Singapore

Angus Ross Prize discontinued

S'pore educators, students say they prize reading more than awards

The prestigious Angus Ross Prize is no more. But educators and students said the love for literature remains.

"For enthusiasts of literature, the winner of the prize was someone we could cheer for and celebrate with," said Mrs Geetha Creffield, head of department for arts at Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

"For the vast number of students who read literature in school, it is far more important that they are engaged in learning and have acquired a profound love of books and reading."

The prize, given to the top candidate in the A-Level English literature examination outside Britain, was discontinued last year by Cambridge International Examinations.

Mrs Creffield said for many literature students, the goal is not a prize, but "the joy in being able to encounter brilliant fictional worlds that challenge the mind, wring the heart and create a love for language".

She added: "The removal of the prize does little to change the magic of literature that students encounter each day."

Meridian Junior College principal Lim Yan Hock described the award as icing on the cake.

"I don't think students are bothered at all by the award being discontinued," he said.

Teachers and past winners said Singapore's success in regularly winning the prize may be due in part to the use of English as a first language and teacher focusing on getting students to think beyond the text.

Mr Mark Tan, education consultant of the English department at Hwa Chong Institution, is glad the effort put in by Singapore students and teachers was recognised over the years.

"Any recognition of literary merit is welcomed as we need to constantly push for the subject's maturation here," he said.

However, Mr Tan added: "As the literature in English exam is largely essay-based and subject to a degree of subjectivity, it would be difficult to aim to write what would constitute 'the world's best essay' and actually aim to win the prize."

Ms Peggy Pao-Keerthi Pei Yu, who took the 2001 exam when she was a student in then Raffles Junior College, said the achievement "is testament to the immense passion and dedication of our humanities tutors", such as her former English literature tutor, Mr Geoffrey Purvis.

The public sector lawyer, who won the prize in 2002, added: "But we shouldn't need such accolades to remember that these teachers have contributed greatly by nurturing generations of intellectually curious and analytical young Singaporeans."

For more, read The Straits Times today.

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