The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, March 02, 2007

NUS High School, Singapore: what is it?

NUS High School, Singapore is rather different from what I had understood. It is not just a High School, but a closet University, too.

Let me explain. NUS High School for Maths and Science (to give it, its proper title) was established by the National University of Singapore (NUS), to foster excellence in maths and science and to cater for the best students in the country, in these areas. It provides a wide, modular curriculum covering Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Art, History, Geography, Music, Astronomy, Robotics, Languages and other subjects, too. The student is required to pick and choose within credit requirements in each area. As I understand it, this is probably why it is called a "High School" - for modular credit based systems are an American standard, as I understand it (correct me if I am wrong). As students progress through what is normally a six year course, the preponderance of maths and science grows, and that of humanities diminishes. In this, it is unlike a traditional American High School, in that the outcome is predetermined, to a degree: the assumption is a specialization in science, and this is built into the structure of the place.

Yet, there are differences between this school and a traditional American High School. NUS High School acts as a junior department of the National University of Singapore, itself. It does this through a facility that I was unaware of until the interview, today (which I should discuss in a different post). NUS High School allows its pupils to take modules from the National University of Singapore, itself. These modules can be used in two ways: one, is as credit towards the NUS High School Diploma; the other is as credit guessed it...a B.Sc (Bachelor of Science) Degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

This option of taking modules from the University is not restricted in scope, at all. In fact, ANY module at the National University of Singapore, may be taken while a person is a student at NUS High School. This means that a student of NUS High can build up credits towards a Degree at the National University of Singapore, as much as they like. Indeed, there is only one thing that I was informed of that prevents dual graduation (that is simultaneous graduation from the High School and the University): there is presently a blanket one year minimum residential requirement, for all students, at the National University of Singapore. That could be a stumbling block: how would Ainan cope with living in University residences, as a child, among adults? There could be all sorts of problems there. I can only hope for an exception on that one, I think.

So, there is a seamless transition between NUS High School and the National University of Singapore: they are, in essence, part of the same greater organization. This is news to me. I had not known that they were one in anything other than name.

Thus, on taking up a place at NUS High, Ainan, seven, would, in due course, be able to take University courses, in a modular fashion, towards his first degree. This gives me hope that arrangements can be made for him to study new material at his level, which would further his interest and understanding.

Perhaps everything will work out.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, and his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: I also write of child prodigy, gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:44 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"this is probably why it is called a "High School" - for modular credit based systems are an American standard, as I understand it (correct me if I am wrong)."

We do have a modular credit based system if by that you mean all classes are "modules" that count as a certain number of credits towards a graduation requirement of a number of credits. Usually there are a number of specific classes that need to be taken for each degree, (or in high school, requirements for a number of classes in each subject type) and they need to be taken, more or less, in a certain order. By "a certain order" I mean most of the classes are ranked along a number system, where the lower numbered class is a prerequisite for the higher class. You do get to choose some of the classes though, because usually the credit requirement is higher than the number of required classes. These classes (that you get to choose) are called electives.

If it is like our high schools and colleges, he will either have to start with the most basic of classes, in order to get the prerequisites for the higher classes, or he will have to test out of the classes that he is capable of testing out of. Here, the way you test out of a class is to take the final exam (or to do the final project) before the class begins.

Maybe they have already chosen a placement along the prerequisite ladders for each subject?

Now I wonder how the schools in Britain work?

- Kathy

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds like a wonderful opportunity and a place where Ainan can have a customized education. When will he start?

2:48 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think it works in a similar way to what you describe Kathy...with a numbered series of options.

His positioning is under review and will be decided in a week or so.

As for Britain: I will write a post!


7:34 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

One difference I can see: there seems to be more choice in the Singapore school than in the one you describe.

We will see.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ainan's starting time is presently under consideration. It is complicated by the fact that they are 60 per cent of the way through a semester right now. I will post on it.


7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More choice? What sorts of options?

- Kathy

9:30 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I get the impression that only basic foundational courses in each area are required: then on top of that you get to choose from a wide range of areas, topics, specializations what you want to do.

Best wishes

10:54 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

As for testing out of classes...I am not sure if that is allowed in the way described. The Principal did say that "even if a kid has their A level they don't get exemption..."

That sounds like they don't make "testing out" possible. We will see when I learn more. It is up to them to see what they allow him to miss. As far as I can see, he might have to repeat stuff he already knows. I hope there is not too much of that.

Best wishes

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"on top of that you get to choose from a wide range of areas, topics, specializations what you want to do."

Ooh, that sounds cool.

"he might have to repeat stuff he already knows."

Oh no... :( Thats no good...

- Kathy

9:29 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

We will try to work out a way of getting him on the right courses. Perhaps, as they get to know him better, they might make way for him to progress as he should. We will see.

I can only hope.

10:40 PM  

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