YOUNG talent will no longer be under pressure to specialise in a particular sport at primary school level.
Instead, the Ministry of Education's Junior Sports Academy (JSA) programme is being revised to offer pupils exposure to more sporting disciplines. Rather than undergo training for only one out of nine pre-selected sports, they will be able to pick up four different sports during the four-semester period of the scheme.
Each JSA candidate will choose a sport from each of four categories: badminton, table tennis, volleyball (net barrier/wall); basketball, floorball, football (territorial invasion); shooting, fencing, tenpin bowling (striking and fielding/target); and gymnastics, track and field and wushu (general sports).
The two-year programme, which was first set up in 2008, will begin its revised format next month. There are also plans to increase the total number of sports from 12 to 28.
The new JSA cohort will begin training in the second semester of Primary 4, six months earlier compared to previous batches.
Said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat during yesterday's announcement at Changkat Primary School: "We are exposing our students to a variety of sporting activities in the primary schools. In that way, they develop a range of general physical abilities... Then when they get into the secondary schools, they can select the sports that they are interested in.
"In that way, we can better uncover talent and develop our students more fully. So, regardless of their family backgrounds or starting points, we will be able to pick up those with sporting talents, while at the same time exposing all students to a variety of sporting activities."
The previous model encouraged specialising at a young age. Mr Heng noted that the revamped scheme allows budding sporting talent to "develop all-round skills and competencies that will allow them to develop their talents more fully".
Open to any Primary 4 pupil nominated by his teachers or parents, selection trials - used to evaluate general motor skills - will be held over two Saturdays, April 25 and May 2, at the Singapore Sports School. Selected pupils can then choose their four sports and be assigned the cluster of JSA centres - selected schools across Singapore - nearest to them. The programme will then begin in July.
Each sports module will be conducted once a week over a semester at 10 JSA centres, with sports-related workshops at the end of the module.
About 400 pupils - or around 1 per cent of each Primary 4 cohort - currently participate in the programme each year.
An additional window for selection will be conducted in Primary 5 for more pupils to enrol.
National Under-18 footballer Karthik Raj, who tried out gymnastics, fencing and dance while under the JSA (multi-sport) scheme from 2008 to 2009, supported the move. Said the 17-year-old ITE College (West) student: "We were taught to do flips during gym classes, and learning how to land correctly and maintain my balance... helps me now on the field when I'm trying to dribble past other players."
This article was first published on March 31, 2015.
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