In a bid to continue cultivating an environment that allows for sporting excellence without diminishing the importance of academics, the Singapore Sports School (SSP) will introduce new measures from next year while looking to enhance what it has already done well so far.
They include tweaking its admission process, introducing modules that are more closely related to sports to the curriculum, and adding academic options that can run longer - if student-athletes choose to take them up.
The extended International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, in particular, is expected to give the SSP's academic programme added appeal. It will allow students - nine are registered - to complete the programme in up to four years, instead of the original two.
The Woodlands school is just one of 12 institutions around the world that offer this option, and the only one in Singapore.
A special sports class will also be started in partnership with Institute of Technical Education College Central, allowing those who choose a more vocational track to also benefit from an academic programme built around sporting demands.
In order to equip student-athletes with relevant knowledge and skills for their long-term development, lessons in areas like sports science, mental preparation and injury prevention will also find their way into classrooms.
For those who base their training out of the Singapore Sports Hub in Kallang, a satellite centre will be started there.
Badminton players have already tried out distance learning with lectures beamed live.
Said SSP principal Tan Teck Hock: "We've always taken a holistic perspective and an integrated environment for students is key."
Perhaps the greatest difference in the make-up of the SSP population will come from the fact that it will now accept budding athletes from all sports.
It will make allowances for more to join its ranks midstream.
Tan expects more, in particular, to take advantage of the SSP's post-secondary programmes. The SSP, which currently admits about 90 per cent of its students at the Secondary 1 level, will gradually reduce its intake at that age over time.
"We do know that admitting students early basically means that there is always a risk that the person may not develop, even if you determine potential at Sec 1," said Tan, who noted that athletes in sports like track and field mature later.
"Not just because of the physical spurt of growth, but that's when they make the commitment. While in the past we've taken most of our students in at Sec 1, this isn't something we can tighten immediately."
The initiatives, including the SSP's deep involvement in pioneering the National Youth Sports Institute, requires the SSP to share more with the wider student-athlete population while doing more for its own too.
But Tan expects great benefits. He said: "It enhances our game, because when you're prepared to share, you do better. It's going to be a win-win for everyone."
This article was first published on November 17, 2015.
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