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 +

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Seeking a Chemistry Lab in Singapore

Long-term readers of my blog, or followers of Ainan's story, will know that Ainan has had a course in practical Chemistry at Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College. Careful readers will even know that it was for six sessions. That is good - and was helpful. However, what is not is that we have not had any practical experience for him since - and that was in May. We are still, therefore, looking for a Chemistry lab.

We have asked the educational services but they are not keen to provide for him: no lab has been made available. We have explained the reason for his need: that Chemistry is a practical science and Ainan is a practical boy who needs real experience to flesh out his learning - but they are not listening to us. He also needs it to prepare for his A level in Chemistry. Without it, passing would be very difficult indeed, given the marks apportioned to practical skills.

So, we are, after about a year and a half since we first alerted the Singaporean education system to Ainan's nature and needs, still waiting for an effective response that meets his needs. They have made it clear that, if Ainan is to be provided for, that we will have to do it ourselves.

I puzzle at this. Ainan is but one child in a whole nation who needs access to a lab at the age of seven. Surely one child is not too much of a burden on an educational system. Yet, it seems that it is. What we have been offered is way below his needs.

No doubt, many parents of gifted children face similar situations, with local education systems not making any exceptions to the robotic way in which they proceed. No doubt, my blog has many similarly frustrated readers. Yet, should it be this way? The truly gifted are few. It does not seem to me that, numerically, they would create too much strain on an educational system to meet their needs and provide for them, adequately. Yet, it seems that even one child is too many, to adequately provide for.

Our solution, therefore, is to go it alone - and so we have applied for homeschooling. We are still waiting. (It is seven months now since I first applied). At home, his needs will be much better met - but we still need that magical Chemistry lab.

Any suggestions, anyone?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and nine months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and two months, and Tiarnan, nineteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:04 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you can ask a school such as Raffles Insitutiton who are willing to attach Ainan to a student and let him use the lab a few times a week? Maybe the schools and government concerns lie within his age and lack of somebody to guide him, so perhaps with a student partner this can be resolved.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

That is an idea of merit: perhaps that suggestion might alter the response somewhat - and is worth a try.

Thank you for the suggestion.

Kind regards

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest trying to contact a Chemist or Biochemist in the private sector. Singapore is well-known as a hub of biotech industries. I am sure you can find someone that would be interested in Ainan himself as well as helping to further his education. Working and experimenting in an industrial lab setting is much more enlightening than anything that may be found in a high school or junior college. Just a suggestion. Best of Luck!

2:04 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

That is a good thought. Singapore, however, is known for its biotech, not its Chemistry. I don't believe that there is much Chemistry research happening here.

It is, though, an approach that might yield a positive answer. Thanks for the suggestion.

It is time for the Yellow Pages, I think.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were the professors who worked with him during his six visits unwilling to continue to do so? It has been our experience that once the child gets contact with faculty members, scientists, etc. the exceptional ability is apparent and offers come for internships or lab time.

I would suggest the best approach if often go through the back door. Asking the government for helps means you are trying to navigate through the bureaucracy and bureaucracies aren't well designed to help individuals who don't neatly fit. I would directly contact the professors he already worked with or other members of the chemistry department and see what can be worked out. Also, is there a possibility of formally enrolling him for a single course?

4:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Under the Singaporean system no individidual teacher has any real autonomy - and no individual school, either: it is all under the control of the Ministry of Education. Decisions are made at the Ministry.

Raffles College were interested in helping Ainan. However, after being spoken to by our case officer at the Gifted Education branch, they are suddenly all very busy.

Ainan got on very well with one of the teachers that taught him at Raffles - Mr. Ong and would have benefitted from continuing - but two things are unfortunate: firstly Mr. Ong doesn't teach up to his level and secondly - there appears to be interference in the matter from outside influences.

Singapore is not like the US. Getting something done here in a system that is so closely controlled is often not so simple.

In another country, I think matters would be much more straightforward. They are not here, unfortunately.

We are, however, trying our best.

Thanks for your suggestions.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Bee Yong said...

It is tough to beat the "system" here.

You may want to consider writing to the Forum Page (The Straits Times). Hopefully someone who can help Ainan will come forward.

All the best to Ainan!

6:29 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. The famous "System"...what can one say but to observe that there are countries that enable prodigies to flourish: Korea, for instance, or China. Then there are other countries who simply don't know how to respond except with rote patterns of behaviour (for a circumstance which has no rote pattern).

We will consider your suggested avenue. Thanks.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds incredibly frustrating. Is it so controlled that a scientist can't go to his office or lab on the weekend without permission? It seems like there would be opportunities for people to work with him.

Have you given serious thought to moving?

11:47 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am unfamiliar with the rules regarding the weekend access of scientists to their premises. I wouldn't be surprised if it was more limited than you might expect - but I don't know.

That is another avenue of investigation.

We are considering all our options.

8:10 AM  

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