National School Games: New competition format to give student-athletes more playing time

SINGAPORE – Some primary and junior school students will get more opportunities to compete in the 2023 National School Games (NSG) as the traditional zonal and national tri-sport competitions will be replaced by a new format.

Instead, a classification and league system will be used for table tennis, tennis and water polo in the senior and C divisions.

In a departure from the usual geographically based zonal competitions, student-athletes in these sports will first compete against schools in Singapore in a qualifying round.

They then compete in a round-robin competition in a new league round against schools of similar ability, with those from the top league competing for division championships. More sports will be added in 2024.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a press statement on Thursday that the revised format will allow most student-athletes to play more matches, compared to the traditional format where half would play three to five matches at the zonal level.

“These changes are intended to increase the participation of more student-athletes and promote a more enjoyable competitive experience in the NSG,” the ministry added.

The Ministry of Economy has earlier introduced the format for the 2019 B Division football tournament.

The NSG was officially launched on Thursday by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and is being renewed with more than 60,000 student-athletes competing in 29 sports – this includes the return of rugby 15 a side and national competitions for all sports.

The Games will return in full force after being affected by the pandemic in recent years, with the competition first canceled in 2020 before being revived with fewer sports and altered formats subsequently.

Only volleyball competed at the national level last year – the others only competed at the zonal level – and in 2023 student-athletes will compete at the national level in basketball, badminton, netball and table tennis.

In his speech, Mr Chan said: “What helped us emerge stronger from the pandemic were values ​​such as resilience and teamwork. Today, as we celebrate sport, it is a fitting reminder that sport provides a natural and authentic context for developing these same values.

“We are inspired by the journeys and struggles that others overcome, and they in turn inspire us to embrace the same spirit.”

He also announced that the athletics finals would return to the National Stadium in four years, with the Singapore Sports Center – which was taken over by the government in 2022 – hosting more semi-finals and finals of other NSG sports.

As participants celebrated NSG’s return, Mr Chan took the opportunity to praise the achievements of the New Town Primary and River Valley Primary senior netball teams last season. Both schools were short of players and formed a composite team for the South Zone competition where they finished third.

Similarly, a combined water polo team will also compete in the NSG 2023 under the MOE and Sport Singapore’s Joint Learning Activities Program (SP-CCA) Strategic Partnership. Launched in 2019, it allows students to participate in CCA not offered by their schools.

With plans to include more combined teams, Mr Chan expects a “more vibrant and exciting NSG experience”.

He encouraged all students to make the most of their NSG experience while continuing to practice good personal hygiene and be socially responsible.

He said: “Whether you emerge victorious or not, the sheer experience of competing will allow you to build your character while striving for sporting excellence.”

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