Media Releases

2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Pupils put on their thinking caps to spell their way to the top

Singapore, 11 March, 2017 "Bamboozle", "espadrilles" and "iconoclast" - these were some of the words that some 1000 upper primary pupils from 99 registered schools had to spell today to qualify for the next round in the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2017, better known as The Big Spell. Among participating schools were 12 new participating schools compared to last year's crop.

The rules of Singapore's largest spelling competition, which is back for its sixth edition, have been tightened this year, in order to raise the overall quality of the event. More help will also be given to participants to improve their spelling skills.

For the first time, the competition content committee - comprising journalists from The Straits Times Schools department and officers from the Ministry of Education - will analyse and release a report on how the participants fared at the preliminary round. Participating schools can use this to glean insights into the most common errors made by pupils and the reasons for the errors.

The number of contestants each school could send for the preliminary round was also halved, to 10 pupils each from 20 pupils previously, to make the selection process more stringent. The intermediate round, which will be held on April 1, has been reduced to two semi-finals instead of four zonal rounds previously, intensifying the level of competition. 

The pupils who took part in the preliminary round of the spelling competition at ITE College Central this morning had to spell 50 words.
 Though registration started from 8am, pupils started streaming in from 7am. Among early birds were schoolmates Leandra Amadia Rasjid and Ira Kyreen Medina, both aged 11 and in Primary 5 at MacPherson Primary School. Both had taken part in last year's Big Spell as well.

Said Leandra: "I hope I do better than last year."

The best performers of each zone from this written round will qualify for the semi-final round. From there, the top-ranked spellers nationally will compete for the title of Singapore’s champion speller in a thrilling final on April 22

These two rounds are conducted orally, which means pupils stand on stage to spell their given words. One slip of the tongue, and they will be out. 

The champion speller will take home $5,000 in cash, as well as the Challenge Trophy for his or her school. The first- and second runners-up will win $3,000 and $1,000 in cash respectively.

The annual competition is co-organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MOE). It is supported by the National Library Board, and ITE College Central is the technology partner. 

Mr Mike Chan, Chief Executive Officer and Country Head of RHB Singapore, said that The Big Spell has become a reputable name amongst schools, which look forward to the event every year, since it first started in 2012.

He added: “The RHB Banking Group sees the importance of empowering our future generation with the knowledge for further enrichment beyond the classroom.” 

Ms Fiona Chan, Managing Editor of The Straits Times and Head of ST Schools, said that The Straits Times took great pride in hosting the event, as it encouraged young people to take good English seriously. 

“In an age of spell-checking and auto-complete software, it is all the more essential that children learn good spelling from young, as a crucial foundation for building mastery of the English language," she said. "The Straits Times has always been a fundamental pillar of Singapore's support system in boosting English-language skills." 

Slight changes were made to the gameplay this year, with the aim of raising the overall quality of the competition. 

Ms Serene Luo, Editor of ST Schools, which is behind the award-winning Little Red Dot for primary school pupils, among other publications, added that as the competition entered its sixth year, the focus was sharpened to bring the event to the next level. 

She said: “We want to keep The Big Spell as the gold standard in mind sports and spelling competitions. And with the changes this year, schools have been more stringent in selecting their best spellers. The competition this year will be fierce.” 

The Big Spell aims to develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling in literacy development among primary school pupils, as well as to continuously elevate the standards of English amongst schoolchildren in Singapore.

Issued by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
Co. Registration. No. 198402868E

For more information, please contact:

Christina Tan (Ms)
Assistant Manager
Editorial Projects Unit, The Straits Times
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
6319 1016

Deror Wong (Mr)
Assistant Manager
Corporate Communications & CSR
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
6319 1226

ABOUT RHB Singapore:

RHB Singapore is the local business operations of the RHB Banking Group, the fourth largest fully integrated financial services group in Malaysia.  The Group’s regional presence now spans ten countries in ASEAN including Hong Kong. In Singapore, our core businesses are streamlined into seven pillars, namely Retail Banking, Commercial Banking, Corporate Banking, Treasury, Structured Finance, as well as Investment Banking and Asset Management businesses.  All the seven business pillars are offered through RHB Bank Berhad, RHB Securities Pte. Ltd and RHB Asset Management Pte. Ltd. It is RHB Banking Group’s aspiration to continue to deliver superior customer experience and shareholder value; and to be recognised as a Leading Multinational Financial Services Group. 

About The Straits Times 

The Straits Times, the English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is the most-read newspaper in Singapore and is followed widely in the region for its comprehensive coverage of local, regional and world news, provided by its correspondents in 20 bureaus in major cities worldwide. 

Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times underwent a major redesign across all platforms in July 2015, when it celebrated its 170th anniversary. This revamp is part of its continuing efforts to refresh its products, maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing readers with news as it happens on all platforms, from its website at, Apple and Android apps to social media. 

The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and Wan-Ifra. Its revamped paper won a gold medal for overall newspaper design by the World Association of Newspaper at the Asian Media Awards in Manila in 2016.

About Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Asia’s leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms, ranging from print, digital, radio and out-of-home media. 

SPH owns award-winning newspapers, magazines and best-selling books in both print and digital editions, as well as online classified businesses in the region. In addition, SPH has two English radio stations and one Chinese radio station, an out-of-home digital advertising unit, a regional events and conferences arm, and runs a chain of modern retail convenience stores. SPH also has a 20 per cent stake in MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates free-to-air channels 5, 8 and U, and a 40 per cent stake in MediaCorp Press Limited, which publishes the free newspaper, Today.

SPH REIT comprises Paragon, a premier upscale retail mall and medical suite/office property in Orchard Road and The Clementi Mall, a mid-market suburban mall. SPH's latest retail development is The Seletar Mall located in Sengkang. 

For more information, please visit