Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why villainising GEP does no one any good

The GEP has recently come under attack once again and many people have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. One of them is NCMP Yee Jenn Jong of the Worker's Party who propose scrapping the programme. You can read his piece here.

Every time I hear of such calls, I feel indignant, especially when it's clear to me that the person asking for it actually has very little understanding of the programme. I don't presume to judge Jenn Jong's intentions but his piece is so rife with error that I feel compelled to dispute it.

What GEP's really about

First and most importantly, the GEP is NOT about accelerated learning for the PSLE. It is a curriculum that is designed to stretch the minds of intellectually gifted kids, to pique their curiosity and expose them to a series of topics that is usually beyond the conceptual level of mainstream kids. While it still teaches the PSLE syllabus, it covers a heck of a lot of out-of-syllabus stuff.

Eg. for English, the kids learn different genres of texts, such as crime, biographies, etc and are taught to write in these styles. For maths, the kids learn things like ancient number systems, Fibonacci numbers and nth term series. Intellectually gifted kids are able to grasp and enjoy this level of challenge precisely because it's pegged at their level of ability and tailored to how their brains work.

The GEP does not hothouse kids for the PSLE. In fact, it might surprise most to know that because of the expanded curriculum, significantly less time is allocated to PSLE drilling compared to mainstream classes. Only in term 3 of p6 do the GEP kids get down to doing extensive exam papers in preparation for this exam. Therefore, it's ludicrous to say, "see, the GEP isn't effective cos the GEP kids don't do better in the PSLE than mainstream kids." That's not the purpose of the GEP to begin with and rightly so.

I find it contradictory that some of the critics of our exam system who lambast it for being uncreative and rigid then turn around and accept the very benchmark they criticise as the yardstick for ability.

Second, there's a lot of misunderstanding about the concept of "gifted kids". As we all know, there are many types of gifts - music, sports, art, etc. Intellectually gifted is one of these gifts. I'd written about this way back in 2008 here. Researchers refer to the intellectually gifted as the top 1% in a cohort where the giftedness manifests itself at about age 9 and that's why MOE restricts the GEP to 1% and why the test is done at the end of p3. It's certainly not an arbitrary figure aimed at grooming a bunch of elitists.

I think the problem in our society is that academic smarts is prized so highly, above all else. When we have a special music programme for music talents or a sports programme for sports prodigies, no one clammers to get in or rants about the injustice that only a select group can gain entry. Yet there has been hue and cry over the GEP and its "unfairness" that only 1% have access to it.

I see it clearly because I have one child who's intellectually gifted and one who's not. And it's important to know that I don't consider one better than the other. I recognise that they have different talents and I also know that the GEP is not suitable for someone like Andre.

Simply put, the curriculum is not designed for kids like him and if we are to force MOE's hand to extend the GEP to significantly more than 1%, in other words, include kids who are not intellectually gifted, we're pushing kids into a programme that does not benefit them. In fact, they will likely feel stressed out and maybe develop low self-esteem cos the curriculum is beyond them.

The value of GEP

Why is the GEP necessary to begin with? Mainly because studies have shown that gifted kids who don't have access to special programmes for them generally display negative outcomes. They either dumb themselves down to fit in with others or become social outcasts because they're considered "weird", and they end up under-achieving. I won't elaborate as I've written about it before here.

Again, to use the same parallel, you'll be better able to help a music prodigy's talents blossom under a specialised programme than in a mainstream curriculum. Likewise, intellectually gifted kids are more productive in a programme tailored for them. I saw this first-hand with Lesley-Anne.

The GEP offers the kind of education intellectually gifted kids need. The problems people have with GEP are issues like labelling, the seeming exclusiveness, elitism, etc, which actually have nothing to do with the efficacy of the programme itself.

