Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information, at the Opening Ceremony of the National School Games

Published Date: 28 January 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Wong Siew Hoong, Director-General of Education

Mr Winston Hodge, Chairman, Singapore Schools Sports Council

Mrs Lee Hui Feng, Chairman, Singapore Primary Schools Sports Council

Principals, Teachers, Coaches


Boys and Girls,

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me here today.


1. I am very delighted to be part of this combined National School Games (NSG), for both the Singapore Schools Sports Council (SSSC) and the Singapore Primary Schools Sports Council (SPSSC).

Significance of Opening Ceremony at the Sports Hub

2. It is my first time here. It is not my first time at the Sports Hub but it is the first time at this Opening Ceremony. I think it is the first time the Opening Ceremony is being held at the Singapore Sports Hub and this marks a very exciting way to start the school sports season.

3. We are holding it here, for all of you, the schools, the athletes the teachers and guests. You can have a sense of your sports hub and begin to feel right at home. This year, some of the school games that will be held here will be Badminton, Netball, Swimming and Water Polo. We hope you enjoy it here, and make this your space.

More Opportunities in Sports

4. There are more opportunities for this generation to participate in sports competitions. Last year, there were about 56,000 student-athletes in more than 450 national and zonal championships at the NSG. This is compared to about 20,000 students 30 years ago. 30 years ago, that 20,000 represented about 4% of the student population. And now, we have about 12%, from primary to pre-university participating in the National School Games. Then, there were about 18 sports, today we have 29 sports. Over the years, we are increasing the number of opportunities and bringing in more students to join us. This does of course include many of the other friendly competitions that the schools and our various partners run.

5. In schools, the Co-curricular Activities (CCA) programme together with the Physical Education (PE) programme, provide all students, not just the 12%, many opportunities for recreational participation in sports and sports competitions, inter-class competitions, carnivals and friendly matches. All our students would have the opportunity to experience at least three school-based recreational competitions by the time they finish secondary school. We want everybody, especially the children to enjoy a lifetime of active, healthy living and get off to a good start while they are in school.

More Opportunities to Develop Character through Sports

6. Sports provide more opportunities to develop character. When you win, you have to win graciously, and we learn how to win graciously. When we lose, we must learn to lose with dignity; and more importantly to pick ourselves up after losing, not give up; learn about grit, learn about determination and to fight on and train hard and do better next time.

7. There are some very good examples of sportsmanship and grit right here in Singapore at the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the stories, for example:

  • Runner Ashley Liew, who slowed down during the SEA Games Marathon event, because his rivals had taken the wrong turn. He slowed down, allowed them to catch up so that there will be a real competition at the finish line. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, he showed sportsmanship and character.

  • Navy serviceman Jason Chee had a crippling accident 3 years ago. After 3 years, he came back to take Singapore’s first table tennis gold at the ASEAN Para Games. There’s no other word from this apart from grit, grit and the sheer character that he demonstrated.

8. We have a lot to learn from people like this, from sport, from the sports that we play and as we apply those lessons to the rest of our lives.

9. The National School Games is not short of similar examples. These examples are demonstrated by students in our schools. Last year, at one of the Basketball competition, the girls’ team from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School had possession of the ball in a neck to neck game. With just a few minutes to go, Ahmad Ibrahim tried to advance. One of the opposing players tripped and fell. Ahmad Ibrahim’s team stopped play to check on the player to make sure she was okay and safe. They didn’t win that game that day. If they had taken advantage of the situation, maybe they would have, but that wasn’t their priority. They chose to make a choice, make sure their fellow sportsman is okay, had a real competition and carried on the game. And despite losing, they walked away as champions.

10. Sports can build character and imbue values, and teach us very important lessons. Behind this show of sportsmanship, there are teachers, coaches, parents, mentors, and seniors, their hard work in training the next generation, in demonstrating good values, in role-modelling these values on a daily basis. These are also very important, patiently shaping, coaching, and demonstrating character.

11. I have another example, from a group of basketball teachers-in-charge in Telok Kurau Primary School who wanted to help their students learn about sportsmanship. They did this by coaching their students to recognise positive attributes. They gave feedback and encouragement to positive attributes that they saw in the sportsmen around. During an NSG basketball match, Telok Kurau’s basketball players will be looking for examples and opportunities to present a sportsmanship medal to a deserving player. This medal is not for their own team, it is for their opponents and the whole team will cheer for the player. They do this for every match! In the teachers’ drive to teach their own students the right attitudes and values through basketball, their students then became advocates of sportsmanship among other players! We can all learn from these lessons. It’s far more important that we demonstrate these values, we practice these values, we pass these values on to each other rather than talk about it.

Creating Opportunities Together - School, Parents, Community

12. Every school, every teacher, every official and supporter makes a difference to the life of every child that we guide and inspire. When we all work together, we multiply the experience and the opportunities for our children to be inspired through sports and to take those lessons into their lives.


13. There are now today more and more opportunities in recreational sports as well as competitive sports for our students and for our athletes. We have better facilities and more competitions and a wider range of sports. Making the facilities and competitions available is never going to be enough. We need the hard work of our teachers, principals, coaches, and the full participation of the parents, mentors and senior students to work hand in hand in making the facilities come alive and making the games come alive through sportsmanship, imbuing the character and imbuing the values.

14. For the athletes, inspire your team mates and the opposing team with your sportsmanship, your grit, your determination, your play and your behaviour. Do this in every game regardless of winning or losing. Choose your attitude, choose your responses to victory and defeat.

15. For the teachers, you already inspire your students to train well and play well. Please continue to do so and lead them in this important part of their lives. Train them hard to excel but of course, instill in them values and build their character.

16. Finally, thank you very much for inviting me here today. I want to thank all the school leaders, teachers, MOE officers, coaches and officials, for your dedication and service to sports and school sports. And all our student and athletes, stay safe, hope you have a great and fruitful NSG. Play hard and enjoy!

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