Pupils gear up to outspell and outlast their way to the top

Pupils gear up to outspell and outlast their way to the top

SINGAPORE - The favourite mind-sport of Singapore schools, the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, is back for the fourth consecutive year.

To officially launch the competition, pupils from two schools met in a friendly Singapore heritage-themed spell-off today (Friday, 6 February), at the Sports Hub Library. The pupils from Yishun Primary School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School (Primary) and invited guests also got a chance to take a look at what goes on behind the scenes at the Singapore Sports Hub, which hosts major sporting meets and concerts, to widen their horizons and extend learning beyond the classroom.

Registration for the nation-wide search for Singapore's top pupil speller opened last week, while teachers from schools across Singapore learnt more about the competition and strategies for helping spellers in the classroom in a special briefing for teachers on 3 February.

More than 1,400 pupils are expected to sign up for this year's preliminary round, which takes place on 7 March.

The best performers of each zone from this written round will qualify for the zonal rounds on 28 March. From there, the top-ranked spellers of Singapore will compete for the title of Singapore's champion speller in a thrilling final on 25 April.

Rich rewards are in store for those who make it to the top. The champion speller will take home $5,000 cash and win for his or her school the Challenge Trophy. The first- and second runners-up will win $3,000 and $1,000 in cash respectively.

The contest aims to develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling in literacy development among primary school pupils and is organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MOE).

The supporters are Institute of Technical Education and National Library Board. The venue partners are the Sports Hub Library and Suntec Singapore.

Ms Serene Goh, editor of The Straits Times Schools programme, said that pupils were rising to the challenge of the competition. "Each year, they get faster, better, stronger, and are ultimately up against themselves and their limits."

"They truly embody the values of perseverance and determination, and are the kind of young Singaporeans that we at The Straits Times want to help mentor for the future."

Ms Norazzah Sulaiman, Group Chief Governance Officer of RHB Banking Group, said the increasing participation numbers over the past three years were very encouraging.

"For 2015 we are confident that this trend will continue. We hope to see many more new faces participating in this year's competition in addition to our returning and loyal participants," she said.

"The underlying goal behind the RHB-Straits Times National Spelling Championship is to continuously elevate the standards of English amongst schoolchildren in Singapore, she added. "To read and write well is a fundamental requirement for our children as they go through their school years. No less significant is speaking well. The Championship is a platform that builds on these skills and hones confidence and self assurance.

"The RHB Group is confident that with the groundswell of interest that the NSC generates, the participants as well as their peers will continue to be positively impacted and make reading as well as improving their language and vocabulary a part of their daily routine."

To generate interest in the spelling competition and to prime students for the quest, Little Red Dot, The Straits Times' weekly school magazine for primary school pupils, will run a series of features themed on the stories behind words from now to May.

SPH RazorTV will showcase videos of spelling tips to engage young learners and their parents, as well as recap all the action from each step of the pupils' spelling journey, on the competition's official webpage, www.straitstimes.com/bigspell.

Watch out too for on-air spelling capsules and games on Kiss92, as well as school outreach visits by its deejays.

All Primary 4 to 6 pupils of a full school under the Ministry of Education or the equivalent are eligible to register. They must be nominated by their schools. For registration enquiries, write to bigspell2015@punch.com.sg

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