Singapore, 14 January 2012 – Spelling rocks! Over six weeks from March 10, some 1,500 students from about 170 primary schools will be battling it out to make it to the grand finals of the inaugural RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2012.
They will be combing through newspapers and general knowledge books and making lists of words to arm themselves for the championship which is open to all Primary 4, 5 and 6 pupils. The champion speller will take home $5,000 cash and win for his or her school the Challenge Trophy. The first and second runners-up will win $3,000 and $1,000 cash prize respectively.
The organisers - The RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times - hope the contest will develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling in literacy development among primary school pupils. The competition is organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and supported by the National Library Board (NLB) and the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM).
Said Mr Han Fook Kwang, Editor of The Straits Times: "We want this to be a competitive and fun way to encourage students to read more and spell better, and we look forward to crowning Singapore's champion speller in The Straits Times."
Added YBhg Tan Sri Azlan Zainol, Chairman of RHB (Rashid Hussein Bank), a Malaysian bank which is the main sponsor of the Spelling Championship and Malaysia's Spell-It-Right since 2008: "RHB’s driving force is our commitment towards the holistic development of the young, nurturing not only from an academic standpoint, but also in a way that builds self-esteem, confidence and competitive spirit of a generation who will one day be our nation’s leaders.
"This year, we are spelling our way to Singapore, our closest neighbour and a country where RHB Bank’s biggest international operations is present. It is our sincere hope that the National Spelling Championship will make a positive impact to the young generation in Singapore and the community as a whole. This is RHB’s contribution to the development of the young minds in Singapore and we are confident that they will be able to benefit from the National Spelling Championship."
The Kuala Lumpur-based RHB has over 200 branches across Malaysia and the region.
Dr Tan Bee Geok, Deputy Director, Gifted Education of the Ministry of Education, said: "The National Spelling Championship aims to develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling among Primary 4, 5 and 6 pupils in Singapore, especially with many of them interacting in a digital world where accurate spelling is often neglected.
"It also hopes to enhance awareness of the complex relationship between the orthography (symbols) and phonology (sounds) of a language and inculcate mental discipline and resilience in young spellers mastering difficult words. The competition also provides the platform for Mind Sports and helps to promote a healthy competitive spirit."
The MOE, which has been organising its National Spelling Championship annually since 2007, said it decided to partner external organisations instead of continuing on its own because it wants to leverage on the strengths of these organisations to take the contest to greater heights for the pupils' benefit.
Mr Han, Tan Sri Azlan and MOE's Deputy Director of Education (Curriculum) Mr Wong Siew Hoong will attend the launch of the competition at Lido Theatre on Orchard Road on January 14 at 10am.
About 120 students will get a taste of what it will take to get through The Big Spell at the launch. Two teams from Bukit Timah Primary School and St Gabriel's Primary School will slug it out in a Spell-Off to kick start the championship.
They will also be treated to a movie, Akeelah and the Bee, to get a sense of the spelling quest. The movie, first released in 2006, is about an "underdog" competing to win the national contest.
The preliminary round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2012 will start on March 10. Contestants will sit for a 60-minute written test, at which they will have to spell 50 words read out to them. Eighty contestants who clear this first hurdle will get to take part in the zonal round. The zonal round will take place on April 14. The 20 top spellers who emerge from the zonal championships will go into the Grand Finals, to be held on April 28.
To generate interest in the spelling competition and to prime students for the quest, Little Red Dot, The Straits Times' weekly school magazine for primary school pupils, will run a series of one-page features on interesting words and spelling techniques ahead of the contest.
Said Ms Serene Goh, Editor of Little Red Dot and IN, a weekly publication for secondary school students: "Spelling isn't just a boring process of rote learning. It's fun, it's exciting, and a search for someone who can out-spell everyone else will be a fabulous experience. We're already working on some pretty tough words for the Big Spell bank, so I'm looking forward to some nail-biting moments and stellar performances. Nothing like competition to bring out the best."
The Straits Times’ multimedia news portal The Straits Times RazorTV will also be showcasing video clips of the preliminaries, zonal rounds and grand finals, while 91.3FM will run info capsules on word of the day, spelling contests on air and even visit shortlisted participating schools for Recess Express, its school outreach segment.
All Primary 4 to 6 pupils of a full school under the Ministry of Education or the equivalent can apply to take part in the spelling contest. They must be nominated by their schools, which will register directly with the Ministry of Education, Singapore.
During the competition period, the public can also check out the competition and play an online game to test their spelling ability on the competition’s official webpage: www.straitstimes.com/bigspell
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