RHB-NST National Spell-It-Right Challenge: Kids excited over digital approach
August 17, 2017

Gearing up online for national spelling contest


KUALA LUMPUR: Pupils and teachers are gearing up for the RHB New Straits Times (NST) National Spell-It-Right Challenge 2017 with the digital SIR Challenge app.

SK Seri Bintang Utara English teacher Saraswathy Palasubramaniam, 36, said the school had been preparing its pupils since the launch of the app.

She said the school encouraged pupils to enter the competition and had asked parents to download the app to monitor their children’s progress at home.

“What’s different this year is that parents can now observe what their children are participating in. Last year, it was handled mostly by teachers at school. Now, the children can join the competition in the comfort of their own homes.

“SK Seri Bintang Utara has been encouraging students to learn English, and with the SIR Challenge, they are keen to approach the subject. We also provide classes for contestants to practise with the SIR Challenge tutorial setting.

“We only encourage Level 2 pupils (Year 4-6) to participate, but there is increasing interest from Level 1 (Year 1-3) pupils as well. Pupils are welcome to use the computer labs to log in to the SIR Challenge.”

The school’s top pupils said they were confident about winning the competition.

 Yusuf Ashraf and Elroy Ang, both in Year 4, nodded with enthusiasm when asked whether they were confident about winning the SIR Challenge after trying out the tutorial session online.

“The app is challenging, but it is also interesting as I can improve my spelling. We have learnt so many new words through the tutorial session,” said Elroy. 

Former national primary school winner Siddesh Sivalingam, of SK Bukit Damansara, said he was glad that he was able to participate in the competition this year during the school holidays.

“I think the holidays will give me more time. My mom helps me with the online dictionary,” the 11-year-old said. 

Siddesh felt that his chances of winning would depend on the number of pupils who took part in the challenge.

His brother, Somesh, 13, who was in fourth place at the state level last year, said he would participate, and it would be different, as he would be competing in the secondary school rounds of SIR.

“It will be a different setting for me this year, as I will be competing in the secondary school rounds. I am expecting trickier words this time. For my preparations, I have been reading more, and have even signed up for an online dictionary.

“I think the app is a great platform for those who have stage fright, and I think there will be more competition as more students are able to participate,” said the Form 1 student of SMK Sri Hartamas.

The boys’ parents, Dr Sivalingam and Gurmeet Sivalingam, said they would continue to be supportive of whatever the boys decided to do.

Dr Sivalingam, 49, said one of the benefits of having the app was that students from rural areas were able to participate in the competition.

However, he was concerned some parents might be taking the tests on behalf of their children.

“Some parents may be competitive, and we need to let our children at least try,” Dr Sivalingam added.

New Straits Times brand management senior executive Siti Fatimah Mohamad said spellers were required to spell 15 words via audio.  Each word is followed by the definition and usage in a sentence.

“Please make sure that you attempt the competition only when you are ready and prepared to do so. You are also advised to make sure there is a steady Internet connection.

“You only have 15 seconds to spell each word, so use the headphones to make sure you can hear the words clearly. Do try the tutorial first to practise spelling the words on the device you are using,” she said.

After the online preliminary stage (Aug 21 to Sept 10), only 100 candidates from each category (primary and secondary) will continue to the Online State Challenge, from Sept 25 to Oct 4.

The SIR Challenge app can be downloaded via Google Play for Android and Apple iTunes for iOS users or via sir.nstp.com.my.