Some may argue that gifted kids already have a genetic advantage and therefore should not be given differentiated education but this to me, sounds Communist and smacks of reverse discrimination. Calling for the GEP to be scrapped for the sake of superficial equality is meaningless and benefits no one. I think sometimes, the GEP is an easy target and political one cos it benefits only 1%. If you call for it to be abolished, you'll probably get 99% of the popular vote. But it doesn't make it right.

To me, the solution is MORE differentiated learning, not less. Ideally, we should have different pathways tailored towards those good in sports, those good in art, those good in maths, good in English, etc. I know we now have SOTA and the Sports School but I guess the difference is that these are available only at the secondary school level. While I don't endorse specialisation at too young an age as some of these talents and interests take time to develop, perhaps there could be more avenues to identify and cultivate a diversity of talents in primary school instead of the relentless and narrow focus on the four examinable subjects.

Bringing back the true purpose of GEP

In the meantime, what can we do about the bad rep of GEP? One of the areas I feel MOE can re-examine is the GEP's associated privileges. GEP kids are given advantages such as access to a special DSA category (while it doesn't guarantee you a DSA spot, it certainly increases your chances compared to mainstream kids applying through the Academic route) and an EESIS scholarship if you get to a secondary school with a School-based Gifted Programme (SBGE).

It's privileges like these that have raised the desirability of the GEP and spurred many parents to treat it as the instant highway to success. This has led to a proliferation of GEP coaching classes which I've always maintained, sabotage the integrity and intent of the GEP, and possibly skew the population of students who enter the programme.

Attitudes don't help either. GEP students tend to be treated as prized possessions in a school (possibly cos they're expected to turn in stellar results for the school). I've heard that the GEP classes in one school are housed in the only air-conditioned block. I know some teachers constantly compare GEP and non-GEP kids in all areas, which only serves to create a very unhealthy rivalry (I'd written about it here).

So my suggestion is this: revert back to the main objective of the GEP and that is to provide a type of education that allows the intellectually gifted to thrive. Remove the associated privileges and then maybe we'll be able to cool the GEP fever. We need parents, teachers and students to accept that the GEP is not "superior", just different. Only this mindset can evoke real collaboration and teamwork.

This is my first article on the GEP in a long time as Lesley-Anne has graduated from primary school for almost 3 years now. So in that sense, I've no vested interests in defending the programme. If anything, I'm opening myself up to attacks from naysayers. However, as a parent whose child has experienced the GEP, I see its tremendous value and I feel strongly enough to speak up for it. I know other GEP parents who feel the same way.

As a friend said, the angst possibly comes about because the current mainstream primary school syllabus is so stifling and far from ideal, that the GEP becomes an even more attractive route. I agree - I've often wished that Andre had the opportunity to experience an education system that was less rigid and encouraged his creativity.

The way forward then is to focus on improving the mainstream syllabus, not attacking the GEP. Let's not degrade ourselves to the point where if we can't have the ideal situation for all, then everyone should be equally miserable. Scrapping the GEP would be cutting off the nose to spite the face - everybody loses.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica

I agree with you. I believe the GEP programme has its merits and it should stay.

On a separate topic, I feel that the 6-year Integrated Programme (IP) is also misunderstood by several parents. The IP has been perceived (rightly or wrongly?) as a programme for brighter students who can skip the O levels and get on the 'through-train' to the A levels or International Baccalaureate. Some parents do not realise that the IP may not suit their kids' learning style. They just want it for their kids. The result: a booming tuition industry and overly stressed students and parents.

LL

monlim said...

LL: I agree. I think our system is so competitive that parents will prioritise the outcome (through train) ahead of the process (learning) which is very unhealthy. The standing joke now is if you want to go into sure-win business in SG, do tuition :D

Anonymous said...

Tks for writing this, Monica. I completely agree with you that giftedness is not being about better. It's about being different. Worse, people seem to think giftedness is all about academics. When it comes to the rest of the person, "giftedness must also mean compliant".

