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 yesterday.
Rosyth, Nanyang and Nan Hua have introduced form classes that have a mix of pupils this year from both GEP and non-GEP classes, he noted in his response to Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), who had asked how the Education Ministry ensured students interacted with their peers in other streams. These mixed classes were introduced in 2007 for Nan Hua, 2011 for Nanyang, and 2018 for Rosyth.
"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 yesterday 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, pupils spend a specified amount of time in their mixed form classes, but attend GEP classes for academic subjects such as Science and English.
"So, changes are already happening. We note your point, it is exactly the same balance that we are trying to optimise, and we will continue to work on it," he added.
Mr Ong also said there was value in having diversity in the education system, with schools that focus on different abilities, like the School of the Arts (Sota) and schools such as Crest Secondary and Spectra Secondary, which specialise in preparing students at the Normal (Technical) level.
Responding to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), he said the Singapore Sports School already takes in students from all academic levels.
Sota, on the other hand, accepts mainly students from the Ex-press stream because it offers the relatively more rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, he said.
"We want to make sure the student can keep up, and not end up not coping and losing confidence totally," he said. Mr Ong noted that Sota may have to relook its admission policies when the three streams are merged.
What is most 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.