Magazine article School Arts

Will the Gifted Blossom?

Magazine article School Arts

Will the Gifted Blossom?

Article excerpt

Will the gifted blossom?

ON A SATURDAY MORNING IN September, some four hundred twelve-year-olds will eagerly attend one of four centres spread across the breadth of Singapore. They arrive early, prepared for the day's activities with pencils, pastels, erasers, watercolours, a selection of brushes and small, sealed containers of water in which to wash their brushes. The more enterprising will bring along such additional paraphernalia as hand-held fans for expediting the drying process of their artistic endeavors. Each will be vying for one of only eighty places in the highly regarded Singapore Art Elective Programme.

While the youngsters undertake the two hour selection test inside the classrooms, anxious parents wait outside. Occasionally, a parent will press his/her nose against a windowpane, hoping to get a glimpse of how the child is faring inside. The expectations of both parents and children are high and the competition fierce.

The Art Elective Programme was conceived in the early 1980's. Following an overseas fact-finding mission, consultation with the Cambridge Exam Board, England, and the appointment of a test consultant, the aims, objectives and curriculum for the programme were formulated by the Republic of Singapore Ministry of Education.

The programme began in two secondary schools. Nanyang Girls High and Chinese High, employing two full-time teachers and a project officer. Fifty students were enrolled. Now in its fifth year of operation, the programme is fully established and has been expanded to incorporate three additional school sites. The programme now has an enrollment of about 450 students. The eleven full-time art teachers the programme now employs, represent art education training or teaching in Australia, Britain, Canada, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States, providing a rich mix of international experience.

Competition and selection

Unlike many education systems, high school students in Singapore do not usually attend their regional high schools. This is because entry into a high school is selective, being based on the Primary School Leaving Examination taken at the end of primary school. Entry into the more prestigious schools is highly competitive. On any school day in Singapore, as early as six in the morning, students neatly attired in their respective school uniforms can be seen commuting from one part of the island to another. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find students who commute over one hour every day from across the causeway in neighboring Malaysia to attend one of the more prestigious schools.

To qualify for the Art Elective Programme, students must not only perform well in the Art Selection Test, but also meet the entry requirements of one of the five schools where the programme is offered. Consequently, students enrolled in the Art Elective Programme tend to be both artistically and academically gifted.

"My primary school teacher first told me about the A.E.P....woodcarving, watercolours, posters and sculpture were things I had never tried. Having loved artwork since I was very young, the activities sounded very attractive to me, so I became very interested," recalls He Shaojuan, a student of the programme.

Since the programme's inception, the selection procedure has been substantially modified. Originally, an on-the-spot drawing and painting test was combined with the Torrance Creativity Test to provide candidates with a composite score. However, it was felt a better selection procedure could be devised. In 1986, Dr. Gilbert Clark from Indiana University was appointed Test Consultant. The recommendations he made have been adopted with minor modifications to suit local conditions. The art selection test to be held this year consists of an observational drawing test, a drawing test employing the Clark-Gareri drawing instrument and a self-evaluation questionnaire.

The curriculum

Students entering the Art Elective Programme undertake study in four broad areas: Drawing and Painting, Design, Project Work and A Study of Art: Historical and Critical. …

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