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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, with the headline 'Don't make gifted kids an easy scapegoat for inequality'. Subscribe