Forum: Consider extending smaller class sizes to all primary schools

I would like to share my views after reading the two recent letters on the Gifted Education Programme (Reassess gifted programme in schools, Aug 23; and Gifted Education Programme a lifeline for talented students, Aug 24).

My children graduated from the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) a few years ago and we think it is a good programme.

The features I like about it are the smaller class size - which promotes better engagement and interaction in class - and the expanded curriculum, including project work, which benefits pupils who can take on more than the normal syllabus.

However, the advantages of being in the GEP are not as great as what many people think. Many parents mistakenly believe it is a passport to a top secondary school.

While there was anecdotal evidence previously that GEP pupils got into top secondary schools via the Direct School Admission (DSA) programme more easily than their counterparts, this has changed and I have heard of many GEP pupils who did not get any DSA offer.

Hence, while the GEP is a good programme and I think pupils who are selected should go for it, parents (and children) should not be too hung up about getting into the programme.

I also feel that GEP preparatory classes may do more harm than good. Most pupils suited for the programme will likely get in even without these classes. Those who rely on the classes to get in may struggle with the more rigorous syllabus, and may also experience self-doubt when they encounter challenges within the GEP.

The writer of the first Forum letter raised a point about the profile of GEP students, that is, that many are from affluent families. I do agree that many are from such families. However, this is an inequality issue that is pervasive throughout our education system, and such skewed profiles can be found in most "top schools".

In fact, the GEP may level the playing field somewhat among pupils as it is harder to "prepare" a child to get into it than to get into a top school, due to the inherent nature of the GEP tests.

Instead of doing away with the GEP, it may be more meaningful for the Ministry of Education to consider implementing smaller class sizes for all primary schools, as this is a positive feature of the programme that does not have to be unique to GEP classes.

Tan San Ling