When I read what that WP guy said, my first reaction was, "what a nuthead!" On paper, egalitarianism sounds all good and wonderful. But we're a nation whose only resource is people. If we were all diamonds, should we all have the same 3cs (or is 4? Forgot!)? Isn't it better to develop each diamond? Yes he says education should be differentiated yada. But as you mentioned, why should the breath of our educational system be the defining "all"? Some diamonds can support/require more facets than others. Unfortunately, people are not diamonds, because gifted kids are not even suppressible, at least not without repercussions later on.

monlim said...

Yes, the perception is that "gifted" must be smart academically or even more narrowly, score well in exams.

I find that the every-man-for-himself mentality here (which is reinforced by the very competitive education system) creates a very unhealthy scarcity mentality. More for you means less for me, hence the begrudging of any group that seems to get preferential treatment.

I prefer to see it as an expanding pie - we can improve on the system for all, but not necessary "all" as a giant group together, ie differentiated education pathways.

Naggo-nitemare said...

Tk u for putting so well in words what i've been trying to explain to people like tt WP fella why gep should not be scrapped. When it was brought up in parliament by the opposition, I was sad tt the an NCMP can be so irresponsible as to victimize a small group of children with special needs just to win more popularity votes. So v v thoughtless and irresponsible of him to not do a little basic research on gifted kids before planting negative proposals into moe's mind.

monlim said...

NN: Irresponsible is the right word. I do think if one is going to advocate for something to be abolished, he or she should at least take the time to find out more about it first, not just make assumptions and jump to conclusions. These are real kids who will be affected.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mon and other readers,

I believe there's a large middle ground or silent majority on this GEP business.

There is already some understanding (though not first hand) on what the GEP does and no one questions that there are some exceptional children who are just brilliant and will be totally stifled in the prevailing system. Man, why do I do Pri Sch math when I can actually do a math degree programme? Or those who can just read and analyse sonnets or other literary texts (I don't need to learn all the grammatical rules etc) But these are few and far between ....

The reality is that many folks are now sending their kids to GEP prep class and despite MOE's ideology that giftedness cannot be trained (you either have it or not, period), a lot of these trained kids do get in. Let's put aside the fact that some of these kids are already 'gifted' so maybe their parents are just being plain kiasu. But is it really the case? The parent with a son in ACS (GEP)quoted in the newspaper article readily admitted to the leg up that the GEP training and continuous tuition has given the child. If the kid is already gifted, why the insecurity?

MOE cannot prevent parents from sending kids for such prep classes and cannot absolutely proclaim that only truly gifted kids get into the programme. I think we all know that in all schemes or programmes, some who are not totally qualified do get in. But if the numbers are increasing year by year, the integrity of the system is called into question. All parents want the best for their kids, gifted or not. If MOE is unable to refine the selection criteria, more and more parents will go down this path. The mentality is - why should I be principled and righteous when half the world is 'cheating'?

Joyce

monlim said...

Joyce: That has always been a dilemma and that's why I think MOE should speak up on this matter. Even though they can't stop tuition centres from offering these prep classes, at least send out a strong stigma of shame, instead of it being like a badge of honour right now.

However, we'll never know the number of kids who are coached into the programme and I don't think we can immediately presume that this forms a significant proportion of GEP. No one has access to the test papers but from the few questions I've heard anecdotally, I don't think it's that easy to "learn" your way through the tests if you're not really gifted.

For English, for example, I'm highly doubtful that a regular child will be able crash course his way into a vocab that will help him understand some of the texts they set for the test.

What the coaching classes do is familiarise the kids with the testing styles and patterns but content is a different story altogether. So my suspicion is that those who are "coached" in, probably were the borderline cases to begin with. Why I'm against these classes is that because of the handful who just make the bar due to coaching, they might be depriving another handful of truly gifted kids from the programme. That just strikes me as unjust.

