SINGAPORE - Some primary schools offering the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) have taken steps to widen the social circles of these pupils, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday (March 5).
Three of them - Rosyth School, Nanyang Primary School and Nan Hua Primary School - have introduced form classes with a mix of gifted and non-gifted pupils this year, he added. These mixed classes were introduced in 2007 for Nan Hua, 2011 for Nanyang, and 2018 for Rosyth.
He was replying to Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), who asked how the Education Ministry ensures students interact with their peers in other streams. "There is merit to having students who are gifted academically to also mix with students who are taking subjects at G1, or former Normal level," she said.
Mr Ong announced on Tuesday that the Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express streams will end by 2024 and be replaced by subjects at three levels: G1, G2 and G3.
He said that in the three GEP schools, the pupils spend a specified amount of time in their mixed form classes, but they attend their GEP classes for academic subjects such as science and English.
"So changes are already happening. We note your point, it's exactly the same balance that we're trying to optimise and we'll continue to work on it," he added.
Mr Ong also said there is value in having diversity across the education system, and allowing some schools to focus on different segments of students, like the School of the Arts (Sota) and such schools as Crest Secondary and Spectra Secondary that are for Normal (Technical) students.
Responding to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), he said the Singapore Sports School already takes in students across three streams. Sota takes in mainly Express students, as it offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, he added.
"There's also a responsibility for the school in the system to recognise that IB is quite an academically rigorous programme. We want to make sure the student can keep up, and not end up (not) coping and losing confidence totally," he said.
"For the time being, so long as Sota continues to offer the IB programme, it will take in Express students. However, in time to come, when the three streams are merged, it will naturally have to relook how and what kind of students it can take in."
What is more important is that most schools "in the middle" have diversity in their schools, which is what his ministry hopes to achieve, he added.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.