Sunday, November 9, 2014

Exceptionally Gifted Children

The Ministry of Education (MOE) formally identifies the academically gifted and caters to the top 1% of the national cohort through the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), beginning at Primary 4. It also caters for the exceptionally gifted.
In meeting the needs of the exceptionally gifted, MOE is guided by the following principles. First, these children should be in our Singapore school system. Second, they should receive a well-rounded education. Cognitive development should not be achieved at the expense of the development in the moral, social, physical and aesthetic domains. Third, the recommended interventions would be made within the constraints of existing resources.

Target Group

  1. Who is an exceptionally gifted child?
    An exceptionally gifted child is one whose intellectual ability is significantly advanced. Some common characteristics of exceptionally gifted children include:
    (Note: Each statement of the characteristic is followed by an elaboration.)
    Shows exceptional ability in a single domain but not necessarily in others.
    Is able to pursue passion in a single area of interest at an early age. This is done with minimum instruction and more often than not independently.
    Has an ability to relate to a broad range of ideas and synthesise commonalities among them.
    Does not compartmentalise knowledge and searches for patterns and/or relationships between ideas.
    Has a high degree of ability to think abstractly which develops early.
    Is able to reason in abstract terms at a very young age.
    Grasps concepts and sees relationships at an extraordinary speed.
    Is able to understand an abstract concept quickly and is able to demonstrate his/her understanding by explaining it in simple language or by using various examples.
    Displays a keen sense of curiosity/Is highly inquisitive.
    Has an inquiring mind and is always seeking to acquire new knowledge or pick up a new skill.
    Will explore wide-ranging and special interests, frequently at great depth.
    Possesses an unusual capacity for memory.
    Is able to recall information and is observant even from a young age.
    Displays intense concentration when engaged in a task.
    Is able to concentrate on a single activity for a prolonged period of time, and can go on tirelessly, when his/her interest is engaged.
    Has a fascination with ideas and words.
    Is an avid reader since young.
    Uses an extensive vocabulary.
    Is able to use vocabulary that is above his/her age peers both in written and oral forms.
    Expresses himself/herself well.
    Is able to use figurative language and analogies to express feelings and ideas.
    Shows a sensitivity to the feelings of others.
    Has a high capacity for empathy and is able to understand and show sympathy for hurts that others have.
    Shows a strong sense of right and wrong.
    Shows sensitivity and reacts to things causing distress or injustice.
    Shows intolerance for vagueness/ambiguity.
    Has a need for extreme precision and would correct information or generalisations that are not precise.
    Shows a keen awareness of world issues.
    Shows an unusual interest in current affairs such as global warming and would attempt to find answers or solutions to the problem.
    Is acutely aware of his/her own ability.
    Believes that he can excel in whatever he does and is not afraid to take up new challenges.
    If the child has knowledge and ability far beyond those of other children of the same age, it may be an indication that the child is exceptionally gifted.
  2. How many exceptionally gifted children are there in each cohort?
    Among the intellectually gifted, there is a range of abilities. While the majority of gifted children are moderately gifted, there is a very small number among them who are exceptionally gifted. In a normally distributed population, there are about 3 such exceptionally gifted among 100,000 children.
  3. How can I tell if my child is exceptionally gifted? What can I do if he/she demonstrates the ability of an exceptionally gifted child?
    If your child has most of the characteristics listed in Question 1 and has knowledge and ability far beyond those of other children of the same age, it may be an indication that your child is exceptionally gifted. You may wish to send your child to a registered psychologist for assessment.
    Your child will be required to sit an individually administered standardised test of intelligence.
    The tests used should be recognised instruments for assessing giftedness. We recommend only the Stanford-Binet (SB-5) or Wechsler Intelligence Test (WISC IV) be used for this purpose. The assessment should be conducted by a suitably qualified professional who is familiar and experienced in the use of such tests in the context of Singapore. To ensure that a suitable psychologist is engaged, please refer to the list and guidelines provided at the Singapore Psychological Society.


  1. What are the interventions recommended for an exceptionally gifted child?
    The interventions come in many forms. These include:
    • Enrichment
      The student learns topics which are taught in greater depth and breadth.
    • Self-paced instruction
      The student is presented with materials that allow him/her to proceed at a self-selected pace.
    • Online courses
      The student takes higher level courses online.
    • Mentorship
      The student is matched with a mentor who provides advanced training and experiences in a specific content area.
    • Subject acceleration
      The student is placed at a higher grade level in the specific subject while remaining with his/her age cohort for other subjects.
    • Dual enrolment
      The student is formally registered to study a course in a second school/institution.
    • Early school admission
      The student could begin Primary 1 earlier. This provision is available to a child who is at least 5 years old.
    • Level skipping
      The student is moved ahead of his/her age grade. This may be done during the academic year or at the end of the year. The student can be promoted to a maximum of 4 levels.
    In each cohort only a very small number would qualify for early school admission and level skipping.
  2. Since the GEP only starts at Primary 4, what interventions are available for younger children identified to be exceptionally gifted?
    The interventions available are:
    1. For a child who is not of school-going age (i.e. not yet required to attend Primary 1)
      Parents can apply directly to the Gifted Education (GE) Branch, MOE for Early School Admission to Primary 1. This provision is available to a child who is at least 5 years old and intends to attend a MOE school. Note: Only psychological assessments that have been conducted after the child is 5 years of age will be accepted. We suggest that you have your child assessed only after the child’s fifth birthday.
    2. For a child who is already in primary school
      Parents should apply for provisions through the child’s school. The school will then write in to GE Branch with the necessary supporting documents. GE Branch will assess the child to determine if special provisions should be offered on an individualised basis.
    3. For a child who is of school-going age but not in a MOE primary school
      Parents must first enrol the child in a MOE primary school, and then follow the process in (b) above.