Can't prove any of this, of course, it's just my guess. And as you said, some may say "why shd I be principled when others are cheating" but to me, that's the very definition of kiasu and it's up to the individual to decide how much his principles are worth.

Anonymous said...

Hi

GEP kids have little time to prepare for PSLE compared to mainstream. So, you have to think from their angle also. They are disadvantaged in this way. Furthermore, GEP kids not guaranteed a place in DSA. They have to have something to show and there are also rejections. So, it is not a privilege (I know you said this). It is also conducted during a hectic period. If mainstream have what it takes, they can pass the GAT or prove themsevles in other ways. Just like Lim Jeck family. Mainstream but brilliant. Anyway, your kid had also managed to get into her dream school through DSA. If you want it abolished, then she should not have applied through this route. Sorry for the harsh comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

For the DSA, I mean DSA through the GEP route. Please correct me if your kid did not apply through the GEP route.

Rgds

monlim said...

Anon: I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Anyway, I never said that what the GEP kids received was wrong, just that it makes parents more kiasu in pushing their kids into the programme. So removing the privileges would be one way of saving GEP from being scrapped altogether. I don't see why I need to be apologetic about my daughter applying through the DSA route.

Hermione said...

I don't think there was really a choice: if you're going to go for DSA and if you're a GEP kid, you'll automatically get some privileges, won't you? Are you trying to say that she should have applied for DSA through the mainstream route? I'm not sure if you can do that if you're from the GEP. Please do correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not so sure about GEP-related matters.

This is not exactly related, but mon, will you publish a post about your thoughts on the integrated programme? I feel that IP kids are also getting stereotyped too. Some of my friends think that IP students don't work as hard as o level students. While I agree that it is really, really tough to go through the stressful o levels, I never felt that being an IP student was a walk in the park.

Thanks and I really do enjoy reading your posts!

- hjg

monlim said...

hjg: Yup, indeed under current practices, GEP kids apply for DSA under the GEP route.

I didn't know some pple think IP kids don't work as hard as O level students. I think misconceptions and half-truths tend to come about mostly due to lack of understanding. While it's true that IP students don't mug as hard, and understandably so since they don't have to spend a whole year drilling for the O levels, the IP curriculum is very rigorous and in some ways, tougher than the O level schools cos they're actually preparing kids in advance for A levels! I've heard of kids who drop out of IP cos they can't cope and end up doing very well in the top O level schools.

In short, I don't believe there's such a thing as a slack school system in SG :P

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Sorry I am not a good writer and you are unable to understand me. What I was hoping to bring across is that there are other GEP kids whose PSLE score may be pulled down by subj like Chinese(just like your daughter) and who are similarly good at academics but sucks at other DSA like sports. So the way to get to the dream school, just like your daughter, is through DSA GEP. It is not unfair. GEP kids have a much shorter period to prepare for PSLE (with a differnt approach from GEP. Mainstream kids are more 'drilled' into it). I am just wondering aloud why on one hand you are asking the DSA GEP to be done away with, and on the other hand put your daughter through it. I am not the type to do things I don't believe in. I am not criticising, just that I am hoping my kid will make it through the DSA GEP route. I feel stressed when you are calling for it to be abolished at this time. You are no longer affected by it, so think of the people who are stressed by such calls. Thank you. I will leave things at this point and not disturb you anymore.

monlim said...

Anon: What I'm proposing is for the bigger picture. As I said, it's not that I'm against the GEP DSA but if getting rid of it will mean that we can save the GEP, then it's worth it, don't you think? Or would you prefer the GEP be scrapped altogether?

I think non-GEP parents might take issue with the fact that you feel GEP are disadvantaged for PSLE and therefore deserve the DSA. Imagine how they would feel - many mainstream kids are academically smart too but are pulled down in one subject and don't have such advantages. (They also have other disadvantages like bigger class sizes, etc)

Why can't they all apply under the generic Academic DSA? I think all parents want their kids to enter their dream schools, GEP kids are not more entitled to this than mainstream kids.

