I find the recent fuss over a Chinese PRC (People's Republic of China) student who took up a bond-free scholarship (that is one with no obligation to work for a set number of years in Singapore), but then fled, without notice, to a destination unknown (though suspected to be a US university), of great interest. You see, I find the contrast of the Singaporean educational authorities' response to PRC students marked indeed to what we experienced when we were working with the Gifted Education Programme.
I have written before of the differential treatment given to foreigners (particularly PRC students) and locals, but it bears writing of again, given the topicality of the issue - and the fact that I have personal experience to bring to the matter.
When we were seeking help, for Ainan, from the Gifted Education Programme, we were repeatedly told, in regards to our need for a Chemistry lab for him, that there were "No resources". The Gifted Branch Officer, Yogini, even said: "Why don't you find a private school and pay for it yourself?" Well, we checked out private schools. One, for instance, quoted a price of 600 dollars a lesson. That is a huge amount of money. Clearly, given the mercenary attitude of private schools in Singapore, it simply wasn't an option to hire a lab for ourselves. We found the GEP's response puzzling. Ainan had shown himself to be unusually gifted (he is, after all, the youngest child ever to pass an O level) - yet the GEP couldn't find the resources to help him. This seems strange given the hundreds of school laboratories across the face of Singapore: surely one had a teacher with the time and inclination to help? We were told that this was "too resource intensive" and that the GEP refused to arrange it.
Thus, we wasted a year and a half looking for a school or college for Ainan that would help. We found one, ourselves, in the Singapore Polytechnic (to whom we are most grateful). The GEP did not help, however, in any real way.
Now, contrast this experience of a gifted Singaporean child, with the experience of an imported PRC student on a government scholarship. Their education is free. They are given accommodation and a monthly stipend to meet their expenses. They have access to the best schools and facilities - and, in the case above, they are under no obligation to Singapore. There is no talk, for PRC students of "no resources".
Apparently, a gifted, even prodigious, Singaporean child is of less value to Singapore, than an imported PRC. A gifted, even prodigious, Singaporean child is of less concern to the system - it is OK not to support them, to let them be unstimulated, to deny them access to the resources they need to grow - because, heh, after all, they are not the all important PRCs of China.
We have heard of other gifted children in Singapore not getting the resources they need, or finding the response of the GEP frustrating. I doubt that PRC students have to experience the same thing.
So, my point is that if resources are available, in plenty, to lure foreign students - particularly PRCs - to Singapore, the resources should be available, in plenty, to ensure that no gifted Singaporean child (or indeed any Singaporean child of any level of intellect), goes without the resources they need to best optimize their talents.
A system which does not recognize the importance of native born Singaporeans (as my son is) and preferentially supports PRC imports, is one that has lost sight of who is more likely to make a contribution to Singapore. You see, as the flight of the PRC in question shows, the loyalty of an imported "talent" is always going to be less than that of a homegrown Singaporean (assuming, of course, that Singaporeans are well looked after and not treated poorly by the system, since that will lead to a decline of loyalty and national affection).
I understand why resources are made available for PRCs and the like: it is to seduce them into staying in Singapore, it is to increase our pool of talent. That is all very well and probably has a certain wisdom to it - but - and this is a big but - it should not be a discriminatory practice: Singaporeans, particularly ones of gift, should have just as much access to special resources as the imports. Otherwise, something strange will happen: just as the PRCs arrive, the Singaporeans will leave. Is that a desirable outcome?
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.
We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/
Labels: exodus of talent, GEP, Gifted Education Programme, no resources for the gifted in Singapore, People's Republic of China, PRC, preferential treatment, Singaporean Education, Yogini