt they shared similar interests & understood each other much better... probably bcos their thinking is more alike.

As for the programme, there again, it was a breeze for some & a torture for others. It depends a lot on their maturity & mental ability to handle the challenges & demands of the GE programme. Of cos, on top of it, parental guidance in time & resource management helps a lot esp in handling the multiple projects involved in the GEP. Through all these, I see how my child grew & matured far beyond his fellow peers in the mainstream programme.

Even as he moved into the next phase of GEP in an elite secondary school, there are still fellow geppers who eventually fell behind & dropped out of the IP/IB programme which most of them ended up in.

There's no single right or wrong path... as parents, we do hope that our child will strive & thrive with each challenge that comes their way. Each stage is a learning phase for them. We should be there to guide them but not trying to protect them else they will never grow and blossom into the beautiful butterfly that was meant to be.

Anonymous said...

My boy actually cried buckets when he learnt that he got selected. In e end, we also left it up to him. Many geppers' moms said I was crazy but his well being was more impt than anything else. ;)

Dev Leow said...

Kudos to you! I remember when I was in P3, I told my mum that I would rather stay at home and watch power rangers rather than to waste a Saturday going for a GEP exam that I wasn't interested in. To check that it was supposed to be compulsory. Haha! I dun regret it, life changing or not. Love Ayd's response. Sounds like my oldest boy! Lol! Jia you Ayd!

Sw said...

My son was behaving exactly like yours, p1 to p2 , hardly any friends, finally made few friends in p3... n yeah, when the sch stop selling beehoon he stop eating during recess. So we had to tabao for him.

But we made decision to let him join the gep sch, he found many frens who r their type of nerdness, hv many common topics, hv friends to consult that quantum mechanics theory or chemistry theory
Which he read...in general he became much a happier person. Finally i knew he is not out of League..

But then again, theres no right or wrong decision here. Gep is very demanding... non stop projs n assignment..i felt that his childhood is taken away..

Anonymous said...

My daughter was selected for Gep program but in the end we decided not to join the program with reasons similar to yours. My daughter is now 19 and in the university.
Many times my hubby and me wonder if we made the right decision. Most geppers find it difficult to make friends with their peers in the mainstream schools. Many mainstream school teachers do not know how to handle gep kids who often think in out of the box and may think that the gep kid is trying to be "funny". Whatever the case, I think whether your kid goes to gepper school or non-gepper school, there will always be this nagging feeling as to whether the decision was right. i think parents of gepper kid must recognise that their kid is different from others and love their kid with no expectations.

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