I understand your anxiety, really I do. If the GEP DSA was abolished during my daughter's time, I would probably be anxious but I would not fault the justice of it. I do wish that more parents are able to see what's fair and not just advocate for policies that would benefit them personally.

I not saying this just because it doesn't affect me now but of course, I can't make you believe me if you choose not to. If it's any consolation to you, I seriously doubt MOE will take on my suggestions! They value the GEP group too much.

Anonymous said...

Monlim, I don't think anyone can accuse you of making the suggestions with bad intentions. I've followed your blog for a long time and your views are always sensible and balanced. Not many parents can see the big picture like you!

Ty for sharing your wise thoughts and please keep it up!

PL

monlim said...

PL: Thanks for the encouragement! Very sweet of you :)

Anonymous said...

Mon, I do not doubt your intentions at all. In fact, I believe you might have pointed out the "attraction" of the programme correctly in terms of DSA and MOE might be reading this and trying to rationalise.

To allay the fears of existing GEP parents, I believe your suggestion can still work but effectively from this new batch of GEP students to be recruited in 2012 to stop further trained kids from getting into the programme. Just like in any corporate HR policies, when something is given to the existing staff, it is hard to take away, however with an effective date for new hirers, the new policies can indeed be implemented. I hope I am being constructive in supporting your recommendation. :)

qx

Mom with a Mac said...

Haiz! All this hoo haa about GEP yet again. We have just had 1.25years of it in Singapore and just left it due to a move overseas.
I first agreed to let my daughter go into the more relaxed school's version of GEP but soon found that, by P5, the hot housing and expectations also rises. Their scores are not suppose to fall below certain points plus, right in the beginning, we were told not to 'help' these kids...as far as we know 20/27 kids attend tuition for Maths and Science. We love the extra stuff, we get excited of the opportunities that present itself, we are STILL dissapointed about the school's expectation to bring the 'grades' up for the cohort. This is just Singapore.

On the side, STILL love reading your stuff Mon! We've moved to NYC now.
GB, Sarah Chan

monlim said...

QX: Agree, they can implement this with the new batches to sieve out those who are in it only for the perks. Hard to remove from existing batches cos there will be parents who cry blue murder :)

Sarah: Ohhh, you're so far away now! Hope you're enjoying a new phase of life yet again. Yes, all the "no tuition please" falls on deaf ears. Kiasu-ism is alive and thriving here!

Anonymous said...

I'm totally supportive of GEP as my boy had benefitted a lot from this programme, especially judging from the fact that he is coming from an under-priviledged family. The most important thing is he had enjoyed himself very much during the last 3 years in GEP without feeling any stress or struggling to meet the benchmark, even though he had not attended any tuitions, except for Chinese which is his weakest subject.

monlim said...

Anon: Yes, I believe there are many kids like yours who benefited from the GEP. It's definitely of great value.

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,
GEP should be scrapped for one very simple reason : the availability of GEP preparation classes. You cannot stop rich people from sending their kids to such classes. As a result, kids from rich families have higher chances of getting into GEP. The fact is that such parents send their kids to enrichment classes since they are 2 years old, and they receive the best pre-school education. Since GEP parents are already spending so much money on their kids, why should the government still spend precious resources on these kids ?

I have actually worked with many GEP kids before. My opinion is that these kids are more "trained" than "naturally gifted".

The rich kids get the best education, while the poor kids are thrown into a class of 40 with unmotivated teachers. Is this fair ?

I feel that GEP should take into consideration the income of the parents. Only the smartest kids from the poorest families should be selected. This will easily eliminate those kids who get in because their parents can afford to spend thousands of dollars on enrichment.

As for yourself, I believe that even if your daughter is not in the GEP, since you are so highly educated, you would have been able to stretch her gifted mind yourself. Think about those gifted kids raised by caregivers who speak only Mandarin or dialect at home, and cannot afford tuition, and attend PCF kindergarten with teachers who cannot even speak proper English.

