SINGAPORE - The postponed National School Games (NSG), originally slated to start last month, will resume in March, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Tuesday (March 9).
But only the A, B and Senior Division competitions for 12 of the Games’ 29 sports will take place from March 29 to May 27.
The 12 sports are badminton, bowling, golf, gymnastics, rope skipping, sepak takraw, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo (poomsae), tennis, 3v3 volleyball and wushu. They were selected because they are “considered to be of lower risk, as they are non-contact sports with no or little intermingling between students across different schools,” said Mrs Tan Chen Kee, divisional director, student development curriculum division at MOE.
The C and Junior Divisions are expected to resume in Term 3, which starts on June 28. Secondary schools contest the B (Sec 3, 4 and 5) and C (Sec 1 and 2) divisions while the A division is for junior colleges. The senior division is for Primary 5 and 6 pupils and the junior category is for those in Primary 3 to 5.
The Games’ 17 other disciplines, including athletics, swimming and popular team sports like basketball, football and netball will remain suspended for now.
Noting that students under 16 are currently not eligible for vaccination, Mrs Tan said MOE’s “calibrated approach” would safeguard the well-being of student athletes.
When asked why outdoor sports which appear to be low risk, such as athletics, canoeing and swimming, were suspended, Mrs Tan pointed out that these sports, including sailing, “involve a larger number of students from different schools (up to 30 different schools) gathering at the competition venue concurrently”, thus increasing the risk of intermingling.
The announcement came as a pleasant surprise to golfer Tatiana Ang, who thought that the competition would be postponed again.
Despite not knowing whether this year’s NSG would take place, the 14-year-old has been training about four times a week.
The Secondary 3 student at Methodist Girls’ School is now eyeing a podium finish at this year’s NSG, which will take place at Laguna National.
She said: “I’m very happy as it will allow our local players to compete and harness our skills.”
Basketballer Lokeysh Dongol was shocked by the exclusion of his sport, especially since 3v3 basketball was included in the initial list released by MOE on Dec 18, ahead of the start of phase three of Singapore’s reopening.
For the past few weeks, the JC 1 student and his teammates from St Andrew’s Junior College had been gearing up for the 3v3 format in training.
“We were all quite shocked and sad that we won’t get to compete because it feels like we’ve trained for nothing,” lamented the 16-year-old.
"I was looking forward to competing this year because I feel like the A Division is a completely new league – the players are faster and stronger and I wanted to get a taste of what competing in it feels like.”
Homemaker Lau Joo Meng, whose two sons play floorball, was disappointed that the sport was left out of this year’s NSG and expressed confusion at how the sports were selected.
But the 50-year-old ultimately understood the cautious approach, saying: “Given the current situation, we don’t have a choice but to comply. As much as we want all this to happen, we have to take extra precaution.”
There will be safe management measures in place for competitions for the 12 approved sports, including ensuring only up to eight players are allowed to interact during the games.
A maximum of 50 participants will be allowed into competition venues at any one time and no spectators are allowed.
The MOE added that it will “continue to monitor the situation closely, and work with the Sports Councils and the schools to ensure the safe conduct of NSG”.
The NSG, which typically runs from January to August, is the biggest sports event in Singapore, involving about 60,000 student-athletes.
Last year’s edition was cancelled for the first time in its 61-year history owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.