Singapore - For more than an hour, 126 pupils from 55 primary schools battled it out in the zonal rounds of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2014 on Saturday morning.
The zonal rounds took place simultaneously at four different locations - Woodlands Regional Library (North zone), ITE College Central (South zone), Tampines Regional Library (East zone) and MOE HQ, Buona Vista (West zone) - where the contestants tried to out-spell each other to secure a place in the Grand Final on April 26.
Unlike the preliminary round in which about 1,400 students sat for a written test at the multi-purpose hall of ITE College Central, the pupils competing in today's zonal rounds slugged it out on stage - facing an audience and a judging panel. Each of them took turns to spell aloud the words read to them by a pronouncer.
The four zonal champions who emerged from the nail-biting battle were:
-North zone: Wong Yi Hao, 12, Rosyth school
-South zone: Thomas Ang, 11, St Joseph's Institution Junior
-East zone: Eunice Goh, 11, Tao Nan School
-West zone: Jerome Thomas Ng, 10, Henry Park Primary School
This is the third year RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times have organised the competition, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.
Ms Serene Goh, Editor of IN and Little Red Dot, The Straits Times' weekly publications for schools, who was also a judge in the East zone, said: "Every year competitors have different strategies, and each year they get more advanced and sophisticated in their approach. The most impressive aspect of the game is how well they play it: some come back year after year, more confident and ready to do battle. That's what makes it so tremendously exciting for us to watch."
Ms Norazzah Sulaiman, RHB Banking Group's Head of Group Governance and Corporate Services, said: "By virtue of being young, these competitors are still in the process of discovering for themselves their own potential and embracing their talent. They are also, by nature, curious and wanting to learn. Thus, it gives us great pleasure in providing to them an opportunity for self-discovery to build their confidence and instill a desire to never stop learning. With so much of possibilities in store for these young ones, we only share the excitement of where and how far they can go in life, and we feel privileged to be a part of their journey whether in a big or small way."
Each of the zonal champions are guaranteed a place in the final, while the rest will be nationally ranked. The top performers will meet on April 26 at ITE Headquarter's auditorium in a test of nerve -- and vocabulary.
Madam Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament, will be the Guest-of-Honour at the final.
For the first time, the spelling final will be open to the public on a pre-registration, first-come, first-served basis.
The champion speller wins $5,000 cash and the Challenge Trophy for his or her school . The first and second runners-up will walk away with $3,000 and $1,000 cash respectively. All finalists will each receive a medal.
The RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship aims to develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling in literacy development among primary school pupils, as well as promote healthy competition and sportsmanship.
This event is supported by tech company Hewlett Packard, ITE College Central and the National Library Board.