Anonymous said...

Continued from my previous comment. I read your views in the Zaobao article. Do you think that a gifted child from low income family, whose parents only had primary school or ITE education, will be able to read Lord of the Rings at 9 years old ?

Did your daughter learn to read on her own without you ever reading a single story book to her ?

For your information, MOE teachers are incapable of teaching any child to read well. If a child has not been taught by parents, or has not attended any phonics enrichment classes, an average child will not be able to read a novel even in secondary school. I can prove this because I myself could not read Charlotte's Web even when I was in Sec 1.

monlim said...

Anon: As you say, nobody can stop the rich from sending their kids to prep classes and I agree that these should be scrapped.

But the assumption that all GEP kids come from rich families and all the poor kids are in mainstream is a sweeping statement. Where is the fact to support this? I know that many of my daughter's classmates lived in HDB flats and most of them did not go for prep classes.

I also agree that kids from more educated parents probably have a better chance of getting in the GEP, but not just from training, also from genetic and environmental factors.

I'm just skeptical of generalisations like "GEP kids are more trained than gifted", "MOE teachers are incapable of teaching any child to read well" and "poor kids are thrown into a class of 40 with unmotivated teachers". You sound like someone who had a tough childhood and if so, I empathise with you but reverse discrimination is never ok in my books (rich kids shouldn't be looked after because they can afford it!) By that same token, then perhaps they also shouldn't be allowed into local unis if they can afford overseas education?

I do feel more help should be given to lower income kids but as I've stated, GEP shouldn't be the scapegoat. btw, many pple like you have said the resources given to GEP should be given to other kids instead but I suspect the overall budget for GEP isn't that much. On a per child basis, definitely it's more than a mainstream student but since the GEP cohort is so small, I suspect the absolute amount isn't big enough to make any impact whatsoever if they spread it to the mainstream.

More importantly, I think we really need to move away from this constant scarcity mentality, that more for you means less for me. That's what's fuelling the kiasu syndrome among parents and creating this unhealthy competition.

monlim said...

PS You sound like you had a very bad education experience as a child. If so, hugs to you! Hope you can be one of those who will turn their bad experiences into positive ones for their kids (whether your own or the ones you work with).

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,
For your information,   staying in HDB flats does not mean that the kids come from low income families.  There are 3-room, 4-room, 5-room and executive flats.   There are families with combined income of $10K a month live in HDB flats.  That means they have enough money to spend on their kids.  

MOE has never published data about the income distribution of GEP kids, I wonder why ? However, I read news report stating that the majority of students in RI/RGS  have parents with university degrees.  

The fact is that not enough is done for kids from low income families, and the fact is that most GEP kids have tuition. Since GEP parents can afford to spend on tuition,  it does not make any sense for the government to spend more money on them.   

You can never understand this because you are not in touch with the large majority of average income Singaporeans.  I am teaching the bottom half of the students, those who did not make it to JC.    Most of them cannot read well,  and most of them are very poor in algebra.  If MOE teachers can teach well,  these students will not end up like this.  In fact, I know some students who are very bright,  unfortunately they will never make it to university.

My son is in a neighbourhood schools.  His teachers told me that they are amazed at how well he can read compared to the rest of the class.  The majority of the kids are struggling to learn to read.   My boy is not gifted, he could read the Hobbit and Harry Potter at P2 because I taught  him.  I understand very well how teachers teach English in school nowadays, without external help,  most kids will not do well.   Your kids probably went to elite primary schools, that is why you are not aware of the problems.

Anonymous said...

Quote:
"PS You sound like you had a very bad education experience as a child. If so, hugs to you! Hope you can be one of those who will turn their bad experiences into positive ones for their kids (whether your own or the ones you work with)."

