Give young SEA Games athletes academic support

Give young SEA Games athletes academic support

I am heartened by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's (MCCY) call for athletes to train full time for six months to prepare for the 2015 SEA Games ("SEA Games hopefuls to get help going full-time"; March 1).

This is a great initiative for athletes who are working, or who are studying in tertiary institutions where learning is done in modules. Athletes in such institutions can take a semester off or postpone their modules with the schools' approval.

The monetary allowance for these athletes during this time would also help a lot.

But it would be trickier for athletes still in secondary school and junior college to take half a year off for training, since major examinations take place at the end of the school year in December.

These athletes would inadvertently need to take the entire year off, since it is not possible for them to catch up with the rest of their cohort when they rejoin classes after the Games, in July. They would have missed half a year's worth of teaching.

Given that such young athletes do not make up a big proportion of our national teams, I suggest that the MCCY work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to support them academically during the six months.

For example, MOE can deploy teachers to coach students who are not prepared to give up a year of school. It will help the athletes' families as well, since private tutors can be very expensive.

These sessions can be conducted at the Sports Hub or in a central location, to cater to athletes from different schools. It can be a mix of e-learning, a collaboration among teachers from the athletes' schools, and tuition-type coaching.

Academic support for these younger athletes would mean much more than monetary compensation.

It would be great to see them soar at the Games without having to struggle with the decision of giving up a year of school.

Benjamin Goh

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