The Big Quiz is back

Students have more ways to share views with new write-in segment

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DEVELOPING a local context for global issues is the aim of this year's The Straits Times' primer series, which starts next Monday.

In 12 articles in the paper's Opinion section, covering issues such as education, housing and the environment,they examine aspects of these themes that are unique to the country.

The series, which will be anchored by the broadsheet's journalists and correspondents, aims to get pre-university students interested in hot issues in the news.

The primers will culminate in The Straits Times-Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz. School teams will compete for the championship trophy and $5,000.

In its lead-up, the paper's editors and correspondents will speak at various campuses islandwide such as Jurong Junior College, Meridian Junior College and Victoria Junior College, and also field questions from students.

The first edition of The Big Quiz began with primers in April last year leading to the finals last August, with Raffles Institution clinching the championship title.

This year's quiz outreach will be an improved sophomore outing, featuring more ways for students to share their views on the issues of the day.

Alongside the primers, questions will be posed for students to respond to.

The 10 best responses to each question will be uploaded to The Straits Times' current affairs website Singapolitics for the public to read and vote on the best ones. The three entries with the highest votes will win $50 vouchers and have their content reproduced in part in a sponsored column in The Straits Times.

The investment into the outreach is critical to engaging young readers, said Mr Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times.

"Young people are the future. They need to know how their world is changing, and how these changes will affect them," he said. "This competition will get them right up to speed with current affairs in an enjoyable way."

Mrs Chua Yen Ching, director of the Curriculum Planning and Development Division of the Ministry of Education (MOE), added: "In the face of constant streams of news and opinions from many sources around the world, the news outreach programme will encourage students to be self-directed in their learning, and weigh alternative viewpoints with discernment and critical insight."

The MOE has also developed resources that can be used for discussion with the primers during General Paper lessons.

For the second year running, The Big Quiz's presenting sponsor is the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation, a charity which, among other things, supports organisations and projects that promote education.

The foundation's general manager Ginney Lim said it hoped to cultivate young people's interest in news that matters, in a digital age where they are bombarded with information.

On board for the first time is energy company Shell, which is backing this year's new Thought Leadership Question segment for students to write in in response to questions.

Mr Lee Tzu Yang, chairman of the Shell Companies in Singapore, said: "By raising questions to challenge our youth, we hope to encourage them to develop new ideas and share how technology can help meet the world's future energy needs in creative and sustainable ways."

The lead-up to the quiz will engage the Pre-University 1 and Integrated Programme Year 5 students of 24 participating schools, and build up to four quiz rounds in July.

ayiying@sph.com.sg