THE topic "Singapore and the World" drew questions that ranged as broadly at the final of four current affairs talks by The Straits Times.
With candid anecdotes, the paper's deputy editor Alan John and foreign editor Ravi Velloor addressed about 280 students from tertiary institutions at the SPH News Centre Auditorium yesterday.
They spoke about the nation's position internationally, as well as its labels new and old. Mr John referred to veteran diplomat Chan Heng Chee's recent comments on the Singapore brand, particularly expectations of "competence and trust" in its students attending foreign universities.
"That says a lot not only about the education system here but also about past students who created that good impression," he said. "It means Singaporeans who go overseas to study have much to live up to, which might be a burden for some - if you're from Singapore, no being the slacker at the back of the lecture theatre!"
Yesterday's event began with the preliminary written round of The Straits Times-Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz, its second edition, as teams from 24 schools - including Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution - sped through 50 questions on the news to qualify for tomorrow's quarter-finals.
The two-hour talk and question-and-answer session was conducted as papers were graded. But if they were anxious, the students did not show it. They lined up at the microphones to ask "How do you define the essence of what is a Singaporean?", "Is there a prospect for the media to become more liberalised?" and other questions.
Sixteen schools made it to the quarter-finals. They include last year's champion, Raffles Institution, and last year's third-place winner River Valley High School.
The Straits Times launched its series of 12 current affairs primers in April. Its partner, Shell, sponsored a Thought Leadership Question segment, inviting written responses from students of 24 participating schools.
The programme is co-organised by The Straits Times and the Ministry of Education, with the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation as presenting sponsor. Events will culminate in The Big Quiz, where school teams will compete for the championship trophy and $5,000.
For more information, visit www.straitstimes.com/thebigquiz