What began with a zero for the team from Yishun Junior College (YJC) turned into the top score yesterday in the first round of the annual The Straits Times-Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz, also called The Big Quiz.
The team comprising Alison Chang, Haistleene Ah and Veronica Lee, all 17, went home with vouchers worth $600, while each of the other three teams received $150 shopping vouchers.
Joining YJC were teams from Serangoon Junior College (SRJC), Anderson Junior College (AJC) and host school Innova Junior College (IJC), who fought to a nail-biting finish using strategies like redirecting tough questions to an opponent, getting prompts from the audience, and betting on doubling their points for a correct answer.
At one point, SRJC selected a 30-point question, then played its "Sabo King" card against AJC, nullifying AJC's lead when the latter answered incorrectly the question: "Mir Quasem Ali, recently sentenced to death for war crimes during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence, is the chief financier of which of Bangladesh's radical groups?"
They answered "Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen", but the correct answer is "Jamaat-e-Islami".
As an extension of the news outreach programme, 12 weekly primers on topics of national concern are also published every Monday in the Opinion section of The Straits Times.
Still reeling after the event, Mohamad Arman, 17, of SRJC, exclaimed: "I am still in shock. I realised that our sabo (slang for "sabotage) strategy changed the entire game."
Jointly organised by The Straits Times and the Ministry of Education, with the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation as presenting sponsor, the competition is part of a news outreach programme to promote interest in current affairs among Singapore pre-university students.
Ahead of the game, senior sports correspondent Rohit Brijnath, spoke on the importance of sportsmanship. Citing examples from professional footballers to a nine-year-old sailor, he presented news stories in sports that had touched him.
"You can be an excellent athlete and also a good sport," he said in a follow-up question-and-answer session, discussing the need for good sportsmanship and winning as conflicting results.
As an extension of the news outreach programme, 12 weekly primers on burning issues of the day are published every Monday in the Opinion section of this paper; its first, on March 21. These primers offer an overview of factors involved in these issues, deepening readers' understanding of current affairs.
The next four segments of the competition will be conducted on April 20 at Victoria Junior College, April 27 at Anglo-Chinese Junior College, May 18 at River Valley High School and July 20 at Raffles Institution. Up to 24 schools nationwide will take part in this year's competition, its fifth edition.