The Junior Sports Academies (JSAs) for primary school students were set up in 2008 to systematically identify and nurture young sporting talents in our schools. To date, more than 2,200 students have participated in the JSAs.
The JSAs have provided opportunities for students to train and learn with peers of similar sporting ability and to help each other improve their game. Beyond the deepening of sports skills and knowledge, students have also made new friends passionate in sports, from other schools. The programme enables students to practise values such as discipline, teamwork and responsibility, which can be transferred to other learning contexts.
The revised JSA programme will provide deeper and broader sports development opportunities for budding sporting talents across all primary schools. In particular, this programme caters to students with high natural ability in the physical domain, but who may not have prior access to sport-specific training.
The revised JSA has been developed based on our research of studies and best practice around the world. It takes a long term and holistic view to athlete development. To enable students to explore, discover and develop their areas of sports interests and strengths, the revised JSA programme comprises two main components - Sports Modules, and Sports Education Modules. Students will choose and participate in a total of four sports, over two years. They will also attend workshops that focus on various aspects of athlete development, such as mental skills and fitness conditioning, to prepare them for future sporting development.
For a start, around 400 Primary 4 students will be selected from across all primary schools to join the programme.
12 sports will be offered in 2015. At steady state, students will have the option to choose sports modules from 28 sports in the National School Games for secondary schools. This is to provide developmental pathways for students to continue their sport development at the secondary school level.
MOE will conduct workshops for parents and coaches to understand how they can complement this programme. With the support from parents, coaches and the respective National Sports Associations, graduands of the programme will be equipped with a strong foundation as they continue to pursue sports beyond the primary schools.
The Ministry of Education adopts a holistic approach towards physical and sports education throughout the education system. At the pre-tertiary level, Physical Education (PE) lessons are designed to help students develop strong fundamental motor skills, expose them to a wide variety of sports or physical activities, and equip them with knowledge to design their own fitness programme. With access to sports facilities and recreational games, students have the opportunity to enjoy and live a healthy lifestyle, building a foundation to pursue these activities beyond their years in school.
At the tertiary level, our post-secondary education institutions (PSEIs) continue to provide an environment which supports sports participation. At most of the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) colleges, students participate in compulsory sports and wellness modules. The Sports for Life programme at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), for example, allows first-year students to participate in a sport of their choice, with options ranging from common sports such as swimming and tennis, to more novel ones such as laser tag and martial arts. Beyond the first year, students can continue to take elective modules to further their sports journey. The larger universities (NUS, NTU) also offer sports modules - some of which are credit-bearing - to their students.
Outside of the formal curriculum, mass participation events and competitive inter- and intra-institution games build a sporting culture at the PSEIs, and provide convenient opportunities for students to be involved in sports, regardless of their level of proficiency. The NUS Sports Club, for example, organises “SunNUS”, a popular annual beach sports event that brings together students, staff, alumni, and the public for a day of sports on Sentosa’s beaches. The barrier to entry is low, and caters to those looking for recreational sports. Those seeking more competitive sports can also participate in inter-faculty games at the PSEIs, or the annual inter-institution games, including the Singapore Universities Games (SUNiG), the Inter-Varsity Polytechnic Games (IVP) as well as the Polytechnic-Institute of Technical Education (POL-ITE) Games. These programmes and activities are often free, if not heavily subsidised, to ensure that the cost of sports participation is kept as low as possible. Students also have access to a wide range of facilities at the PSEIs to pursue sports at their own time, and in line with their own interests.
Not all within the 20-24 age group are enrolled in our IHLs. Many are already in the workplace, and Minister Lawrence Wong in January this year outlined the efforts that MCCY is making to encourage sports participation among this group, as well as among the public. These efforts by our IHLs and MCCY are contributing to reversing the trend of declining sports participation among those in this age group. The member will be pleased to hear that dipstick figures taken between 2012 to 2014 have reflected an increase in the sports participation rates for this age group to about 70%.
While this trend is encouraging, sports participation should be for life, and should not stop once students leave our PSEIs. To encourage active and healthy living beyond students’ tertiary education years, our PSEIs also conduct sports and health-related education programmes. For example, NTU has a Healthy Lifestyle Unit that organises health education and healthy lifestyle activities. At the polytechnics, RP’s Health and Fitness module equips students with strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle. These efforts lay the foundation for our students to engage in sports and lead healthy lives throughout their adult years.
It is important that our Autonomous Universities (AUs) recruit academic staff based on merit, to ensure that they hire the best talent able to deliver high quality education and conduct research that will benefit our students and Singapore.
All eligible Singaporeans are considered carefully, and processes are in place to ensure that hiring is non-discriminatory. Applications for academic positions are put through multiple approval layers involving selection committees, Academic Heads of Department and Faculty Deans, before final approval by top management. Senior appointments must be approved by the Presidents or Boards of Trustees.
The government and our AUs are keenly aware of the need to develop local talent. This is why I recently launched the new Singapore Academic and Research Talent Scheme, to encourage more young Singaporeans to pursue an academic career. At the undergraduate level, a MOE-AU undergraduate scholarship has been launched for those who have keen interest and strong aptitude for a career in academia. Under this scholarship, recipients will be paired with NUS, NTU or SMU, and benefit from academic mentorship throughout and beyond his undergraduate studies. The student will then be expected to apply for a postgraduate scholarship from our AUs, for PhD studies and post-doctoral stints. These postgraduate scholarships will be co-funded 50-50 by MOE and the AUs. This comprehensive developmental programme is only available to Singaporeans and is intended to prepare each individual for an academic career.
Under the Singapore Academic and Research Talent Scheme, we will grow the number of existing postgraduate scholarships for Singaporeans who are interested to do research and teach at our AUs. We intend to offer over 1,500 scholarships at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, over the next 15 years.
Additionally, our AUs also actively try to reach out and recruit Singaporean academics based overseas.
Edusave was introduced to support the holistic development of students in MOE-funded schools.
We have recently extended Edusave Contributions to all Singaporeans aged 7 to 16, even if they are not in an MOE-funded school, so that they too can receive support for secular enrichment activities.
Edusave Awards recognise secular academic and non-academic achievements in the context of MOE-funded schools. It would not be appropriate to extend the Edusave Awards to students in private schools, including those in the six full-time madrasahs that offer a total curriculum that comprises both compulsory religious and secular subjects.
Madrasah students do receive support. MUIS provides assistance for madrasah students from low income families. In particular, MUIS provides the PROMAS Performance Award to needy madrasah students who perform well in both their religious and secular subjects and exhibit exemplary character.