Sunday, 13 January 2013

Skip grades for gifted kids?

I was reading a post by a mother who was appealing to MOE (Ministry Of Education) to allow her child to enter Primary school at 5 years old. Her objective is to get MOE to match her child's (and gifted kids) academic ability rather than age-appropriateness. Someone else wrote back and suggest that this may not be a good idea because while (gifted) kids may be academically ready, they may not be socially & emotionally ready to lean and mingle with older kids.
I have to agree and disagree with both sides. I'll give two examples to support my reason.
First, sonshine. While i hesitate to say he is gifted, i do think he was ready- academically to enter Primary one at 5 years old. However, i will not, even resist, to send him to Primary school this early. Simply because i think he was/is not socially and emotionally mature enough. For sonshine, he prefers to be in an environment where learning is easy, the easier the better. It does not matter if the things taught in class are like ABCs to him, as long as it is easy, he loves it. Most parents would worry that their child will get bored or stifled, but i am not. My son thrives (socially and emotionally) in a relax, slow pace environment and he feels happy though his learning ability is faster. I much prefer to level his social & emotional needs rather than according to his academic ability.
On the other hand, i have a smarty niece who just returned from overseas (my sister's family was relocated). In her school abroad, they gave her a one-time interview and deemed that she was ready to join a class one year up her age. Unfortunately, when she returned to Singapore, the school assigned her to a class according to her age. She has been complaining daily about boredom and how she has to help everyone else in her class in their work. It looks like she is going to resent school soon since she seems to be unhappy being stifled academically. For her, it seems necessary & even urgent to get her join a class that levels up to her learning ability. I look at her and have no doubt she is ready to skip a grade, academically, emotionally and socially. Yet, we all know that it is tedious and extremely difficult to get MOE to nod it's head to allow her to skip a grade. So it looks like she is going to be unhappy at school for some time.
So what exactly is my stand? I think allowing a child to jump grades cannot entirely be based on academics alone. There are other aspects like social, emotional, maturity, child's personality to consider and to be given equal weight to his/her learning capability. We want the child to be happy in all aspects. A child who is academically ready does not automatically means he is socially & emotionally ready. I guess that is why MOE states that the child has to be exceptionally gifted in order to skip grade? At the same time, we shouldn't hesistate to allow a child who is ready in all aspect to join a class according to his/her own ability. By insisting to place such a child according to age, it's deterimental to the child's love for learning. I know of a few parents with exceptionally gifted kids who are frustrated with MOE's inflexibilty that they chose to relocate elsewhere. I can totally understand. As i said, MOE should reconsider their stand because we want the kids to be happy in ALL aspects not just academically, not just socially, not just emotionally.

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