Book parades, debates and talks at festival

An annual literary festival for secondary school students secured its largest sum of funding this year, but fewer schools participated in it.

Held on Saturday at the National Institute of Education (NIE), the National Schools Literature Festival received $12,750 from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth under the SG50 Celebration Fund.

With it, the organisers were able to hold the event at NIE and invite local arts practitioners, such as playwright Jean Tay and writers Joshua Ip and Verena Tay, to speak.

Teacher volunteers ran the festival, which aims to cultivate a love for literature in students, as enrolment in the subject is declining.

Previously, a school would host the festival and teachers would source for sponsors.

This year, 64 schools participated in the festival, in its 11th run. The figure was 76 last year and 82 in 2013.

The Straits Times understands that some schools, which participated in this April's Singapore Youth Festival or had organised their own SG50 celebrations, did not take part in this year's literature festival.

But organisers say the number of participating students has remained stable at about 1,500 in each of the past three years, which suggests that some schools sent more students this year.

On Saturday, students took part in debates on various texts and "Book parades", where some of them dressed up as characters from the text they were using in school.

They also attended five panel discussions on literature, Singapore literature, poetry, playwriting and creative writing, as well as film and photography.

As the theme for this year's event is A Sense of Singaporean Belonging, local literary works were given more emphasis.

Senior education officer Sharon Quek, who chaired the organising committee, said: "A part of what makes us Singaporean is our local writing, which gives us our unique Singaporean identity. I am very encouraged and grateful for this opportunity to focus on Singapore literature at the festival."

The festival gave students a platform to "celebrate their own sense of Singaporeaness through literature", and reflect on what it means to be a part of Singapore, she added.

Dunman High School student Sarah Lim said she enjoyed the panel discussion with playwright Jean Tay and NIE English language and literature teaching fellow Ken Mizusawa.

Sarah, 15, who is studying Tay's play, Everything But The Brain, said: "Jean Tay talked about how theatre is an experience, and explained how she uses different sets to convey different messages. That was very interesting."

She also enjoyed interacting with students from other schools. She said: "We don't get such opportunities in literature class in school."


This article was first published on Aug 24, 2015.
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