Actually I made it to RGS.  I am not gifted, but I was very hardworking.  That was 30 years ago.  It would be impossible now.  Those kids whose parents cannot afford tuition, and cannot teach them at home, will have very little chances of getting into the top schools even if they are exceptionally brilliant.

Note that I cannot write perfect English even though I was from RGS.  I was very good in maths, not because the maths teachers were good, but because I knew how to learn by reading the textbook.  We could not afford tuition back then, but this turned out to be a good thing because I was forced to learn independently, a skill that most students, even those from GEP nowadays no longer know how to.

monlim said...

Anon: I don't wish to get into a protracted argument with you because all you have been ranting about is that the lower income kids don't get enough help, which I have repeatedly said that I agree with. It sounds like you're against the GEP because you're bitter over the former, which is just using it as a punching bag.

I've already explained my stand and you're free to not agree with me, but I won't be drawn into a long-drawn debate strewn with wild accusations esp by someone who chooses to hide behind the cloak of anonymity (actually I've a pretty good idea who you are).

Lady antebellum said...

I am not only ranting about low income families.

I have also written that I have worked with GEP kids before.
According to MOE: "Established in 1984, the GEP caters to the top 1% of our students. The programme provides an enriched curriculum to nurture these intellectually gifted students. It develops their skills in critical and creative thinking and allows them to work with specialists through mentorship programmes."

My experience is that the program has not achieved its objectives. I am disappointed with the lack of critical and creative thinking of the GEP kids.

I have GEP kids admitting to me that their parents helped them do the projects.

You can only write based on the experience of your daughter. You cannot see the big picture. You are also not an educator, and I doubt if you truly understand the meaning of education. If GEP is really good, then your daughter should never have failed her maths. She should know how to learn independently. BTW, I teach Maths at A levels, it is not that difficult to pass.

I don't expect you to post my message. As an educator, I cannot help but to write about the truth. I want you to know that you are living in an ivory tower. And I cannot care less about who you think I am. Even if I put my real name here, what difference does it make ?

monlim said...

What puzzles me is that you consistently project your opinions as fact. Gifted means being able to ace every subject without help? All the studies and books that have been published will tell you that’s not true but of course there’s not point telling you because you are determined to believe what you want to believe.

You make assumptions and judgements about people (like I live in an ivory tower) to fit your justifications. You may have some valid points but you negate them with your bulldozer attitude.

I find it disturbing that you are an educator, yet you have such a low EQ. You think nothing of stooping to vindictive personal attacks and bigoted statements, you even think anonymous hate mail is acceptable! I feel sorry for your kids and the students you teach, I hope you don’t pass on your negative energy and condemnation to them as freely as you have here.

Go spread your venom somewhere else, Tamarind.

Yanny's Table said...

Hmm, Lady Antebellum,

I feel that if you follow all of Monica's blog posts, including those in the archives, and read them with an open mind, you will not think she's so biased as you seem to think she is.

I have followed her blog for years and for instance, I know that she is against over-tutoring, and also against the practice of 'prep-classes' for getting into GEP--which are matters that you also take issues with, judging by your remarks made in this post.

I do not feel she deserves your many strident observations about her, which I do not agree with even if I may not agree with her all the time. Your remarks certainly come across as strong and emotional, and rather 'personal'. Even if she is comfortably off, she may not fall into the pitfalls that you seem to feel is inevitable for people of a certain socioeconomic class.

I feel it is better to 'agree to disagree in an agreeable manner'--without making derogatory & denigrating personal remarks--which have been exaggerated perhaps in order to emphasize or prove a point.

After all, one of the problems with online socialization is that we may fail to see how multifaceted a person is in real life; you may just end up with a much more positive opinion of her if you get to know her in person! :-)

Yanny.

Anonymous said...

I happened to chance across the comments section and noticed what's going on.

