SINGAPORE – Some upper primary and lower secondary students will get more opportunities to compete at the National School Games (NSG) in 2023 as the traditional zonal and national competitions for three sports will be replaced by a new format.
A classification and league system will be used instead for table tennis, tennis and water polo in the seniors and C Division.
In a move away from the usual geographical-based zonal competitions, student-athletes in these sports will first compete against schools across Singapore in a classification round.
They then compete in a round-robin competition in a new league round against schools of similar abilities, with those in the top league competing for the divisional championship titles. 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 will play three to five matches at the zonal level.
“These changes are intended to increase participation for more student-athletes and promote a more enjoyable competition experience in the NSG,” added the ministry.
The MOE had earlier implemented the format for the B Division football tournament in 2019.
The NSG was officially opened on Thursday by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and resumes with over 60,000 student-athletes competing across 29 sports – this includes the return of 15-a-side rugby and national competitions for all sports.
The Games will return in full force after being hit by the pandemic in recent years, with the competition cancelled for the first time in 2020, before it resumed with fewer sports and modified formats subsequently.
Only volleyball was contested at the national level last year – the others were only competed at the zonal level – and 2023 will see student-athletes competing in the nationals in basketball, badminton, netball and table tennis.
In his speech, Mr Chan said: “What helped us emerge stronger from the pandemic are values such as resilience and teamwork. Today, as we celebrate sports, it is an apt reminder that sports provide 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 spur us to embrace the same spirit.”
He also announced that the track and field finals will return to the National Stadium after four years, with the Singapore Sports Hub – which saw a Government takeover in 2022 – set to host more semi-finals and finals of other NSG sports.
As participants celebrated the return of the NSG, Mr Chan took the opportunity to commend the achievements of the senior netball teams of New Town Primary and River Valley Primary last season. Both schools did not have enough players and formed a combined team for the South Zone competition, where they finished third.
Similarly, a combined water polo team will also compete in the 2023 NSG under MOE and Sport Singapore’s Strategic Partnership Co-Curricular Activity (SP-CCA) programme. Started in 2019, it allows students to participate in a CCA that is 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 practise good personal hygiene and be socially responsible.
He said: “Whether you emerge victorious or otherwise, the very experience of participating in the competitions will allow you to build your character, while striving for sporting excellence.”