Whither the CCAs in our schools?

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By Bernard Pereira

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I look at the list of Schools’ CCAs (co-curricula activities) today and I begin to wonder where Singapore sport is headed.

Where in the past, we used to focus our sights on the loftiest ideal, the Olympics, or, failing that, the Asian Games, or at least the SEA Games, today I’m not so sure anymore.

What, with games like tchoukball, frisbee, rope-skipping and floorball in our schools sports diet? I am truly floored!

None of the four is an Olympic sport, to start with! With games like these, who needs Olympic or Asian Games champions?

And to think we fell head over heels in love with people like Ang Peng Siong, Junie Sng and Joscelin Yeo, all swimmers, and Chee Swee Lee in track and field in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.

For the record, they were all still schooling when they registered some of their biggest achievements for Singapore.

Swee Lee won the 400m gold medal in the Asian Games in 1974. Peng Siong won his gold medal in the 1982 Asian Games’ 100m freestyle. Junie won two golds in the 400m and 800m backstroke in the 1978 Asian Games when she was just 14!

Was it any surprise our minds then had a common trajectory. We were all tuned to the Olympic ideal. Nothing less.

Of course, we still have swimming, football, track and field, hockey, badminton, table-tennis and a host of others played in schools today. Then, why don’t we just focus our sights on these sports? Or better still, choose a select few in which we feel we can excel.

Because talent in a city-state of only 5.3mil – which includes 1.5mil foreigners who are not eligible to represent us – is a prime commodity, and should only be channelled into activties that can reap world-class Olympic-based honours.

Lest we forget, in such competitions, we’ll be pitted against countries with massive talent bases, like China, with 1.4bil population, or Japan (127mil) or UK (64mil). Against such odds, we need the creme de la creme of our talented crop.

Otherwise, why dangle the Singapore National Olympic Council cash carrots for gold, silver and bronze medals in the Olympics, Asian Games and SEA Games? Who are those rewards for? Might as well take them down if the schools – our breeding ground for raw talent – are not on the same wavelength as our National Sports Associations and SNOC.

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Now, I am not denigrating those newly-introduced sports. Nor the people connected to their introduction. Not at all.

I’m sure every one of these games has its own merits – each ultimately with its own world championship, too. But you’d have to agree that they are simply not in the same league or pedigree as the Olympics or Asiad.

Having said that, I’m befuddled as to why the NSAs and Singapore Schools Sports Council are not moving in tandem. Shouldn’t this call for a meeting of minds to decide once and for all the one common direction we are taking to international sports honours?

Look at it this way: You can continue to have tchoukball, frisbee, rope-skipping and floorball in the schools.

But please, hands off the young Olympic sports talents. They should be nurtured only for the key sports, like swimming, badminton, hockey and whatever other Olympic sport we know we can excel in.

Efforts to get a statement from national sports organisations, such as Singapore Sports Council, Singapore Schools Sports Council and even the Ministry of Social and Family Development, drew a blank.

Ms Charlotte Chen Ting Ying, MOE Corporate Communications Executive, however, drew attention to the MOE webpage on CCA “for more information on CCAs in our schools.”

“Students who are keen on an activity not offered in school may obtain their school’s approval to start their own activities. This gives students the chance to pursue their specific interests or ideas, and expands the range of activities available in school. Students may also participate in community-based activities, to help nurture the spirit of social enterprise and enhance their links with the community at large,” a statement from the webpage read.