In its latest push to encourage children to pursue their interests and focus less on performance, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will look at dropping selection trials for co-curricular activities (CCAs).
Starting this year at a few primary schools, the pilot study will see the selected schools trim the number of CCAs offered but guarantee pupils admission into the CCA of their choice, which has long been the bugbear of parents and students alike due to limited places.
The MOE has in recent years been taking steps to raise CCA participation levels. Last year, it tweaked the National School Games (NSG) junior division (for pupils aged nine to 11) to give children, even the less skilled, a chance to compete. Among the changes were removing individual events in some sports, and rewarding participation instead of finishing first.
The annual NSG features 29 sports and involves about 60,000 student-athletes.
The MOE has also, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, launched the Strategic Partnership CCA Programme for athletics and ethnic dance in secondary schools. Under this programme, students are able to pursue their interest and represent their school in national competitions, even if the school does not offer the sport as a CCA. Students also receive CCA points recognition.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said at yesterday's launch of the NSG: "We want to present wider options to students to cater to the diverse CCA interests and talents of students... We will therefore need to think outside the box, and offer wider options through other means."
Some schools like Clementi Primary School have already adopted the no-trial CCA model. The school does not hold selection trials for its 19 CCAs.
Its subject head for programme for active learning and CCA Mohammad Hafiz said that while some CCAs may have a high subscription rate, the school tries its best to accommodate students' interests.
Mr Hafiz, 37, added: "We put the students' interest first because we don't want to restrict their opportunity to join a certain sport because of their abilities. We want to achieve excellence in sport but we don't go for results; it's more about exposing pupils, being able to compete in zonal competitions, and (building) the habit or culture of playing sports outside of school."
The MOE will also begin improving infrastructure - beginning in phases this year and expected to be completed by 2024 - geared towards promoting sport.
Playgrounds in 10 primary schools will double in size from 120 sq m to 240 sq m, while 16 MOE kindergartens will be expanded to 160 sq m from 120 sq m. All outdoor courts at primary and secondary schools will be refitted with acrylic-coated surfaces, which are more conducive and safer for physical activities and sports.
Another 40 primary and secondary schools without covered basketball courts will be provided with shelters. This is part of the MOE's push to ensure that all schools here are equipped with at least three covered play courts - a multi-purpose hall, an indoor sports hall and a sheltered basketball court. The total costs of enhancement to school facilities is about $85 million.