A trio of current affairs buffs from Victoria Junior College (VJC) won the last of this year's The Straits Times-Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz yesterday at Dunman High School Performing Arts Centre.
In the final of the four decentralised rounds of The Big Quiz, whose presenting sponsor is the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation, the team joined this year's winners pool: Innova JC, Jurong JC and Hwa Chong Institution.
First-year JC students Bharat S Punjabi, 17; Jerald Tan, 16; and Seow Wei Liang, 17, closed the game with 120 points, beating the two teams from Dunman High School (90 points and 60 points) and the team from Temasek Junior College (30 points).
They had one training session before the event, Jerald said, but had kept up with the news regularly as members of the school's current affairs society. They gained a slight lead in the second of the event's three segments, and built on it to claim victory. Said Bharat: "Our strategy was to win."
Gameplay included special game cards, which teams could use to double their points, get "Shout In" help from the audience or use the "Sabo King" card to force another team to answer on their behalf.
Despite getting "sabotaged" by one Dunman team to answer a multiple-choice question, VJC gave the correct answer when asked to name the typhoon that battered Philippines last month. Confidently and in unison, they piped into the microphone: "Three!" - Typhoon Rammasun.
The audience got in on the action. A Dunman team and the Temasek team used game cards on their turns for the audience to call out the answers to them.
Mr Simon Reynolds, the assistant director of Ministry of Education's English Language and Literature branch of the Curriculum Planning and Development Division 2, said: "We are very happy with the regional version of The Big Quiz. It does reach out to more students and we have broadened audience participation.
"It's good to see the audience participating and the teams having fun - that engagement and involvement are important."
Straits Times deputy editor Alan John, one of three judges and the day's speaker, said he enjoyed the game, quipping that he himself did not know some of the answers. "I liked watching the gamblers (Temasek JC). They kept trying to raise their points up but it was too hard. They didn't have a lot of time, but it was clear they were taking it quite seriously and they had to work very fast... but they did very well.
"I liked the way they 'sabo-ed' each other. That was the exciting part of it."
Before the showdown, Mr John spoke on 10 issues concerning Singapore ahead of its 49th National Day celebration, called 10 Things I Think About Around National Day. He touched on racial and religious harmony, Singaporeans' reaction to foreigners, as well as attitudes expressed on the Internet. He then fielded questions from students.
After the quiz, interested students cornered him to talk more on various issues.
Dunman High School's head of department for English, Ms Cindy Low, said: "We really hope they will use this as a trigger point to continue to find out more, talk about things among themselves."
Additional reporting by Laremy Lee and Nur Syahiidah Zainal