Raffles Institution emerges as champs in Big Quiz

It beats closest rival Hwa Chong Institution by only one point

Question: Which school won the first-ever national current affairs quiz, The Big Quiz, on Friday?

Answer: Raffles Institution (RI).

The 30-minute quiz finals - the last show-down after weeks of intense competition - went down to the wire for the four finalist teams on Friday.

When the clock ran out, RI beat its closest rival Hwa Chong Institution by only one point.

Said RI team member Ryan Quek, 17: "We were neck and neck. It was nerve-wracking."

River Valley High School and Anglo-Chinese Junior College, the other two finalists, took third and fourth place respectively.

For the RI boys, it was their deep knowledge of current affairs that put them on top of the game, organised by The Straits Times and the Ministry of Education.

Despite a last-minute rally by Hwa Chong, the RI team - comprising Ryan, Chan Kai Yan, and Loo Tien Pan, all 17 years old and in their fifth year of the school's Integrated Programme - had a clear lead, chalking up points for answering correctly questions like: The acronym PIIGS refers to the economies of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and which other country?

(Answer: Spain.)

Kai Yan, in particular, wowed the 200-strong audience who had gathered at the Raffles City Convention Centre, the quiz venue, by answering correctly Malaysia's National Day slogan this year - in English and Malay.

(Answer: Janji Ditepati, or Promises Fulfilled.)

For winning the quiz, the three team members, along with a reserve member, Teo Hoong Chen, 17, won a cash prize of $5,000 and a trophy.

Hwa Chong received $3,000; River Valley and ACJC took home $1,000 and $500 respectively.

Guest of honour Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said he was impressed with how much the participants knew.

It was important to keep up with current affairs - both local and international, he said, adding that by becoming better informed, students would be more able to make decisions for themselves and for their society.

The newspaper was one place to get information, but it could play a critical role in connecting citizens. This was especially important at a time where, despite greater connectivity, people had fewer common points of reference, he said.

"That is where a paper like The Straits Times plays such a critical role in our very young nation," he said. "It is a glue that binds us together."

The finals on Friday brought to a close a nation-wide competition that started last month and saw all 23 pre-university institutions here competing.

Questions in all four rounds of the quiz - from the preliminary written test to the finals - were based on articles published in The Straits Times this year.

eisenteo@sph.com.sg