Stephan is a German expat working in Singapore. He married a local lady and settled down here. They have twin boys. Stephan is also a long-time reader of my blog and we had met for lunch a few years ago.
I recall Stephan telling me then that his boys were sporty, and good with their hands, but not academically inclined. He was a little worried that they wouldn't be able to cope with the Singapore education system. He didn't know the education system here very well, but he had heard some horror stories.
Stephan's concerns look a little misplaced now. He just emailed to tell me that one of the twins has qualified for the Gifted Enrichment Programme. That puts the boy somewhere in the top half to one percent of the general student population.
The question is whether the boy should accept the GEP place. That would mean that he has to transfer from his current school, to one of the GEP schools. Neither twin is very keen on this idea, because they, being two good brothers, want to stick together in the same school.
I think that joining the GEP has some practical advantages. One such advantage, as I understand it, is that a few top secondary schools will accept GEP students under the DSA programme, without even waiting to see the GEP student's PSLE results. Okay, you also have to show some ability in some sport, art or musical activity, but the main thing is that you are a GEP student. That's what makes the door swing open.
This also means that if GEP students know how to play their cards right, they can enjoy a relatively fun-filled, stress-free time, from Primary 4 to 6. Sure, they can also choose to slog, if they prefer. But at least they have the choice. It isn't exactly imperative for them to do very, very well in the PSLE.
One concern that parents may have is that the GEP child may feel unduly stressed, about having to compete with other extremely bright kids. I don't think that this is such a major concern. With some parental guidance, the GEP child should quickly understand that the GEP student population comprises the very brightest. Even if he is the bottom 10% of his GEP class, in all likelihood he still compares very well to the wider universe of non-GEP students. His ego need not feel too bruised.
Also, between being constantly bored in a normal school (because you are too bright and the the usual curriculum doesn't challenge you) and being stressed in a top school (because the GEP curriculum is too tough), I actually think that it's better to be stressed. Boredom is a kind of suffering too.
If Stephan eventually decides not to send his son to the GEP, then I think that Stephan should just constantly bear in mind his son's giftedness anyway, and give him regular, ample opportunities to develop and explore his own interests. (Of course, the same applies to the twin brother too).
A useful book I once read was The Gifted Adult, by Mary Elaine Jacobsen. The author made the point that gifted people tend to develop quite intense interests - this in itself is one of the defining characteristics of giftedness. Although the book was about gifted adults, I believe that this point applies equally to gifted kids. So if you're a parent of a gifted child, do try your best to give him the room, space and resources to pursue his hobbies. He will appreciate that, because that's how he grows.