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Student-Athletes Emerge From Pre-U Seminar Stronger

2021 Pre-University Seminar

By Elisa Tan Shu Tsi
Fencing, IBDP Year 5

With contributions from Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian and Kevyn Loh Zheng Lin
Both Shooting, IBDP Year 5

2021 Pre-U Seminar Participants.jpg
(From left) Alyssa Pok, Anna Tay, Elisa Tan, Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian and Kevyn Loh

The 51st Pre-University Seminar was a four-day workshop jointly conducted by the Ministry of Education and Eunoia Junior College, formally held from 1 to 4 June 2021. However, the seminar truly began on 13 March, when participants were first introduced to their groups, and given the opportunity to brainstorm and work on a final deliverable: A tangible project to reflect their respective groups’ themes. The overarching theme for 2021 was Stronger, with three sub-themes Kinder, Bolder, and Tougher, and each group had their own Area of Focus. I belonged to the group Tougher-Identity. Participating in the seminar with me were my classmates Alyssa Pok Jing Ying (Ice Skating), Anna Tay Wan Enn (Fencing), Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian, and Kevyn Loh Zheng Lin (both Shooting). Five of us were among 535 participants from 30 schools. We were also graced by the presence of our guests-of-honour, Dr Maliki Osman and Minister Chan Chun Sing, for the opening and closing ceremonies respectively.

The objective of the seminar was not just to create the final deliverable. Through workshops and activities, we were made to reflect on the existing social, economic, and political situation in Singapore. Going further, we discussed possible problems, and possible solutions. As our Area of Focus was “identity”, my group wanted to celebrate an element of the Singaporean identity – an amalgamation of different cultures and backgrounds – and we decided to focus on food, a cornerstone of what defines us as Singaporeans. We decided to make a video essay on hawker food; specifically, we found dishes from Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Peranakan cultures that had rice as their main ingredient, symbolising the diversity and accessibility of our hawker food scene in Singapore, as well as how we still have underlying ties that connect us as a community.

Although the seminar was held entirely online for the first time in history, the workshops conducted were still poignant and insightful. There were several panel discussions which were carried out using the Speakers and Fishbowl protocols, as well as an interesting sharing segment termed “Human Library” where involved individuals, called “Human Books” from various walks of life gave insight and different perspectives on how to build a stronger Singapore. The four-day programme also included an online Learning Journey. We were given the opportunity to speak with resource people from interesting sectors. I personally enjoyed the Human Library session very much, as one of the “Human Books” I signed up for is from the National Youth Council, and he discussed the role of youth in government policy-making. I found this especially important to me as I believe that us youths definitely need to take an active role in politics, be it through our own initiative or through more inclusive decision-making processes led by the government. Even though this particular session was not relevant to my group’s final deliverable, I still enjoyed it immensely.

During the closing ceremony, three groups were selected to present their projects to Minister Chan, and while my group’s final deliverable was not in the spotlight at the end of the seminar, I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with so many different people. The journey was ultimately more important than the destination, because I learnt important lessons on teamwork and open-mindedness. One challenge my group faced was the limited timeframe of merely a few days that we were given to work on our video essay. However, by taking initiative and delegating responsibilities, we were able to complete the video, and I am proud of my group’s work.

All in all, the 2021 Pre-University Seminar was a unique and invaluable experience for me, and I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend it this year.

By Kevyn Loh Zheng Lin

Each team comprised around twenty students from different schools and institutions, two student facilitators and a teacher supervisor from EJC. We were grouped with participants who shared similar beliefs as us, which were aligned with the values and visions of Singapore. I was placed in Team Resilience, which comes under one of the three sub-themes, Tougher. Although unable to meet one another face-to-face with the seminar shifting online, we still had much joy interacting with others via ice-breaking activities. From how we have personally coped with the pandemic to seeing their favourite hawker stalls adopting online platforms to survive through this tough time, we each shared what resilience means to each of us and some examples where we have demonstrated or have seen others demonstrate resilience.

As many of us were secluded at home during the outbreak, the issue of mental health spoke true to the whole team and we decided that we wanted to delve further into that topic. We sought to raise awareness of mental health, conducting interviews with people from all walks of life and understanding how they overcame the obstacles they faced. We had the pleasant opportunity to interview professionals and experts on mental health to deepen our understanding on the issues faced by victims of mental illness.

Our finished deliverable met all of our expectations. I, together with several of my team members, shared and presented our project to the other teams during the closing ceremony on 4 June. Our team was mindful not to be ostentatious during our presentation of our project as the issue of mental health should not be glamorised, but rather faced with a pensive notion.