  1. What evidence/documents does GE Branch require for a child to be considered for special provisions for the exceptionally gifted?
    GE Branch determines if a child is exceptionally gifted by looking at 4 sets of information. These include a psychological report, achievement and aptitude/ above-level test scores, samples of the child’s work, and teachers’ recommendations.
  2. What documents should the parent/school submit to GE Branch when requesting initial assessment?
    The following documents need to be submitted for initial assessment:
    • A letter of request for special provisions from parent or guardian, if the request is initiated by the parent/guardian. If the request is initiated by the school, the parent’s consent is required.
    • The child’s academic records since admission to the school.
    • Feedback from the relevant subject teachers (both current and previous). The feedback should include an assessment of the child’s ability as well as the child’s social emotional behaviour and interactions with his/her schoolmates and teachers.
    • Psychological report as described in Question 3.
    All documents must be submitted for an application to be processed.
  3. How long does it take to process the documents submitted?
    The processing of documents usually takes between 2 and 3 months. If additional assessment(s) or documents are required, GE Branch will inform the parents.
  4. Which school should my child attend if my application for early school admission is successful?
    Parents can send their child to a school of their choice. Admission to a school is subject to vacancies at the school.
  5. How will GE Branch support the exceptionally gifted child?
    Once a child is identified as exceptionally gifted, a team comprising teacher(s), school leader(s), parents and officers in GE Branch is formed. The team draws up a Personalised Education Plan (PEP) for the child. Each PEP will take into account the child’s readiness for faster academic progression, as well as his/her social emotional development. The PEP is reviewed at the end of every semester.
  6. How will GE Branch support a child who is found to be not in the exceptionally gifted range?
    GE Branch will advise the parents and the school on educational options that they may wish to explore with the child.
  7. What is the role of the school once a student receives an PEP?
    For a student identified as exceptionally gifted, the school will implement the Personalised Education Plan (PEP) and subsequently monitor the student’s progress.
    For subject acceleration, dual enrolment and level skipping, the school will provide GE Branch with a report at the end of each semester.


  1. What if the recommended intervention(s) is/are not a good match?
    Although the vast majority of individuals who are receiving interventions find them beneficial, these interventions may not be a “good match” for every family. In these rare cases, GE Branch, together with the other stakeholders, retains the right to modify or terminate the intervention. Parents may also choose to terminate intervention(s) at any time.
  2. When an exceptionally gifted child who has been receiving special provisions joins a secondary school, what information will GE Branch give to the secondary school?
    The secondary school will receive a letter from GE Branch indicating the type of intervention(s) the student has been receiving. If the secondary school requires additional information, it can contact GE Branch directly.
  3. What happens to an exceptionally gifted student when he/she goes to secondary school?
    The student will continue to be monitored and interventions, if any, will be recommended.

Secondary school and beyond

  1. What are the interventions recommended for an exceptionally gifted student at the secondary level?
    The secondary school can offer all the types of intervention mentioned in Question 4 except level skipping and dual enrolment with a tertiary institution. For these 2 provisions, approval from GE Branch will need to be sought.
  2. How can the secondary school determine if the student would benefit from intervention?
    The school can conduct an assessment of the student in the specific subject. Assessment should include teacher recommendation; achievement testing (record of all the scores on achievement tests); aptitude/above-level testing; and portfolio of student’s work including awards (e.g. Olympiads).
  3. What documents are required to support the application for level skipping?
    All the documents mentioned in Question 7.
  4. Will tertiary institutions accept a secondary or post-secondary/JC student for dual enrolment?
    Both NUS and NTU have agreed to consider all recommendations made by GE Branch and make provisions for the student on a case-by-case basis.
  5. What documents should the secondary school submit to GE Branch when requesting dual enrolment with a tertiary institution?
    All documents mentioned in Question 7, except the psychological report.
  6. Can the students take the ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels before their age peers?
    Students are discouraged from taking these exams earlier if the sole purpose is to reduce the number of subjects they would have to do at a later date.
  7. In the case of male students how will level skipping affect National Service enlistment?
    MINDEF will consider requests for deferment on a case-by-case basis.
  8. Where should I send the information?
    Contact details in GE Branch
    Mailing Address:
    Gifted Education Branch
    1, North Buona Vista Drive
    Office Tower, Level 13
    Singapore 138675
    Fax: 6835 4465

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