What the Straits Times Didn’t Tell You about the Big Quiz

by Lye Han Jun (13A01A)

The RI team with their competitors in the finals
photo courtesy of Ryan Quek

Yesterday, RI participated in the grand finals of the Straits Times – Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz 2012 (also known, rather inventively, as the Big Quiz). The team of four, consisting of Chan Kai Yan, Loo Tien Pan, Ryan Quek and Teo Hoong Chen, triumphed over Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Hwa Chong Institution and River Valley High School to bring home the top prize of $5 000, together with a challenge shield for RI’s trophy cabinet.

The RI team — all tensed up before the final.
photo courtesy of Ryan Quek

Questions included the name of the minister who would lead a new committee in rethinking policies and making Singapore a home that citizens could be proud of (Mr Heng Swee Keat, who was “coincidentally” the Guest of Honour at the event), and the title of the video that PM Lee recently shared on his Facebook page (I Still Love You).

The team receiving the challenge trophy from Old Boy and Minister of Education Heng Swee Kiat

While most of the team members are old hands at quizzes, this was their first time competing in a Swissôtel ballroom. Watching the ferocity and speed of their buzzer-smashing and table-whacking turned out to be just as adrenaline-pumping as any other sporting match. Throughout the quiz, RI managed to maintain a very narrow lead, with Hwa Chong closing in uncomfortably from behind. In the end, we managed to finish ahead of them by a hair, ending the intense round with 18 points to their 17.

Still, the quiz was far from smooth-sailing for the RI team. Upon gaining their tenth point, the team was the first to enter the ‘Lone Ranger’ stage, in which they had to choose one member to continue the quiz alone until he answered a question correctly.

The team chose Chan Kai Yan as their Lone Ranger. However, he fell victim to over-excitement when he did not read the full question before buzzing in. He gave the the illogical answer “Asia Pacific Breweries” when asked which company had clinched a deal with Fraser & Neave to buy their entire stake in Asia Pacific Breweries. Giving the correct answer (Heineken) would have allowed them to advance by two points, but the wrong answer cost them two points instead. When asked how they felt when Kai Yan made the error, fellow team members Tien Pan and Ryan could only comment, “Oh my God…”.

Nonetheless, Arjun Jayaraman, a Year 5 who will have spent 4 years in the same class as Kai Yan upon graduation from RI, commented that he felt “really proud of him” as he had “always known him to be good at these kinds of things.”

Neither the Raffles nor the Hwa Chong team professed to have done much preparation for the quiz apart from simply reading the newspapers regularly.

Unfortunately, it was not clear that this was the case amongst their peers. As part of an outreach programme leading up to the Quiz, Year 5 students were plied with complementary copies of the Straits Times weekly, to “deepen [their] knowledge of current affairs”. This initiative ended only recently, but who can honestly say they mourned the loss? Going by a quick straw poll of students across classes, a substantial number of copies ended up in the recycling bins.

“The idea is not a bad one,” Koh Wei Yi of 13S03A conceded, “but there isn’t much motivation for us to read the newspaper, and it becomes extra baggage when we move around between classes.” Additionally, the system of distribution, whereby SPH showered free copies on students, appeared regrettably wasteful, especially when the newspapers continued to be delivered on school-declared holidays like Staff Training Day. Instead, students with subscriptions could be left to bring their copies to school, while those without subscriptions could opt in.

“I think it’s pointless because those who want to read the newspapers are already reading them and those who don’t won’t read it just because you give them a copy,” demurred Zhang Ningxin of 13A03B.

When interviewed, Ms Serene Goh, ST Schools Programme editor, accepted that they could not force everyone to read the newspapers. However, she believed it was worthwhile to have the ST available “as a resource for them to plough through”, should any students want to. She added that while RI students may find it wasteful, they are not a representative cross-section of the population, and subscription rates are relatively lower in many other schools.

We found the breadth of the teams’ general knowledge at the quiz yesterday downright inspiring – one can only imagine what veritable founts of information they have at their fingertips for General Paper essays.  We encourage readers to take the plunge themselves this weekend and give the papers more than a cursory scan through for the comics; one could start by reading the ST coverage of the event on page A8 of today’s main section, complete with an amusing trophy-clutching jump-shot of the team.

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