SINGAPORE - As early as 7.15am, the nation's top primary school spellers started turning up at Nanyang Polytechnic on Saturday (April 30). The 21 pupils were ready to give their best shot at the final round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, fondly known as The Big Spell.
Already, they had demonstrated their spelling prowess by outspelling 96 other competitors at the zonal round of the competition two weeks ago (April 16). They made it so far from this year's crop of 1,805 registrants - a record number in the competition's five-year history - for the preliminary round last month (March 30).
Before the finalists took their places on stage to spell words aloud letter by letter, they, along with invited guests and supporters, heard from guest-of-honour, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Education, as well as Communications and Information.
Dr Puthucheary said: "The combination of hard work and enjoyment are some of the key values we get out of sports competitions, competitions like this", referring to RHB Bank Singapore country head Jason Wong's description of The Big Spell as Singapore's biggest mind sport.
The Straits Times deputy editor Ignatius Low said of the annual event: "I sometimes like to think of this competition as Outward Bound (Singapore) for the mind. Not all of us can be stars on a running track or in the pool. In The Big Spell, there may be no ropes to climb nor canoes to paddle but through taking part in the competition, they learn to be humble in a win, and gracious in defeat."
He added that The Big Spell was just one of the ways in which students learn through the news, among other events and projects championed by The Straits Times Schools team, such as the ST-MOE National Current Affairs Quiz for the pre-university crowd and the National Youth Media Competition for students.
At stake in the final round of The Big Spell is $5,000 for the champion and the challenge trophy for the winner's school. The runner-up takes home $3,000, and the second-runner-up gets $1,000.
The Big Spell is jointly organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It is supported by Nanyang Polytechnic and the National Library Board, with venue partners Singapore Zoo and Suntec Singapore, and audio and sound partner Philips.
For more info: www.straitstimes.com/bigspell