A gifted child may not be academically talented

The contention that schools should not admit pupils from the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) through the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme because GEP pupils can gain entry into a secondary school of their choice, based on outstanding Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scores, is a problematic one ("Schools, stop the 'kiasu' practice of using DSA to 'chope' bright kids"; March 31).

This argument hinges on a common myth that GEP pupils are examination-smart and test well in standardised assessments, such as the PSLE.

This myth runs contrary to educational research that has found that giftedness manifests in a multitude of ways, and academic talent is merely one way in which "intellectual talent" can be seen.

Academic talent refers specifically to a student's performance in school, and is usually determined through a student's examination results, whereas intellectual giftedness is a far broader concept, encompassing logical thinking, memory, creativity and problem-solving - all of which are not necessarily measured accurately with conventional assessment instruments.

In fact, GEP selection tests are uniquely crafted to measure different types of cognitive skills and do not take into account a child's academic performance.

Hence, GEP pupils might not necessarily do well in the PSLE, as the focus of GEP is not to produce academically talented pupils who are able to score well ("Don't shut bright kids out of DSA" by Mr William Tan Whee Kiem; April 8).

Instead, the curriculum seeks to honour pupils' areas of giftedness.

Learning opportunities such as the Individualised Research Study allow pupils to work on a research project based on their personal interests, and the Future Problem Solving programme allows pupils to combine their creativity, logical thinking and problem-solving skills in approaching a hypothetical scenario within a futuristic society.

Intuitively, success in such learning opportunities should translate into good academic performance. But, the reality is that not all assessment tools in the PSLE, or O and A levels, emphasise the sorts of skills that allow GEP pupils to shine.

Until society arrives at a better understanding of who and what gifted students are, misconceptions such as "gifted students cope well in school" and "gifted students cannot possibly have learning disabilities" will continue to thwart conversations about educational change.

The DSA was started with the view of honouring different types of talent, apart from academic talent.

Leaving GEP students out of consideration would run against that spirit and intent.

Zhao Jingjing (Miss)