I've read this blog for a few years now and feel it is very fairly, a big picture one. I'm not sure what's inspiring the vitriol, but the tone is uncalled for. Let the ideas and the facts speak for themselves. You are entitled to your views of course, but so are others; do be respectful. Please don't resort to low blows. Few people are impressed by hostility; you win no friends and fewer supporters if the basis of your argument is belligerence rather than fact.

Thank you Monica, for writing another thoughtful piece. We don't live in a world of sameness - it is the differences among us that contribute to humanity. I can't see how forcing everyone through the same tubes will make this world a better place. Even if the tubes need tweaking, it is better than scrapping and leaving a valuable segment uncatered for. This is not snobbishness but rather, self interest as a citizen of this country.

Anonymous said...

hi all, i agree to a certain extent that kids with wealthier parents will always be more prepared for studies and may certainly excel in their studies because of their family background. let's face it. this is something unavoidable, life is unfair. we don't have to throw stones or condemn the rich or those wealthier for that. i think it is important to tackle the root of the problem - which is are there sufficiently qualified teachers to teach the non-GEP 99% including those from poorer families so that they are not that disadvantaged? the kids from poorer families will ALWAYS be disadvantaged, you cannot deny that. But with proper systems and good parental support, kids can still prosper and grow. so parents, get a grip!!! uncle tom

just mum said...

Hi Monica , I really like your post and enjoy reading them as it really put across some of our thought...anyway I have a daughter who is in Gep and she coping well with no tuition and getting 90% in all subject n still v happy with her new found friend who's rich and poor.she say she enjoy n love all her teacher classes..and i felt most important of all is that she is happy.Both my hubby and I are o level ourselves and we r also not rich nor so educated but we don't harp abt it..we bring them to library when we dnt have the budget to buy them books to read...she and her brother read extensively..which i thank God for...so i guess it's how we help ourselves...anyway my daughter say she enjoy ur blog v much...keep up the great jobs..

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am from the GEP Programme, and I have just left Primary School. I can speak from personal experience that sometimes, it may not really be our fault that people does not want to accept us. The mainstream kids in our level are often laughing at us and telling us that we suck, and they gave us a couple of colourful names too. While it does not affect us, not really, as we managed to beat them in PSLE, it is not fair to assume that you use tuition to get into GEP. As far as I can tell from interacting with the other GEP students, most of them does not go for tuition, and many only went because their parents signed them up without their consent. Many of them are happy without going to those tuitions. Also, just because you are poor does not mean that you cannot join. Even if you cannot afford tuition because your family is poor, you can enter if you are clever enough. I know that as a few of my friends and I never had any tuition, except for the languages, and we made it into the programme.
On the other approach, though, I admit that the students are not really that sociable, they make the effort, but it sometimes come out wrong. Also, some of them also does not have proper etiquette, but that can be changed, if the teacher can be patient enough and if the student can make enough friends who would help. I know that we do not make things easy for the teachers, and that we often argues with some of our teachers, but that is also our own way of gaining insight. When we challenge the teacher, and they prove us wrong, we learn something new. That is also a way to let off stress, and one have to do quick on the spot thinking to be able to come up with responses to the teacher's challenge. This helps us with quick answering.
We are not the proud kind, do not give us a label just like that. We know that although we are clever, to survive in the society, we need to be able to function in groups too.
Lady antebellum, I can tell you that my classmates, although in the GEP, are all very hardworking. I can assure you that every single piece of work produced is authentic, as we have to do it ourselves, especially the groupworks. After all, who are we kidding by letting our parents help us do our work? It will benefit no one: we are the ones going to school to LEARN, not our parents. As for those who really did let their parents do their work for them... Well, you will know that they are not cut out for GEP. Those are most probably those that got in through tuition and cannot keep up with the workload. Also, it is not wrong to have a little help from others, we are not super geniuses, as you so kindly pointed out, and at the start, we will need some help at the start. If you want to spread lies through Singapore about GEP, you can be assured that the GEP students will make their stand. That said, please, do not make assumptions based on a few.
~~~Marine

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