Sunday, 21 June 2015

Don't make gifted kids an easy scapegoat for inequality

WE NEED to view gifted children with more compassion ("Gifted tests: Ensure we don't create elitist mindset" by Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng, and "Risky to gauge potential based purely on IQ" by Mr George Lim Heng Chye; both published yesterday).

Some argue that there should be a more holistic view on giftedness, that is, one that includes social indicators like adversity and emotional quotients, as opposed to limited measures like IQ scores.

But schools already make values-driven education, focused on developing children holistically, a priority; it is infused throughout the curriculum.

Others say tests for giftedness will lead to "a generation of intellectual snobs". But doing away with the notion of giftedness will not magically lead to a more compassionate and egalitarian Singapore society.

The socio-economic stratification of Singapore stems from a complex interplay of cultural, economic and historical factors, which gifted children have little control over and which all Singaporeans are complicit in.

Society will always find inventive ways to distinguish between groups of people, with or without the notion of giftedness.

Let us not make gifted children a convenient scapegoat for inequality in society.

The responsible thing to do is to recognise that each child has something different to offer, and to bring out the best in every child's strengths.

Gifted children have gone on to contribute much to society, whether in public service or civil society.

Failure to give the diversity of gifted children the space to grow contributes to even greater socio-economic inequality in Singapore.

We will be, on the whole, worse off if we do not celebrate excellence (not elitism) as a desirable outcome of education.

What we should stigmatise are views that make a convenient scapegoat out of gifted children and make their growing-up experience that much more difficult.

Mark Chia Mingde
ST Forum, 20 Jun 2015

Ensure we don't create elitist mindset

AFTER reading yesterday's report on parents having their children tested for "giftedness", I cannot help but wonder if we are creating an exclusive society ("Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests").

I find it unacceptable that toddlers are subjected to psychological tests, the findings of which some parents claim can help them tap their children's potential.

Equally deplorable is the fact that some parents send their children for the tests to join high-IQ society Mensa so that their young can be in "like-minded company".

In other words, children at such an impressionable age are encouraged to form a class of their own.

This may not be healthy as they could turn into a generation of intellectual snobs, having the notion that they are extraordinary.

Instead of comfortably ensconcing themselves, children should be accustomed to interacting with other children their age, regardless of their personal backgrounds and IQ scores.

This helps them to expand their horizons and further enrich their lives when they become adults.

It is, thus, crucial that parents not overreact to their children's high-IQ status with a "high and mighty" attitude.

Instead, they would do well to teach their children that there is more to life than being born gifted.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng
ST Forum, 19 Jun 2015

Risky to gauge potential based purely on IQ

IT IS understandable that parents would want highly intelligent offspring, especially in a competitive environment with steep social stratifications like in Singapore ("Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests"; yesterday).

But there are many other cognitive and social indicators, such as adversity quotient, and social skills, like emotional quotient, that will determine the overall success of a person.

Perhaps we should guard against gauging the potential of our children purely on their IQ scores.

If we are not careful, our children will be in for unpleasant surprises, as they may lack other life values, such as humility and industry.

A "gifted" child should also be taught life's responsibilities and to use his intelligence to help his less-fortunate peers.

George Lim Heng Chye
ST Forum, 19 Jun 2015

Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests
Parents want to know 'their child's potential'
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2015

MORE and more parents are taking their children for psychological tests - to see if they are gifted.

Since 2011, Mensa Singapore has taken in around 70 per cent more children under 10 each year.

This is despite the fact that it stopped testing those below 14 seven years ago. It accepts reports by psychologists instead.

Seven around the age of 21/2 have joined the society in the last four years. The youngest on record here is a boy who was two years and two months old when he was accepted last November.

The society has over 1,000 members, about 5 per cent of whom are six or under and 12 per cent of whom are 13 or younger.

Mensa Singapore president Patrick Khoo, 41, explained: "It's not that society is getting smarter all of a sudden, but more parents are sending children for psychological tests."

He said most parents whose children join Mensa are "ordinary people who are just looking for like-minded company" for them.

The society does not run formal education classes, but it organises excursions to places such as the Science Centre and events like creative writing workshops.

Gifted Academy in Bukit Merah has seen a threefold rise in people taking psychological tests in the last five years - and 80 per cent of them are six and below.

Its co-founder, Ms Polene Lam, said more parents "want to know where their child stands and what potential they have".

"Another reason is that they want to know why their kids may not be doing as well as their peers, perhaps because of learning difficulties," she added.

Gifted and Talented Education Centre, which has branches in Balestier and Bukit Timah and caters to high-ability students, started a programme for pre-schoolers in 2013. It currently has almost 100 who take part in its classes in language, humanities, science and general knowledge.

Co-founder Claudia Yu said parents sign up after discovering their children are "very advanced in areas like numbers or verbal comprehension". "Parents start to ask for help and learning support so that children can be exposed to more things," she said.

She warned that gifted children could become unmotivated and unwilling to learn later on if they do not receive guidance.

Children at the centre learn more than phonics and the alphabet. They are trained in visual and spatial skills through tasks such as producing maths puzzles. They also learn about current affairs.

Mr Tong Peng Geat, 44, whose daughter Renae attends a maths class there, wants to give her an all-rounded experience.

Renae, who turns five in August, was tested at three and found to have an IQ of 140. An average child's IQ is 100.

"We try to strike a balance between academics and other things like sports," said Mr Tong, who runs a human resource firm.

Renae took up ballet and the Japanese martial art of aikido, and has also been going for sessions to learn to handle her emotions and communicate better.

Housewife Tracy Loke, 34, whose daughter Tricia has an IQ of 138, took her for a test last year at the age of three after feedback from a childcare centre.

"A teacher said she fidgeted too much and I needed to hire a shadow teacher, so I pulled her out and got her tested," she said.

Tricia now attends a church kindergarten, where teachers are able to "channel her energy into play". In addition to two weekly classes at Gifted and Talented, Mrs Loke also sends her to another centre for activities like art.

"I want her to know that there are a lot of things to learn... If she grows up thinking she's smart, she'll become lazy and unwilling to learn."

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