KUALA LUMPUR: The annual search for the country's top spellers has gone even bigger this year with the launch of the 10th edition of the RHB New Straits Times National Spell-It-Right (SIR) Challenge today.
Malaysia's biggest English spelling competition - jointly organised by the New Straits Times (NST) and RHB Banking Group with the support of the Education Ministry - is set to reach more primary and secondary school students with the integration of digital elements.
SIR Challenge 2017, which is divided into primary and secondary school categories, will have three stages: preliminary online challenge, state online challenge and the national level challenge.
“In conjunction with SIR’s 10th year anniversary, the first two challenges (preliminary and state) will be done online for the first time, whereby participants can either participate via SIR website or SIR mobile application. It is about time that we integrate the digital element into this competition,” said chief executive officer of The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd, Datuk Abdul Jalil Hamid.
The official website of SIR is sir.nstp.com.my and the mobile application is called SIR Challenge - both of which are accessible from August 21 onwards.
“With digital activation, it will expand the reach for this spelling competition to a wider audience. It will also provide a greater opportunity for students to participate as the accessibility and convenience are at their discretion,” he added.
“Students, teachers or parents will no longer have to travel to each SIR’s state challenge venue to participate,” Jalil said.
Meanwhile, RHB Foundation chief executive officer and group chief communications officer RHB Banking Group Norazzah Sulaiman is optimistic that the competition will garner at least 50,000 participants this year.
"This spelling competition has attracted more than 15,000 participants every year without having it online. Last year, the number of participating students saw an increase of 25 per cent to more than 23,300 students from 890 schools who were present physically at designated competition venues. Now they can participate from anywhere and at any time. All they need to do is either log on to website or download the app, register and they are already in the competition," she said.
Commenting on the new format, Norazzah said there was a need to revamp and innovate SIR after 10 years if it were to attract tech-savvy millennials.
"This is the era of smartphones, laptops and tablets and this is where the future of education is heading to. Classrooms are fast-evolving and we must be present in this space if we aim to make our future generation digital-literate and news-savvy to stay ahead. The teaching community too, must be empowered to inspire students," she said.
Education Ministry Co-curricular & Arts Division principal assistant director Roslina Mohd Roslin, who was present at the launch, said the introduction of the new mechanics in SIR Challenge 2017 is commendable.
"More students will be able to participate in this competition and have the opportunity to win prizes. With the preliminary and state challenges online, it will cut costs for students -especially those from the rural and semi-urban areas. From the comfort of their homes or schools, they can actually participate in a co-curriculum activity," she said.
Students will receive a certificate of participation via email regardless of whether they advance to the next stage.
At the preliminary online challenge, each contestant will spell 15 words with just 15 seconds allowed to spell and submit each word. The top 100 students from each category and state will qualify for the Online State Challenge, numbering 2,800 students for the State Challenge level.
Similarly, at the State Challenge level, each contestant will also spell 15 words, with 15 seconds to spell and submit each word. The champion for each category and each state will qualify for the National Challenge.
The National Challenge
level will feature only the champions from each category and each state. In the preliminary rounds at this level, students will be required to spell seven words in the round robin system, and the top five students from each category will advance to the finals.
In the final round of National Challenge, students will only have five words to spell within a round robin system, all of whom will compete for the first to fifth placing.
Established in 2008, SIR is organised to encourage the usage of English in a fun way among students, challenge young Malaysians on their verbal and intellectual prowess in mastering English and raise bar in its usage. Aimed to give recognition to the best spellers, the competition is open to those studying in national, national-type and private schools using the Malaysian national education syllabus.
A total of RM80,000 cash and a new trophy will be waiting the winners from the Online State Champion to the National Challenge. The secondary school category champion will take home RM10,000 in cash while the primary school category winner will take home RM5,000.
The top five places in each category will all receive cash prizes.
The Online Preliminary Challenge will run from 21 August until 10 September while the Online State Challenge will run from 25 September until 4 October. The National Challenge is scheduled to be held on 21 October, 2017 at Nexus, Bangsar South.