Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State For Education, at the Opening Ceremony of the National School Games

Published Date: 23 January 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. I am happy to join you at the National School Games (NSG) Opening Ceremony for the Singapore Schools Sports Council and the Singapore Primary Schools Sports Council. Today marks the start of the school sports season for our students in 2019!

2. I am glad to join you this year as we mark the 60th Anniversary of both Councils. It is wonderful that our schools have been planning and organising inter-school sports for the last six decades. I would like to place on record our thanks to generations of educators, coaches, trainers and students for your passion and continued support. The number of sports and the nature of the games have evolved over the years, but our mission of coming together to provide quality experiences for our school athletes and to support character development through the pursuit of sporting excellence remains unchanged.

3. Since 1959, our principals, heads of department and teachers gather every year to devote their time, resources and efforts to organise the inter-school competitions for our students. Today, the two Councils organise more than 400 championships across 29 sports. Last year, close to 60,000 school athletes benefited from these events.

Preparing Our Young for the Future through Sports

4. Sports is an integral part of holistic education to prepare our young for the future. Through enjoyment of sports and physical activity, our students acquire a strong foundation in movement skills to keep them healthy, fit and active throughout their lives. In addition, the lessons they learn from sports are important for character development and building of life skills.

5. Some of you may recall the B Division Boys’ bronze-medal match between St. Andrew’s Secondary and Northland Secondary at the National School Games Hockey Championships last year. Like many Singaporeans, I am very proud of our students and very encouraged by the sportsmanship they demonstrated in that match.

6. After a brief medical time-out when one of St. Andrew’s players sprained his ankle, the umpire blew the whistle to resume play. A defender from St. Andrew’s threw the ball over to Northland’s players to resume. However, a miscommunication resulted in his teammate taking the ball and scoring a goal. The umpire allowed the goal, giving them a 2-1 lead against Northland. However, the Saints felt it was not right, as Northland’s players were not ready when the goal happened. So, St. Andrew’s requested for the umpire to overturn the goal. Northland went on to win the match that day. The Saints may have lost the match, but the team won the hearts and respect of their opponents and the spectators for their sportsmanship. Well done both teams.

7. The pursuit of sports excellence provides a rich and dynamic learning opportunity for our students to develop character and acquire sound values. For example,

  1. They will develop discipline and determination through the rigors of sports training, while acquiring a lifelong desire for an active lifestyle and enjoyment of sports;
  2. They will cultivate a spirit of sportsmanship, while striving for excellence and success;
  3. They will gain a sense of achievement when they make progress, and develop an intrinsic desire for improvement and mastery;
  4. They will learn from losses and defeat, and develop the resilience to bounce back and try again.

8. These life skills will benefit our students no matter whichever path they take in the future. So it is with this focus on the holistic learning for our children, that our schools continue to offer a range of sports co-curricular activities (CCA), regardless of their chances of winning. The value of having a CCA is not about winning medals and trophies, but to provide opportunities for our students to learn the sport and enjoy the game. For the Football teams in schools like Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Northlight School, losing matches was common when they first started out competing in the NSG. But that did not deter them from sustaining the CCA and participating in a competition where their chance of winning was slim – given that there are more than 100 schools with Football CCA and more than 80 compete in the NSG. It is a very competitive sport. The spirit of striving, losing with grace and bouncing back from set-backs, are just as important, if not more important, than winning medals.

9. Last year, when ACS(I) and Northlight could not qualify for the School Premier League for Football, they readied themselves for the second tier competitions, and made it to the finals of the South Zone School Zonal League. Both teams were evenly matched throughout the game, coming back stronger after conceding each goal. While Northlight eventually won with a score of 4-3 at the final whistle, both teams cherished the joy of competing and playing a good game. Importantly, the students picked up useful values along the way.

10. These are some of the experiences of our teams in the NSG every year. I commend our schools and our educators for providing all these opportunities for our students, through their CCAs and the NSG.

Change Implementation for the Junior Division

11. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let me now touch on the changes to our Junior Division competitions. A review was started in 2015 and the recommendations were first announced last year. These will be implemented in phases over the next few years, covering all sports in the Junior Division by 2021. There will be changes to the areas of awards and recognition, competition format, age group division, game format, equipment, and game rules. So a very comprehensive set of changes. Collectively, these enhancements will enable our young athletes to benefit from the experiences and have more opportunities to participate in the competitions.

12. For example, with the introduction of the orange ball competitions for Tennis, and the rule change that allows schools to register any minimum number of players for the NSG Tennis events, students who are not yet ready to play with the more advance yellow ball, can now have the opportunity to compete in the NSG. Some of these students come from schools with a thriving Tennis CCA, like Henry Park Primary. Some of them come from schools with an introductory Tennis programme for their young students, like Fengshan Primary. To borrow a phrase from basketball legend Michael Jordan, “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” That is really the most important.

13. The organising committees will be showcasing changes to seven sports1 at the Sports Hub today. I encourage everyone to learn more about these changes at the practice matches held in the OCBC Arena later.

14. I wish to particularly thank all our primary schools, led by the respective National School Games Organising Committees, for spending much time and effort, to study, conceptualise, consult, trial and implement the enhancements for our children, to help them pick up skills and values through sports that will benefit them for life.

Conclusion

15. In closing, I would like to commend the two Councils and all our schools for organising the competitions and providing meaningful learning opportunities for our students. Thank you to all our educators and our parents for your commitment to sports. Thank you for your tireless efforts to innovate and improve the NSG. Thank you for all that you have done to prepare our children for the future, and build the strong nation we want for Singapore.

16. To our student athletes, I hope you will treasure the opportunities to train, compete, make friends, and learn valuable lessons for life. I wish all of you an enjoyable National School Games! Thank you.

Footnotes
  1. Basketball, Floorball, Hockey, Sepak Takraw, Tennis, Track and Field, and Volleyball.
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