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The battle begins at the first round of The Big Spell 2013

About 1,300 primary school pupils try for a spot in the zonal rounds

Singapore, 9 March 2013 - About 1,300 of the nation's top spellers – the largest number to take part so far – pit their skills against each other at the preliminary round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship today.

Their goal? To snag a place among the top 20 or so pupils in their zone – and eventually become Singapore’s champion speller – in The Big Spell quest jointly organised by the RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Singapore (MOE).

The champion will win $5,000 and a trophy, while his or her school will take the challenge trophy. The first runner-up wins $3,000 and the second runner-up wins $1,000. 

The participants from more than 120 primary schools nationwide had to first make it past the pen-and-paper qualifying round, where 50 pre-recorded words were read out to the pupils from Primary 4 to 6, at the Raffles City Convention Centre. 

Pupils turned up as early as 7.10am, with many of them revising commonly misspelt words and holding on to thick dictionaries and sheaves of notes. During the hour-long test, many pupils bit their lips and squinted as they tried to spell words such as “embarrass”“chancellor” and“machete”. 

Their scripts were collected and sealed in boxes. MOE officers will grade these papers over the next few days and rank the spellers according to the North, South, East and West zones in which their schools are located. 

About 20 pupils from each zone will make the cut to compete at the zonal round on 13 April, while the grand finals will see Singapore's top primary school spellers in a showdown on 27 April.

Ms Serene Goh, Editor of Little Red Dot, The Straits Times’ weekly magazine for primary schools, said the large number of pupils taking part showed how good spelling was increasingly being taken seriously in schools.

She said: "The mental challenge of holding a string of letters in your head, then speaking them out in the correct order is a feat. I've tried some of these words on adults -- they can't even do it. The fact that so many young people still prize this accomplishment just goes to show that they're not relying on technology to get things right. They want to do it themselves. That's inspirational."

Added Puan Norazzah Sulaiman, Director of Group Corporate Services, RHB Banking Group, the main sponsor of the spelling championship: "We are pleased to note the overwhelming response amongst students here and that our efforts are making a difference to even more young minds in Singapore this year."

Commenting on the good response from schools to the contest, Dr Tan Bee Geok, Deputy Director of the Gifted Education branch of MOE, noted the positive interest in spelling and the steady growth in pupil participation. 

“Schools continued to ask for more places for their pupils in this annual competition. Teachers have been busy preparing their pupils for the competition, and in doing so, have enhanced the pupils’ awareness of the use of words and their origins,” she said. 

A briefing for teachers on 29 January provided them with ideas for classroom strategies to increase their pupils’ interest in spelling accurately as well as to acquire a wider vocabulary. 

MOE, which has been organising its National Spelling Championship annually since 2007, decided to partner RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times in 2012 because it wanted to leverage on the strengths of private corporations. This would take the contest to greater heights for the pupils’ benefit.
 About 1,200 pupils took part in last year's preliminary round.

New this year is a suite of spelling games, iSpell iGNITE, fuelled by education technology firm iQ-hub. The online games, which extend the championship’s reach to more pupils, will culminate in The Big Spell Digital Challenge finals, on the sidelines of the 27 April event, where winners will take home Samsung tablet computers. This competition is also supported by the National Library Board. 

In the lead-up to the spelling quest and to prime students taking part in it, Little Red Dot, The Straits Times’ weekly school magazine for primary school pupils, will be covering the blow-by-blow excitement of the National Spelling Championship as it unfolds, and providing tips and tricks to spelling. 

The Straits Times' multimedia news portal RazorTV will also showcase video clips of the preliminary round, the zonal rounds and the grand final, while HOT FM91.3 will air info capsules on words of the day, broadcast interesting nuggets about the spelling contest and visit selected schools for Recess Express, its school outreach segment.

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

For more information, please contact:

Andrea Thum (Ms)
Assistant Manager
Editorial Projects Unit
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
6319 1016

Joelyn Tan (Ms)
Corporate Communications & CSR
Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
6319 1895

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. 

The Straits Times' key strength is in its world class coverage of news outside Singapore. With 20 bureaus in major cities around the world, The Straits Times correspondents bring world news to readers on a Singapore platter, helping them appreciate world events from a Singaporean perspective. 

In keeping with the times, The Straits Times introduced weekly supplements such as Digital Life (DL), Urban and Mind Your Body (MYB) to complement The Straits Times as well as IN and Little Red Dot to cater to young readers in schools. In 2010, IN won the World Young Reader prize for the Newspapers In Education category. The prize was awarded by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra).

The Straits Times also has an online presence at The site features top stories, blogs and an online forum threads. Also under The Straits Times' umbrella are citizen journalism site Stomp and online television service The Straits Times RazorTV.

About RHB Bank Singapore

RHB Bank was first established in 1961 as United Malayan Banking Corporation Berhad. Through a series of rapid expansion and strategic mergers, RHB Bank Singapore emerged as a full-licensed bank with a network of 7 branches and operating 15 Bureau de Change outlets in Singapore Changi Airport. The Bank provides a comprehensive range of financial products and services to consumer, corporate and business clients, ranging from various types of deposits and loans, treasury to investment banking. 

RHB Bank Singapore is the first full bank to be conferred the prestigious S-Class (Service Class) award by SPRING Singapore as well as the first and only bank in Singapore and Malaysia to be awarded the prestigious “Best Customer Experience Management of the Year Award” in banking service by APCSC Hong Kong and most recently, awarded the SQC (Singapore Quality Class) by SPRING Singapore in June 2010.

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About Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Southeast Asia's leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms. It publishes 18 newspaper titles in four languages and over 100 magazine titles in Singapore and the region. On an average day, – 3.05 million individuals or 76 percent of people above 15 years old, read one of SPH’s news publications. SPH’s internet editions of its major newspapers enjoy over 270 million page views with 18 million unique visitors each month. Other new media initiatives include AsiaOne,, ST701, Stomp and The Straits Times RazorTV. SPH has also ventured into book publishing, broadcasting, out-of-home advertising and properties. For more information, please visit

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 for more information.