By Mary Lee
Swimmer Joseph Schooling’s parents should be lauded for pushing for a two-year deferment of his National Service (NS) until 2016. And Mindef needs to be praised because it has done something which it had resisted all along.
It’s about time the rigidity of NS accommodates the nation’s other aspiration — to produce world medal winners.
Sports boys and girls don’t become first-class overnight. It takes years of training to be that fit and talented. When it’s time to go into NS, they’ll still be fit enough to run up slopes with a gun and heavy backpack.
At the school level, the Ministry of Education can make a basic pass in subjects like Mathematics and English a requirement to represent the school in sports (let’s try and avoid raising dumb jocks!)
We already have the Singapore Sports School. Extending NS deferment to its most promising graduands who are good enough to represent Singapore internationally would be a logical way to incentivise our youth. After all, parents are already enrolling their pre-teens in physical training to give these children a headstart in getting direct admission to the Sports School or other schools known for excelling in a sport their child is good at.
If nothing else, NS deferment to groom potential Singaporean stars is much better than buying sportsmen and sportswomen from China with citizenship to win medals.