SINGAPORE: Following a review last year, a suite of changes is being made to sporting competitions under the junior division of the National School Games (NSG).
The changes are meant to bring about more learning and developmental experiences for primary school pupils, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a press release on Wednesday (Jan 23).
Recognition for individual sporting events will be increased from the current top four spots to the top eight positions, where appropriate.
MOE said that this is to create more opportunities for young student-athletes, aged nine to 11, "to be recognised for their efforts and achievements".
Additionally, "criterion-based recognition" such as timings for track and field and the number of pin-falls for tenpin bowling, will be introduced to some sports "to promote self-improvement, mastery and the importance of striving for goals based on objective targets", MOE said.
To allow teams that would otherwise be eliminated early in the tournament, the competition formats for match-based sports will be changed from a “single pyramid” to one with "multiple apexes", MOE said, adding that this will double the number of matches these teams get to play.
This will be implemented from this year, said Education Ong Ye Kung in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
"This is like European football - there’s the Champions League and the Europa League, and both can be very exciting," he added.
MOE will also amend the age group division structure to give more 11-year-old students the opportunity to play in either the junior or senior divisions in 11 non-contact sports based on the teachers' or coaches' assessment of their readiness.
MOE said that this is to "address individual differences in their maturation and skills development".
Changes will also be made to some games to help young athletes "master the fundamental game and movement skills appropriate for their age group", MOE said.
For example, basketball and floorball will become three-sided games played on a smaller court to "place less emphasis on complex tactical concepts and allow players to have more touches of the ball".
Some sports equipment, including those in tennis, will also be switched in order to help the students grasp proper techniques.
MOE said that the regular tennis balls will be replaced with orange-dot and green-dot balls, which are "slower and have a lower bounce" so that players can focus on mastering the proper strokes.
Furthermore, a change in substitution rules will require most substitutes, if not all, to play at some point in the match to give more opportunities for players to participate.
"These enhancements will enable our young athletes to enjoy their sporting experiences, have more opportunities to participate in competitions, and develop character and values through sports," said Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Education, at the 2019 NSG opening ceremony.
Some of the changes have already been rolled out in 2018, MOE said, with the remainder to be fully implemented by 2021.
MOE also said that the changes were a part of its efforts to strengthen the "holistic development" of primary school students and encourage them to enjoy playing sports.
"These changes and enhancements are aligned with practices advocated by international sports organisations and found in other countries with positive youth sport practices," the ministry said.
NSG runs from January to August each year and comprises more than 400 sports championships.
This year, about 58,000 student-athletes from more than 365 primary and secondary schools, junior colleges and the Millenia Institute are expected to take part in 29 different sports including badminton, canoeing, table tennis and taekwondo.