Challenges of IQ Testing and Gifted Education in Singapore

A friend asked me if I would send Baobao to IQ testing because she wanted to know if she should help her child more appropriately if she knew how gifted her child is. Parenting-wise, our stance with what we tell others is that regardless of whether a child is typical, atypical, he/she should be provided with all opportunities that the parent is able to give.

Education-wise, it’s a whole different matter altogether! In most of the parenting groups I’m in, the education system overseas tends to have public schools and private schools . In public schools, I think most if not all children are assessed and have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which helps each child with special/gifted education. Private schools offer a service plan.

Here in Singapore it’s completely different altogether with the IQ testing and education.

Two Reasons We Won’t Do IQ Testing

  1. Knowing the score is worse than not knowing the score.
    Neither my husband or myself have an official assessment. Neither do any of our siblings or parents. Yes, maybe we (or just me) will wonder what your actual score really is. But the moment you know the score, that is the moment you will realise where you fall short. Are you the 99th percentile, 98th or 97th? Which area do you lack in that makes up your shortcomings?
  2. There is no specialised education system in place to target those who fall short of being in the top 1% or for those who are twice exceptional (2e).
    Here in Singapore, all children would go through their regular growth and milestone checks and that’s where the paediatrician or doctor will flag out if your child is lagging behind. No flag if they are miles ahead. If you are flagged to be assessed and an assessment is done, it will then be determined if your child can attend a regular school or a special educational needs (SPED) school.

    Our current stance is that we won’t do the IQ testing unless it has been flagged to us or if we believe it will help her get a specialised education plan.

Education Path with IQ testing

Early Childhood

While some may choose to test as early as 3 years old, the safest age to test is around 5 – 7 years old using the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale or Weschler Intelligence Scale.

Testing at 2-4 years old

At 2 – 6 years old, your educational options are really only childcare, playgroup, kindergarten, a gifted education kindergarten (one of these just opened in Singapore), or my favourite – homeschool. A test result at this age would only provide access to a gifted education kindergarten.

At this stage, children can go to public schools or private schools.

Testing at 5-6 years old (Exceptionally Gifted to Profoundly Gifted Only)

At this age onwards, all Singaporeans can only attend public schools and not private schools so it would follow the rules of the public school requirements for giftedness.

A test result along with a letter to request for early school admission, samples of work of your child’s ability and teachers’ feedback would only allow you early admission into Primary 1 if your child is in the top 0.3%. So even if you are the top 1%, not much can be done at this point of time.

Testing at 7 years old onwards (Exceptionally Gifted to Profoundly Gifted Only)

A test result at this age if your child is already in a school will allow for the possible following opportunities only if your child is in the top 0.3%:

  • Enrichment in topical learning
  • Self-paced online learning
  • Subject acceleration
  • Level-skipping

Testing at 9 years old (Highly Gifted, Exceptionally Gifted and Profoundly Gifted)

Surprise! At 9 years old, all children in the public school cohort will undergo Gifted Education Programme (GEP) testing to locate the top 1%. If your child falls in the top 1%, they will then be sent to a GEP school to cater to their specialised needs.

From 13 years old

If your child went undetected until 13 years old, the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) would be able to identify children who are smart enough to go to the Special Stream, the Integrated Programme or the International Baccalaureate path. If I’m not wrong, cumulatively this is the top 10%.

But Wait! What About Twice Exceptional (2e) Children?

Based on our personal experience in the past with the public education system and the slow growth it has come by since then, the help for twice exceptional (2e) children are little to none. This disappoints and worries me to no end as one who has grown up in a flawed educational system.

During our time in the education system (1990s-early 2000s), it was largely a label-less society – special needs were unheard of, much less twice exceptional (2e) children. Either way you were considered weird, strange, an anomaly among the normal children.

The system currently classifies children as either on the special needs spectrum or on the gifted spectrum. For high functioning special needs children, they may attend SPED schools or try to attend a mainstream public school.

For gifted children with learning disabilities, they are mostly left to flail on their own in the public school system. Because of the lack of knowledge of these children, they tend to be identified as

  • Underachieving but smart
  • Learning disability without exceptional abilities
  • Average

The problem with this is that, due to their disabilities and 2e nature not being addressed, a 2e child will not succeed within the system and largely go through life either feeling like a failure or struggling with their limitations. Unfortunately for those who have already left the system, this is something we have to deal with as adults.

Fortunately in this day and age the knowledge and resources available to us as parents enables us to be more aware of these challenges and issues.

What Now?

I went to kindergarten at 3 years old and spent the entire year coming home angry at how easy it was, correcting the teacher all the time when she tried to be ‘creative’ and hiding at the back of the classroom refusing to participate. But I did take joy in my weekly extra curricular computer lessons at age 3. (Everything was done in MS Dos at that time in 1991.)

Based on our personal and parents’ experience rasising us, we are going with homeschool for now until we find Baobao to be emotionally ready for kindergarten.

Even for kindergarten we have yet to figure out if she should be sent to a regular or gifted kindergarten. Until then, more Baobao adventures await.

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