Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Dawn Butterworth

Abstract

As Singapore is a rapidly expanding technological society, there is a strong need for emergent thinkers or innovators due to global competition. Therefore, the identification of exceptionally able children is critical for the continued growth of Singapore. Singapore is a very small nation and relies strongly on human resources for its progress and prosperity. Hence, early identification of exceptionally able children will be an advantage to the nation. Education of gifted and talented children is just as important as the education of children with disabilities or developmental delay. In addition, there is growing concern among many Singaporeans that the current education system is very stressful. The Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong was reported as saying that some gifted children felt that they had under-performed at school, disappointed their parents and were thinking of committing suicide. He also added that some parents had very high expectations for these children. The objective of this study was to investigate the current Gifted Education Program (GEP) provided in Singapore for young gifted children. This study examined the perceptions and beliefs of the policy maker, teachers and primary 4 gifted children of the current Gifted Education Program in Singapore. It is important to investigate how these young gifted children feel about their classes and if the program makes any difference or indeed creates more stress for them. The overall design used in conducting this study was descriptive qualitative case study methodology. Triangulation was used in this study by obtaining the perspectives of the policy maker, teachers and students. Information was also collected in many ways, using semi-structured interviews with guiding interview schedules, document reviews, audio recording and other supplementary techniques. A case study approach was used to describe the children's experiences and their perceptions, using their own words and drawings. The major findings of the study are as follows: 1. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has no involvement in early identification and provision for gifted children below the age of Primary 3, nor in training early childhood professionals or mainstream teachers to identify or provide for children below the Primary 3 level. ii. The National University of Singapore, the Association for Gifted Children, Mensa and the Morris Allen Study Centres are some of the organisations in Singapore that do provide some form of assistance such as counselling, advice, IQ tests or enrichment classes to parents and their gifted children who are too young to sit the Primary 3 Screening Tests. iii. The current GEP caters for the needs of young gifted children who express very positive feelings towards their GEP teachers and the program, in comparison to their former mainstream teachers and the education they received previously. iv. However, certain areas of concern were reported by the young gifted students in relation to the current GEP, such as having to sit for the same exam as the other mainstream students; having too much set homework; and finding the study of Chinese too time consuming and difficult. v. To ensure that the GEP teachers are capable of accommodating and achieving the GEP's goals and objectives the MOE has a strict selection procedure for recruiting teachers into their program. The selected teachers are regularly observed teaching gifted children in their classrooms so as to monitor the effectiveness of their teaching strategies; questioning and responses skills to students' questions; tolerance of gifted children's curiosity; and patience with gifted children. vi. On the whole, the GEP teachers perceive their roles to be facilitators; advocates of lifelong learning; resource gatherers; providers of an enriched differentiated curriculum; observers: counsellors; enthusiastic, animated and passionate teachers of young gifted children; and promoters of socialisation among the gifted children. vii. The perceptions of the GEP teachers of their roles are congruent with those of the MOE in Singapore, the policy maker and the young gifted children reported in this study and the literature. Recommendations for policy makers and parents of gifted children arising from the findings of this study are: i. using a combination of methods to identify potentially gifted children who are too young to sit for the Screening Tests; ii. providing more programs and resources and educating parents of young gifted children how to observe and detect early signs of depression; iii. investigating factors of the current stressful education system which give rise to young children consulting the psychiatrists or committing suicide; iv. including parents, early childhood and mainstream teachers in the gifted education seminars and conferences organised by the Gifted Education Branch of MOE; v. training mainstream teachers in gifted education and the various issues related to it; vi. implementing a separate exam for young gifted children; and vii. providing more independent projects in individual areas of interest for gifted students. It is important to note that the experiences received by gifted children at school, home and in society, have an important effect on their cognitive, emotional and psychological development. The policy maker's and teachers' views, attitudes and behaviour play an important role in the provision of an effective Gifted Education Program in Singapore. However, the inclusion and cooperation of the parents and the mainstream teachers in identifying and catering for young gifted children is necessary to prevent the loss of any potentially gifted students.

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