I delivered the following two speeches during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Education on 6 March 2015.
MOE: Integrated primary – secondary schools
Madam, this is the fourth year that I am speaking on the topic of through-train schools from primary through secondary. If I seem persistent, it is because I truly believe that in a suitably diverse education landscape, Singaporeans should have access to such a publicly-funded education option.
Such through-train schools will not require the pupil to go through the PSLE. It will allow the school to develop holistic education for a longer period with the pupils, allowing time to work on their character and values, as well as other aspects beyond exams. From results seen in other countries and in private schools that offer such a through-train system, academic achievements need not be compromised.
I had previously outlined broad ideas on how we can start with, say eight of such schools distributed throughout Singapore, and exclude all top schools from being part of such a pilot. I had called for this to be implemented gradually and on a pilot basis because the majority of Singaporeans may not yet understand how an education system can work without the PSLE. Nevertheless, I am convinced there is a sizeable minority who will be prepared to have their children go through 10 years of education in the same school, even if it means their children will find it difficult to enter the existing top schools without the PSLE.
I call upon MOE to seriously study the option, conduct public surveys to gauge the level of support of parents for such pilot schools and to publish these results so that we can have a meaningful conversation on this education option.
Review of GEP
Madam, Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was started 31 years ago. Each year, about 1% of the cohort are picked for GEP through a series of national tests for abilities in English, Math and Science at the end of primary 3.
I had previously asked MOE to review centralised GEP and in its place, provide support for as many schools to develop their higher ability students so that their students will not need to relocate to one of the nine GEP schools at primary 4.
There are many forms of giftedness, not just in language, science and math. Some are gifted in the arts or sports. The current definition of GEP is narrow. We can encourage all schools to have various forms of deep specialised enrichment engagement. Where we need scale, we can tap on the schools cluster system or work through existing institutions with strong expertise in science, arts or sports. And for the very rare pupil with extreme giftedness who would even find the current GEP unengaging, we can tap on our universities.
Some non-GEP schools have developed their own gifted classes to encourage their best students to stay with the school rather than relocate to a GEP school. We need not have this competition. We can spread the programme developed for GEP across more schools, and also widen our definition of giftedness.
Lastly, after 31 years, has MOE done longitudinal studies to track GEP graduates into their career, and can these studies be made public. I hope the public can have more data on the outcomes of GEP to examine its continued relevance.