Singapore, April 22, 2017 - With the correct spelling of the word "braggadocio", nine-year-old Eashaa Pillai has become Singapore's champion pupil speller this year.
The Primary Five pupil from Raffles Girls' Primary School triumphed over 17 fellow competitors in the grand final of the sixth RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship held at ITE College Central today.
Raghav Kumar, nine, a Primary Four pupil from Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) was second, while Lee I-Shiang, 12, a Primary Six pupil from Rosyth School came in third.
For her hard-fought victory, Eashaa 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 18 finalists, who represented 11 primary schools islandwide, were shortlisted from nearly 1,000 participants who took part in the preliminary round last month. They beat 51 other semi-finalists to get to the finals.
Singapore’s largest spelling competition, popularly known as The Big Spell, is open to upper primary pupils. 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, with ITE College Central as technology partner.
During the final, pupils had to face a panel of judges from The Straits Times, MOE’s English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS), and the Speak Good English Movement, as they took turns on stage to spell aloud the words. The words were read out by the pronouncer, Ms Nora Samosir, a seasoned actress and instructor in the theatre studies programme with the National University of Singapore.
Audience members, comprising schoolmates, teachers, principals and parents, showed their support by applauding and cheering the contestants as they attempted the various words at the illuminITE Theatre at ITE College Central.
The Guest-of-Honour was Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry. She said: “Learning to spell well and spell right is crucial to mastering the English language. Good spelling distinguishes the excellent from the average. It is a mark of good communication and courtesy, quality and high standards. Shoddy spelling conveys carelessness and poor quality, [and] risks miscommunication.”
Ms Fiona Chan, Managing Editor of The Straits Times, called The Big Spell a celebration of the participants’ character.
“It does not just show off the competitors’ language skills, but also their sportsmanship and sheer determination.”
She added that the national broadsheet has always been investing in good, clear language. “The Big Spell aims to inspire young learners to continuously improve their mastery of the English language. Good spelling is a crucial foundation for that, and therefore children need to be aware of its importance from young. By getting the basics right, children will then be able to express themselves well in any setting.”
Mr Mike Chan, Chief Executive Officer and country head of RHB Singapore, said: “We at RHB are determined to enhance literacy development. We want to encourage our youth to appreciate the importance of spelling.”
“When a child has the desire to better understand spelling, he or she also improves reading and writing fluency, which directly strengthens vocabulary and comprehension. Empowering our children with the skills and knowledge outside of the classroom creates a path to success.”
Some changes were made to improve the gameplay in this sixth edition of the spelling competition.
The number of contestants each school could send for the preliminary round was halved, to 10 pupils each from 20 pupils previously, to make the selection process more stringent. The intermediate round was reduced to two semi-finals from four zonal rounds previously, intensifying the level of competition.
Also for the first time this year, the content committee will analyse the contestants' performance and release a report on how the participants fared at the preliminary round after the competition. Participating schools can use this to glean insights into the most common errors made by pupils.
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