Friday 24 January 2014

Review committee to chart future of Sports School

It will study ways to ensure students progress in both sports and studies
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2014

EVEN as Singapore's sporting starlets strive to become world-beaters, efforts will also be made to ensure student-athletes at the Singapore Sports School (SSP) continue to progress in their academic pursuits.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday announced a review that will help chart the future direction of the SSP, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Co-chaired by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) permanent secretary Yeoh Chee Yan and Singapore Sports Council chairman Richard Seow, the review committee will study ways to ensure that its students continue to be equipped with the best, both in sports and studies.

"The school has done well, but you need to continually review your work to stay relevant in the changing sporting landscape," PM Lee said in his speech at the institution's annual awards night in its Woodlands campus yesterday.

"The competition is getting stronger. Even in South-east Asia, other countries are investing significant resources to develop their athletes and they're closing the gap with us, even in sports where traditionally we have done well."

At last month's SEA Games, swimmers from Vietnam and Thailand dethroned Singapore champions en route to winning golds.

The committee, which will gather members and is expected to submit a proposal by the end of the year, will look at how the world's best sports academies design their academic curricula around training regimes.

It will also build partnerships with polytechnics and universities both locally and abroad to give students more academic options.

Mr Lee added that with the Sports Hub due for completion soon and Singapore hosting the SEA Games next year, the next few years will be exciting, and will give Singapore a chance to show what it is as a sporting nation.

"Let's take a fresh look. We've come a long way. (Let's see) how we can do better, and what should we do next," said Mr Lee, as he challenged the SSP to become a national sports academy of excellence in its next decade.

Acting Minister for MCCY Lawrence Wong, too, said: "The SSP has achieved much in the last 10 years. It is timely to take stock and see how the school can create an even more conducive environment for our aspiring athletes to fulfil their sporting dreams in an international arena."

The SSP, which had its first intake in 2004 and now has an enrolment of 523, has been giving student-athletes the unique opportunity to shift their primary focus from academic studies to sports.

But a sound academic programme has never been sacrificed, said SSP principal Tan Teck Hock, who took over the helm from Mrs Deborah Tan this month.

He cited the class of 2013's performance in last year's O-level examinations as proof: 89.7 per cent qualified for junior college and pre-university, while 97.4 per cent were eligible for the polytechnics.

About 55 per cent of graduates from the 2006 to 2009 cohorts are also now enrolled in universities here and abroad.

Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Isabelle Li, who was lauded by Mr Lee for her excellence in both sports and academic studies, knows student-athletes like her are in a privileged position.

"Many athletes in other countries concentrate only on training, then experience trouble later on in their lives if they don't make it (in sports)... For me and for local athletes, we know that there will be something in store for us," said the 19-year-old, who is graduating from Republic Polytechnic in May with a near-perfect GPA score.

"Local athletes like myself are really entering very exciting times," added the 2013 SEA Games team gold medallist, who has been earmarked as a potential candidate for the Sports Excellence Scholarship. "We've never seen this kind of support before."


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