All ready for the zonal round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship

Twice proved lucky for Primary Six pupil Yeong Jing Yi, one of 116 pupils from 42 primary schools who made it to the zonal round of The Big Spell. The 12-year-old, who cleared the written preliminary round on March 7, will take to the stage tomorrow (March 28) for the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship.

"Last year, I did not make it to the zonal round. So this year, I wanted to try and make it, now I'm very happy," she said. She has been preparing for a showdown by trawling spelling websites and the dictionary for difficult words, "especially words that don't sound the same as they are written".

Though slightly nervous, Jing Yi says she is confident that her experience in her school's own spelling competition will serve her well. Having had to spell in front of the whole school helped steel her, she said. "I'll just try to not look at the audience so much."

Tomorrow's participants will compete in the North, South, East and West school zones before judges, arbitrators and an audience of invited guests. Official pronouncers will read words within each round to spellers, who are then expected to utter each letter without error.

Each zone's champ is guaranteed a place the final on April 25, and will be joined by the top 20 or so pupils ranked nationally.

The top speller wins $5,000 cash and a challenge trophy for his school, while those in second and third place win $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.

Before the start of the competition, across all zones, those present will simultaneously pay tribute to Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, to mark his passion for education and excellence, and dogged belief that diligence and effort would help one rise.

Mr Lee died on March 23 at the age of 91. Ms Serene Goh, editor of IN and Little Red Dot, the two weekly student publications of The Straits Times, said: "The Big Spell stands for diligence, honour, resilience and excellence. Today, in four zones islandwide, we will simultaneously remember the positive values he stood for."

The annual competition is organised for the fourth year by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

It is supported by the Institute of Technical Education College Central and the National Library Board, with Sports Hub Library and Suntec Singapore as venue partners.

Keen to follow the action or watch the final on Apr 25? Go to: www.straitstimes/bigspell

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