Media Releases

2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Four pupils top 115 others in The Big Spell zonal rounds

They will enter the finals on April 30, together with other pupils with the best zonal scores

Singapore, 16 April 2016 – In four simultaneous zonal rounds this morning, 119 pupils battled it out in the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2016, attemping to outspell one another for a coveted spot in the upcoming grand final.

The national spelling championship, better known as
 The Big Spell, saw 1,805 pupils sit a written test at Suntec Singapore on March 26 during the preliminary rounds. Today, zonal competitors had to verbally spell rounds of tough words on stage – facing an audience and a judging panel – each having to overcome nerves as they took turns to respond to words uttered by official pronouncers. 

They breezed through words such as “celestial”, “epidermis” and “ventriloquist”, but kept their supporters on tenterhooks, who gasped or murmured when participants encountered words such as “appellation” and “elephantiasis”. Four zonal champions emerged from the nail-biting battle:

North Zone (held at Woodlands Regional Library): 

· Ho Wing Yip, 11, Primary 6, Catholic High School (Primary)

South Zone (held at SPH Media Centre): 
· Eashaa Pillai, eight, Primary 4, Raffles Girls' Primary School

East Zone (held at Tampines Regional Library): 
· Ng Du Wei, 10, Primary 5, St Hilda's Primary School

West Zone (held at Nanyang Polytechnic): 
· Jemimah Lee, 11, Primary 6, Nanyang Primary School

Ho Wing Yip spelt “elephantiasis” – a condition which causes part of the body to swell – for the win, beating Babu Sanjaay, 11, from Rivervale Primary School, who was second. Wing Yip quipped that he had seen the word before in “a horrible science book”.

In the east zone, Ng Du Wei was crowned champion, beating his older sister, Jing Wei, 12, who was knocked out at an earlier round. Even before the competition, Jing Wei was confident Du Wei would win. She said: “I think my brother has a real shot at being the champion. He has a word bank of 200 words which he refuses to share with me.”

Each of the zonal winners is guaranteed a place in the grand final on April 30 and took home $500 and a trophy.

All other participants will be nationally ranked, and the top 20 or so are bound for the grand final.

The championship is co-organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It is supported by Nanyang Polytechnic and the National Library Board. The Singapore Zoo and Suntec Singapore are the venue partners.

Ms Serene Goh, Editor of IN and Little Red Dot, The Straits Times’ weekly publications for schools, and head of the team behind The Big Spell, said: “The obstacles in this competition may not be physical. There are no ropes to climb or walls to scale, but in terms of surmounting the challenge of holding a string of letters and uttering them all, in the correct sequence, it is the meanest feat of all.”

Mr Jason Wong, country head of RHB Bank Singapore, said: “The standards of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship has been raised every year since it launched in 2012. The number of participants is also growing.

“Spelling contests are now a trend. We have observed more schools holding their own spelling contests and even local programmes for children now use spelling as a theme. All these are signs that the National Spelling Championship has become an important milestone event for primary schools all around Singapore and we hope this phenomenon will continue.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education added that the competition was a way pupils could find the learning of spelling fun yet exciting.

“Our pupils will learn new words, observe how words are formed and discover the origin of words. Teachers can help pupils learn spelling better by teaching it in a meaningful context. Parents can support the learning of new words and how they are spelt by encouraging their children to read widely,” the spokesman said.

The finalists, who will meet on April 30 at Nanyang Polytechnic’s Theatre for the Arts, will spell their hearts out in front of friends, family, teachers, and guest-of-honour, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information.

The champion speller will take home $5,000 cash and win the Challenge Trophy for his or her school. The first and second runners-up will win $3,000 and $1,000 cash respectively. All finalists will each receive a medal.

The organisers hope the competition will develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling in literacy development among primary school pupils, as well as promote a healthy competitive spirit.

Visit for more information on The Big Spell.

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

For more information, please contact:

Colin Ong 
Assistant Manager 
Editorial Projects Unit
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
DID: +65 
6319 5118  

Athena Kang

Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications & CSR
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
DID: +65 6319 1225


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 three regional and global networks - Asia News Network, the Climate Publishers 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. It swept 11 awards at the Asia Media Awards 2015, including three Gold for Best News Website (, Best Data Visualisation Project and Best Lifestyle Mobile Service, and five Silver. The paper's school outreach initiatives have won regular top awards, which included the 2015 World Young Reader Prize given by Wan-Ifra, and Best Young Reader programme award by Panpa.

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.

For more information on RHB Bank Singapore
please log on to