Champs in sports - and studies too

Athletes from the Singapore Sports School (SSP) are not only winning medals, but also scoring in their studies. More than half of its first batch of International Baccalaureate (IB) graduates - 13 out of 19 - attained at least 40 points out of 45.

Its cohort achieved a 100 per cent pass rate in last November's exam, above the national pass rate of 98. SSP principal Tan Teck Hock is pleased with its pioneer IB batch results, given that they had to juggle daily training and a rigorous academic programme.

"We had to think of ways to make sure that this programme is athlete-friendly because you don't want to start a programme that takes away training time," he said.

Twenty institutions in Singapore offer the IB, a two-year diploma programme for 17- to 18-year-olds that requires them to take a wider range of subjects than the A levels.

The SSP signed an agreement in June last year with the IB Organisation and British education provider World Academy of Sport to allow top student-athletes up to four years, instead of two, to complete their post-secondary IB diploma.

Deborah Wong, 18, one of two top scorers from SSP with 43 points, received "tremendous support" from its teachers and boarding staff. "At one point, I felt like I was going to burn out," said the netball player, who spends more than 30 hours training each week.

In 2014, she joined the National Under-21 team and Marlins Netball Club, and had to travel from her school in Woodlands to Kallang for training three nights a week.

"Even at night, the staff are there when you need someone to talk to, and my mother would stay up late to talk to me when I called home."

She is taking a gap year to do mission work before applying to study law in Britain.

Badminton player Bernard Ong, who scored 42 points, said: "Sports is a lifestyle and there are sacrifices to be made... there's a large amount of discipline required."

The 18-year-old, who took part in the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, hopes to study medicine at a local university.

Bowler Daphne Oh, also 18, said that training and boarding school life made her independent in her studies. She will study zoology at the University of Western Australia next month.

While some SSP graduates may become professional athletes and represent Singapore, others may pursue sports-related disciplines, such as sports management, or go into other fields.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said the SSP's results are encouraging as they disprove the perception that students can master only either their studies or sports.

Students from other IB schools also collected their results yesterday.

As in previous years, most of Singapore's top scorers came from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) - 41 out of 48, in total.

Its batch of 444 students had an average of about 42, the school's best result since it began offering the IB programme in 2006. Overall, 84 per cent of the cohort attained 40 to 45 points.

At the School of the Arts, 133 students scored an average of 38 points, with 50 getting at least 40 points. Its first batch of 22 students in the IB Career Programme, which prepares them to pursue an arts career, also did well, with 73 per cent scoring high grades of 6 and 7, which is the best score.

St Joseph's Institution's second batch of 80 IB students attained an average of nearly 41 points. Four of them achieved the second-highest mark of 44.

Local international schools also fared better. SJI International had its best result, with a 100 per cent pass rate, and 38 per cent of its 164 students scoring at least 40 points.

Hwa Chong International School's batch of 81 students attained an average of 37 - its best performance - with half of them getting a score of 37 points and higher.

This article was first published on Jan 6, 2016.
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