17 count on getting cert in seniors' first abacus grading exam

Some of the 17 senior citizens taking the abacus grading exam set by the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce. Participants who sat the exam at Geylang Serai Community Club yesterday had to get seven out of 10 sums correct to be awarded an internationally-reco
Some of the 17 senior citizens taking the abacus grading exam set by the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce. Participants who sat the exam at Geylang Serai Community Club yesterday had to get seven out of 10 sums correct to be awarded an internationally-recognised certificate. PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The abacus is an old-school counting tool but, for a long time, there were abacus classes for the young and hardly any for older folks.

Several years ago, a group here started abacus classes for the elderly. Yesterday, 17 senior citizens took the first abacus grading examination for seniors here, at Geylang Serai Community Club.

The examination was organised by Friends of the Third Age, an eldercare initiative which provides care and activities for elderly residents in the Haig Road area.

The examination, which lasted three minutes and comprised 10 sums, was set by the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce (TCOC).

Ms Phyilly Wong, 50, a trainer at Friends of the Third Age and co-founder of Soroban Education Centre, said Soroban had been holding abacus enrichment programmes for primary school children since 1992 and started classes for seniors only in 2012.

"Seniors as a group have always been left out. During my first session with them I saw that they too have a thirst for knowledge and an eagerness to learn more," she said.

She added: "The seniors are physically and mentally active and are able to tackle the exams as long as you give them more encouragement and motivation."

For TCOC's International Abacus Grading Examination, participants must get seven out of 10 sums correct to get an internationally- recognised certificate. The lowest grade is 12 and the highest is one.

Mr Chia Hang Sing, 61, senior citizen programme coordinator for Friends of the Third Age, said more seniors have joined the classes. "When the abacus programme started, there were only 10 people. We now have 30. We hope to expand the classes to other places."

Retiree Lim Kam Tim, 82, the oldest student to take the exam, said she had been taking lessons for more than three years. "The classes are very good as I can improve on a lot of things. My brain is now more active," she said.

Friends of the Third Age hopes to hold the abacus examination for seniors again next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline '17 count on getting cert in seniors' first abacus grading exam'. Print Edition | Subscribe