Changes bring fresh focus to JSA graduates

(From left) Meagan Lim, 12, Isaac Ong, 11 and Amirah Fikriyah Herman, 11, were among the first cohort of students under the revised Junior Sports Academy (JSA) programme to graduate yesterday.
(From left) Meagan Lim, 12, Isaac Ong, 11 and Amirah Fikriyah Herman, 11, were among the first cohort of students under the revised Junior Sports Academy (JSA) programme to graduate yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Wide choice introduced in 2015 has increased options for students with an interest in sport

Amirah Fikriyah Herman had no sports training or experience beyond physical education lessons before she joined the Ministry of Education's (MOE) Junior Sports Academy (JSA) programme two years ago.

Now, the Primary Six pupil not only hopes to become a national sprinter one day, but she is also considering taking up two sports co-curricular activities (CCAs) when she enters secondary school next year.

The 11-year-old, who is a member of Canberra Primary School's drama club, enjoys running and shooting. The latter was one of the modules she enrolled in under the JSA programme.

She said: "If I feel I'm not good enough in one of the two CCAs I join, I will stop and pursue the other.

"Maybe I'll try shooting for one year, and then stick to running after that."

Ai Tong School Primary Six pupil Isaac Ong also had no sporting background before he signed up for fencing, football and basketball JSA modules - and he also aspires to represent Singapore in fencing.

In addition, he is hoping to enrol in the Singapore Sports School via direct school admission through the sport.

Both he and Amirah were among the 400 student-athletes who graduated from the JSA yesterday at the OCBC Arena.

This is the first batch that joined following the revisions made to the programme in 2015. Students can now participate in two to four different sports out of the 16 sports modules offered. Previously, they were trained specifically in one sport.

The annual selection trials for the two-year JSA programme, introduced in 2008, are open to all Primary Four pupils regardless of sporting background. Students are selected based on their overall physical abilities.

The programme will double its current intake to 800, starting this July with a partnership between MOE and the National Youth Sports Institute.

MOE's divisional director of its student development curriculum division Tan Chen Kee explained: "What we want to do is allow kids to come into sports without prior training.

"Getting exposure to a whole range of different sports gives the kids a good sense of what it means to be a sportsman, and that's how some of them eventually discover their passion."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Changes bring fresh focus to JSA graduates'. Print Edition | Subscribe