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Singapore's gifted students

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Just as the United States Department of Education was closing its Office for Gifted and Talented Children last July, the Republic of Singapore was putting the finishing touches on a program of its own for gifted students.

A one-time British colony, Singapore has been an independent nation for less than 20 years. In that brief time, and despite its small size (230 square miles) , Singapore has achieved such economic and technological success that its 2.5 million people now enjoy Asia's second highest per capita income. The city-state has emerged as the economic, banking, and medical center of Southeast Asia.

By most international standards Singapore provides children with a first-class public education system.

In deference to its multiracial population, which includes Chinese, Malays, Tamils, and others, the government recognizes four official languages. The schools require students to master two of these, one of which must be English, the language of business and government.

The school system is designed so that parents may choose any one of the four as their children's language of instruction.

Although a tracking system is in use whereby pupils are assigned to classes that progress at different rates, it is Singapore's perception that it cannot afford to neglect even a small number of its potential future leaders.

The Ministry of Education is well aware that all over the developed world, gifted children become bored and frustrated with regular teaching and standard classroom fare, and that some become underachievers, disruptive, and may even drop out of school.

Hence, the program for the gifted and talented. It was announced to the nation last September, and testing for the pilot group was completed before the end of the year. The first 200 students entered the program last month, at the start of the school year.

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