I love it that my friend Monica is blogging. Her posts are often thought-provoking and provide me with topics to blog about. Today, it is about GEP testing and her bone with parents who push their kids to get into the programme AND the enrichment centres that prey upon these parents' aspirations and fears.
I have no issue with these centres, it's a free market, and if there are suckers who want to fork out thousands of dollars to them, go ahead. This is cos I have confidence that MOE's GEP selection test is robust enough to sieve out the genuinely able for the programme. The kids who attend these centres and get through, I believe, would have gotten in on their own anyway.
My bone to pick today isn't about that, it's this. Someone (whose son is gifted) in a mummies' forum I frequent posted a topic about identifying giftedness and sure as the sun rises in the east, soon someone comes along and says, gifted? my child's not gifted but it doesn't matter, as long as he's happy. A couple of other mothers would echo this sentiment. Aiyoh, why does it always have to be like that? Just because a child is academically-able, that doesn't mean he can't be well-adjusted and happy right? So many parents cannot believe that some kids are just able to excel academically by themselves, automatically assuming some hothousing must have been at play and hence the child must be downright miserable and deprived.
I'm a 100% believer that kids can't be pushed beyond their innate capabilities. When mothers talk about their kids' abilities, I believe them and don't suspect that the kids must have been worked to the bone. Some kids are just better able to grasp abstract concepts, just as some kids are great at drawing intricate robots, some kids can bend balls like Beckham, some kids build crazy-shit lego machines...I don't have to undermine their abilities by saying, oh my kid sucks at soccer but it doesn't matter, cos he's happy. Why do we assume that kids who play soccer all day, draw all day, play all day, are happier than kids who choose to read or spout mathematical formulas all day?
Who doesn't want their kids to be a soccerstar-stardebater-science&mathwhiz-mostpopularkidinschool? But not everyone can be well-rounded. Yet the people getting schtick and made to feel bad are always the egghead brainiacs' parents. First, that they are pushing their kids. Second, that they're not doing enough to make their kids more well-rounded (so you want us to push our hothoused kids even more?).
On the term Gifted, I'm not all that comfortable using that term, NOT because the word has become taboo and politically-incorrect in the western world, but because I have a different measure of what Giftedness is. Gifted to me are children who are able to perform at a level most adults can't. Eg, my Thai friend's pianist son here, and the math prodigy I spoke about in an earlier post. I know most of my friends who learnt piano will not be able to play like that. And I've seen the math prodigy's work, it's at some crazy level I can't comprehend, and I majored in Statistics. Doing math or english or science a couple of years ahead of your peers is highly-able yes, but gifted? Hmmm.
It's unfortunate that GEP has the word Gifted tagged to it, making it fodder for jealousy in today's we-are-all-equal world; ALL kids are gifted remember? It's actually simply a programme designed to better challenge academically-able children. Let's just take it as that.
And of course there're bragging rights to your child being in GEP, just as any parent would be proud that their son just scored the winning goal for the school team. If your child is in GEP, there should be no shame in it, and while there's no need to hold a placard announcing this fact, I don't think there's anything wrong with parents being rightly proud of their child's achievement. People should not be made to feel bad for what they are, nor for what they're not.
We all know academic success doesn't guarantee success in life, which in any case, is a subjective measure. What one deems as success may be utter failure to someone else. Sure, there may be GEP kids who grow up to become janitors (not that there's anything wrong with that; oh, one even became a world-famous porn star), and there are GEP kids who grow up to be thick-headed asses ruling the civil service, but there are many, many, GEP kids who grow up to be responsible, kind, ethical and useful people.
Replace GEP kids in that last sentence with any of the following, dumb jocks, star soccer players, gothic-kids, emo-kids, IT nerds, and you'll get my drift. Let's not knock our kids when they're so young just to feed our own insecurities.