Singapore, April 26, 2014 - Singapore's champion speller is Nicole Lim Hsing Yi, 10, a Primary 5 pupil of Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, who beat 24 others in a nail-biting showdown in the grand final of the third RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship earlier today.
She spelled her way to the top spot at the Tay Eng Soon Convention Centre Auditorium, Institute of Technical Education College Central, after spelling correctly the word "glockenspiel” in the championship round, knocking out her opponent, Thomas Egan Ang Yiren, 11, from St. Joseph’s Institution (Junior), who was named the first runner-up. In third place was Kua Le Yi, 11, Catholic High School.
Nicole is the first girl to be champion in the competition’s three-year run. She also broke the winning streak of Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), whose pupils had won The Big Spell in the previous two years. At the decisive round lasting more than two hours this morning, the 25 finalists, who had earlier battled through two exciting rounds - the preliminary on March 1 and the zonals on April 5 - slugged it out on stage, facing a judging panel from the Ministry of Education’s English Language Institute of Singapore, The Straits Times, and the Speak Good English Movement.
The auditorium was packed with fellow student supporters, teachers, principals and parents and, for the first time, readers of The Straits Times.
Each finalist took turns to spell aloud the words read out by the pronouncer, thespian Nora Samosir. When a pupil misspelled a single letter, he was out of the quest. As the rounds progressed with increasing difficulty, they were eliminated one by one, some tripping on words such as "curmudgeon" and "anthracite".
One of the pupils gave a punch in the air when he spelled a word correctly, while another appealed to the judging panel to “please give me something I know” as he stepped up to spell, earning a chuckle from the audience.
Nicole was declared champion when she managed to spell the word “glockenspiel” which her opponent Thomas had tripped on.
For her hard-fought victory, Nicole took home $5,000 and the Challenge Trophy for her school, while the other two top spellers won $3,000 and $1,000 respectively. The top winners in the four zonal rounds each received $500 cash and $100 worth of book vouchers at the prize presentation today. All finalists each received a medal.
Guest-of-honour Madam Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament, commended the contestants at the start of the finals.
She said: “All of you are already champions for having come this far. For your great attitude to learning, I salute you."
“As a mind sport, spelling is universal and a great leveller. It does not matter what kind of home you live in or how much pocket money you get. You do well because of the effort you have put in and the values that you show -- determination, sportsmanship, resilience and grit,” she added.
In her opening address, deputy editor of The Straits Times, Ms Zuraidah Ibrahim, said: “The mind sport of spelling is so much more than the pursuit of precision, which is why it has the ability to ignite passion. In just three editions, the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship has grown in prestige and participation."
“The Straits Times is invested in clear language. We want to inform, entertain but educate, we want our readers to take part in discussion, analysis and critical thinking, to shape Singapore and the world. In order to do that, it is essential to get the basics right.”
Group Managing Director, RHB Banking Group, Mr Kellee Kam, who flew in from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to catch the finals, said of the spelling quest: “We believe that it is our responsibility to help the youth of today to uncover their true potential and develop into a well-rounded workforce of tomorrow. We are hopeful that our action will build an informed generation of confident, competitive and motivated individuals who will eventually become successful in their own right.”
Mrs Soo Kim Bee, senior specialist and master teacher, from the Gifted Education Branch, Ministry of Education, said: “The pupils who have come on the journey of this championship have continually amazed me with their confidence, their courage and their determination to try. Some of them are here on their third attempt. By just going through the process, each time they have grown and gained from the experience. Even when they are eliminated, they show grace and good sportsmanship. “The teachers who have been involved in coaching, not just the spellers, but in teaching their English classes have shared that they are now more aware and comfortable using the strategies we shared in our workshop and in the resource materials, like the articles in the Little Red Dot and The Straits Times. They can see the spellers developing a passion for the language in their pursuit of a wider vocabulary. They have become more precise in their choice of words used for expressing their thoughts and ideas. This is laying the foundation of a key 21st Century competency – effective communication needs the use of the right words.”
The contest, open to Primary 4, 5 and 6 pupils, drew a record number of more than 1,400 students who registered for the Preliminary round.
Co-organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, this third edition of The Big Spell is supported by the National Library Board, Institute of Technical Education and tech giant Hewlett Packard.
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About The Straits Times
The Straits Times, the English flagship daily of SPH, has been serving readers for more than a century. Launched on July 15, 1845, its comprehensive coverage of world news, East Asian news, Southeast Asian news, home news, sports news, financial news and lifestyle updates makes The Straits Times the most-read newspaper in Singapore. Quality news, in-depth analyses, impactful commentaries and breaking stories are packaged to give readers riveting accounts of events in Singapore, the region, and beyond.
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About the Ministry of Education
The Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) formulates and implements education policies and programmes in consultation with its stakeholders. These policies and programmes aim to help all students discover their talents, realise their potential, and develop a passion for learning that lasts through life. MOE also oversees the development and management of the Government and Government-aided primary schools, secondary schools and junior colleges. Please visit www.moe.gov.sg for more information.