The meeting with Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing was an enlightening one. We engaged in dialogues related to issues of national concern, tackling challenges ranging from water scarcity to xenophobia. Many of us also agreed that the issue of mental health is real and present in our society and the ways in which various non-governmental organisations have stepped up efforts to address it.

This seminar was particularly special to me, not only because mental strength and resilience play a big part in my sport, but also because resilience is one of the core values of Singapore Sports School that I strongly believe in. Through this experience and the interviews we had, I realised how the issue of mental health is socially stigmatised, with victims afraid of seeking help fearing ridicule from others. I hope that our deliverable would serve as a big hug to victims telling them that they are never alone and they, too, can brave through it.

As shared by a teammate and fellow Sports School student-athlete Nadra: “I gained a deeper understanding of the pressing issues faced by Singapore. What struck me the most is multilateralism and inclusivity – that we need to be empathetic towards others to ensure minimal conflict. I believe that this will ultimately be the fuel for maintaining Singapore's success in the future.”

By Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian

During the opening ceremony, Dr Maliki Osman, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs, graced the seminar as the Guest-of-Honour. Dr Maliki gave a speech that addressed the theme of our seminar, “Stronger”, including his opinions on our role as youth in Singapore. This increased my excitement for the programmes ahead as I started thinking about how I can better contribute to Singapore’s society.

Prior to the seminar, participants were tasked to design a postcard which reflect their hopes and aspirations for Singapore related to their area of focus. Out of the 24 postcards across the three sub-themes which were selected to be featured, six were framed and presented to the guests-of-honour as a token of appreciation. Four postcards were presented to Dr Maliki, including one that I had designed.

We also attended virtual learning journeys, where we celebrated the journeys of Singaporeans from all walks of life. Through a diversity of speakers, we engaged in authentic and meaningful conversations with fellow Singaporeans. “The biggest insight that I gained from the panel discussions is that kindness should not be forced, but should truly come from the heart for it to mean something,” said Kevyn.

A segment that holds some significance to me was the Human Library segment, where different “human books” shared their unique personal experiences via breakout rooms in Zoom. Due to the small group sizes, we were all able to have our fair share of conversation and discussion. These “human books” were people who have found success through hardships which served as both a reality check and inspiration to me. It is often easy to be carried away by one’s aspirations, but to be able to show resilience in chasing your dreams is something amazing and commendable. “I am touched by the stories shared and I am genuinely happy that so many of the Singaporeans are willing to help others at this time of crisis”, said Anna. The sharing of personal lessons and advice was inspiring, especially to youth struggling to remain strong and positive amidst a pandemic.

With our newly attained perspectives and insights, my group came up with a video as our deliverable for the seminar. With this video, we wanted to share the personal connection similar to that of the online sharings we attended with the viewers. Via online platforms such as WhatsApp and Zoom, my team worked together as interviewers, interviewees, video editors and script writers. In the video, we discussed how we, as individuals, dealt with mental health issues during lockdown, and our hopes for mental health in Singapore. I am personally very thankful towards my group members who were very enthusiastic to help one another and were always on task. Without them, my experience may not have been so enjoyable and productive.

Postcard designed by Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian - Front.jpg(Front) Postcard designed by Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian - Back.jpg(Back)
Postcard designed by Edlyn Nadra Mohammed Sophian

“My group, Interdependence, worked on a video as our deliverable. It included a skit of a news broadcast and an animation to introduce our area of focus which was the Asian Financial Crisis. We used this event as an example of how interdependence can be seen not only within our country but also internationally as Singapore helped each other overcome the crisis. Even though our group did not get chosen to present to Education Minister Mr Chan Chun Sing in the closing ceremony of the seminar, I am grateful to have the opportunity to gain various perspectives from individuals from different backgrounds and schools. As a whole, the experience allowed me to hone my communication skills especially since the seminar was conducted virtually this year which made collaboration all the more difficult. Overall, it was a privilege to represent my school in such an engaging and valuable experience that has helped me grow as a young citizen of Singapore.” – Anna Tay Wan Enn

“I was part of the tougher-vitality group who worked on capturing vitality within Singapore. We were able to put together a video that talks about the different groups in society such as doctors, hawkers and athletes. In the process, we uncovered some of the challenges they faced, how they were able to stay motivated and the steps they took to overcome these challenges. The interview responses we had gotten were very inspiring and refreshing as it gave us a new perspective and understanding of these groups. Even though we faced numerous challenges, our hard work paid off and we even had the honour of presenting our video to the Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing.” – Alyssa Pok Jing Ying