Speeches/Interviews

January 24, 2018

Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the Opening Ceremony of the National School Games 2018

1. A very good afternoon. I am delighted to join you today at the National School Games Opening Ceremony for the Singapore Schools Sports Council and the Singapore Primary Schools Sports Council. NSG marks the start of the school sports season for our primary and secondary students.

The Past

2. We have come a long way since inter-school sports games started. Let us take a quick look at our past. In 1959, schools in Singapore came together to form the Singapore Combined Schools Sports Council for the secondary schools, and the Singapore Primary Schools Sports Council for the younger students. The principals and teachers wanted to do three things then: to integrate our students through sports participation, to develop our students’ sporting skills and interests, and to hone students’ talent in the field of sports.

3. They started off by organizing competitions for 10 sports for secondary school students, and 5 sports for primary school students. They did this by volunteering their time and school resources – they were umpires, they were coaches; their students were linesmen, scorers and runners – and by taking turns to run the inter-school competitions for all the students in the various schools.

4. 59 years have passed, and I am glad to see that the spirit of coming together as a community to provide opportunities to develop our students’ sporting talents, interests, and character, continues to remain strong today.

The Present

5. Our principals, heads of department and teachers still come together to offer their time, resources and efforts to organise more than 400 championships across 29 sports for our students annually. Last year, more than 58,000 school athletes benefited from these efforts.

6. While the scale and complexity of the NSG have increased tremendously, our schools’ and MOE’s efforts have also grown manifold. We have been constantly reviewing and implementing new ideas to enhance the learning and sporting experiences for our students. Today, our principals and teachers want to do two inter-related things: to provide quality competition experience for our school athletes and to develop their character through the pursuit of sporting excellence.

7. I would like to commend the good work and commitment of all our school principals who serve as Convenors and other important roles in the two Councils. Guided by your motto of “Character in Sporting Excellence”, you have worked together with your HODs, teachers, and our HQ colleagues, to create a vibrant and meaningful school sporting platform, on which our students build their character and strive towards their sporting aspirations.

Beyond Individual Schools

8. We have talented teachers in sports. We can tap on their expertise to benefit students across Singapore, not just in their school. Our schools have been big-hearted and generous. They have given time for their teachers and staff, who have the passion and expertise in a particular sport, to serve as Technical Members of the NSG Organising Committees. Their contributions and service extend beyond the sports that their schools are competing in.

9. Mr Mohammed Hafeez, a teacher at North View Primary School, is one such example. He coaches his school’s Floorball team and has represented the Singapore Men’s National Floorball Team at numerous international competitions. Till today, he continues to play in the Singapore Floorball League Men’s Division Two. His passion and expertise in Floorball has led him to serve in the SPSSC Technical Committee for Floorball, with the blessing of his school. At present, the Committee is reviewing how they can change the competition for students in Primary 3 to Primary 5, to allow for a more meaningful learning and competition experience.

10. When I met Mr Hafeez earlier, he shared with me with great excitement, his involvement in the review, which would see beginning players competing in a 3 versus 3 player format, with 2 pairs of goal-posts without goal-keepers. He tells me this format of play for beginning players is useful for developing players’ sense of depth and width, which are critical skills for a Floorball player.

11. The review committee is also implementing a three-tier competition for Floorball where players will be grouped into teams with comparable skills, after an initial classification competition. As a result, students, including substitute players, will have more playing time, with more chances of experiencing small successes to encourage them along the way.

12. Mr Hafeez is not alone in such work, I understand some 50 teachers and school staff have been co-opted into the various Technical Committees in the Primary School Council, to support the review of the Junior Division competitions.

Review of Junior Division Competitions

13. The review of the Junior Division competitions seeks to design competition experiences that are developmentally more appropriate for young children competing in a formal inter-school competition for the first time, by strengthening their fundamental skills and cultivating the joy of playing sports.

14. The various organizing committees for all 21 sports organized by the SPSSC will be working with the stakeholders, including the national sports associations, the National Youth Sports Institute, and our schools, to trial and implement the respective new competitions for NSG sports in the primary schools, over the next 3 years.

15. I look forward to seeing these important changes that support the development of our young athletes, especially in reducing the perceived stakes of competitions at a young age, and instilling a growth mindset in our students through sports.

16. I commend the schools, for sharing your expert human resources, beyond your own schools, over and above your current work of organizing the NSG, for important work such as these.

Beyond Sports

17. Amidst all the vibrancy of play and exciting changes, remember, fundamentally we want to build our students’ character through such experiences.

18. Nicolette Tan Wen Qi is the captain of Eunoia Junior College’s Badminton team. She picked up badminton in primary school, and pursued the sport with diligence. Her commitment certainly paid off, because she was good enough to be selected to compete in the ASEAN Schools Games over the last 3 years.

19. But her discipline and efforts did not stop at sport, because Nicolette is a member of her school’s Student Council, excels in her studies, has won many Biology competitions and has even represented Singapore at the International Biomedical quiz. I understand that Nicolette is leading in the oath-taking today. What Nicolette has achieved would not have been possible without persistence and discipline.

20. She says, and I quote, “Sports has moulded me into the person I am today. It taught me how life isn’t always smooth-sailing; and most set-backs make you stronger. It also taught me that the quote ‘1% talent and 99% perspiration’ does not apply only in sports, but also in every aspect of your life.”

Beyond Individual Character

21. School sports do more than build individual character. It can build a nation through imbuing values that define Singapore in our students, developing in our students a deep sense of belonging to Singapore and establishing strong ties across students of all races, all schools, all social backgrounds.

22. Last year, MOE hosted the 9th ASEAN Schools Games, where our schools put up an incredible showing. Our principals, teachers and school staff served tirelessly as liaison officers, competition officials and in various other capacities to run the games for the student athletes from all 10 ASEAN countries. Our guests were impressed with what all of us did. We displayed the Singapore spirit, and took pride in playing host and supporting regional school sports.

Conclusion

23. Your presence in this ceremony today, whether as a student representative, a teacher from a primary or secondary school, junior college or centralised institution signifies our collective commitment towards school sport

24. In closing, let me once again express my deep appreciation for the good work of the two Councils, the dedication and service of our principals, HODs, teachers-in-charge, HQ officers, coaches, officials, and the support of our parents and partners.

25. To our student athletes, I wish all of you an enriching and fruitful National School Games.