Just read this interesting article. Will the new PSLE system reward students of the first kind or second kind? From my experience as student and tutor, Singapore has many talented students of the first kind, but very few talented students of the second kind.
To be a student of the second kind, one needs to “acquire knowledge beyond the school curriculum”, and “read and look at more advanced material”. Check out this page on Math Olympiad books that are suitable for students of the second kind. Parents should encourage, but never force, children to read more of these kinds of books.
What are the Two Kinds of Talented Students
There are two kinds of talented students. One kind is that of “obedient students” that do exactly as ordered by their teachers, and do not attempt to acquire knowledge beyond the school curriculum; learning the material is relatively easy for them, and the pressure from the society, their parents, and their teachers, that tells them that study is the only way to acquire a solid socio-economic status is their only motivation. To that group of students also belong less talented students, that have to study much harder, but the “reward” that awaits them in the future, as well as the immediate rewards promised by the parents (“if you will not fail any subject, you would go to an overseas vacation this summer” etc.) prods them to study.
There is yet another kind of talented students, whose natural curiosity lead them, already from a young age, to read and look at more advanced material, in order to satisfy their natural curiosity.
When such a student enters high school (and in fact, already in the higher grades of elementary school) he sees that the material that he has already studied on his own presented in a different way. The learning is induced through severe disciple (all the system of examinations and grades), and the material is taught the same way as in animal training. The fascinating science of Chemistry turns into a boring list of dry formulas, that he has to learn by heart, and the threats and the incentives practiced in school badly offend him. As though out of spite, he does not listen to the commands of his teachers, but instead studies on his own material that is not included in the curriculum. Obviously, even the most talented student can not learn from just sitting in class, (and even during class he often studies other material), and so starts the “tragedy” described in your article.