Don't shut bright kids out of DSA

I disagree with senior education correspondent Sandra Davie's suggestion that schools exclude Gifted Education Programme (GEP) pupils from the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme ("Schools, stop the 'kiasu' practice of using DSA to 'chope' bright kids"; March 31).

Her suggestion rests on the presumption that the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) already advantages academically strong pupils.

However, the popular belief that GEP pupils will definitely top the PSLE is not true. This is because the GEP is not designed to prepare them for the PSLE.

In fact, I have met parents who have chosen not to let their children join the GEP because of a lack of focus on the PSLE.

GEP pupils are not unconditionally selected by schools for the DSA. They, too, have to pass interviews and tests.

For a small country, with people as its only resource, we have to be careful not to "villainise" a group of children while advocating the interests of another.

Schools are understandably keen to accept GEP pupils who have proven the ability to excel, especially those who have won accolades for their performances in global competitions.

Rather than supporting schools to further develop these gifted students for the country, there has been fierce criticism over such perceived privilege.

Every year, only about 1 per cent of pupils in a cohort, or roughly 500 children, enter the GEP.

Even if all of them were offered places in secondary schools under the DSA, this would amount to just around 18 per cent of the 2,700 students accepted last year.

For a small country, with people as its only resource, we have to be careful not to "villainise" a group of children while advocating the interests of another.

A holistic education includes the arts, sports, music and also academic studies.

We should come together to find more ways to ensure that those who are gifted in any way are not disadvantaged by their family backgrounds in their educational paths.

William Tan Whee Kiem

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2016, with the headline 'Don't shut bright kids out of DSA'. Print Edition | Subscribe