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Why is CCA (co-curricular activities) important in Singapore schools?

In Singapore, co-curricular activities are offered at every stage of every student’s schooling life, from primary school up to university. These activities vary widely although there are some that are generally more ubiquitous. The emphasis of having a healthy, diverse, non-academic pursuit has always been present in our curriculum.

This has been recognised to provide the student with complementary education, in order to mold the individual into a competent, confident contributor to the Singaporean society.

Singaporean schools usually break down the CCAs into four broad categories: clubs and societies, physical sports, uniformed groups, and visual and performing arts.

This allows the student to sample a variety of options prior to diving deeper into their niche. Less competitive versions of a sport, for example, are also offered to provide a less intimidating approach to picking up a new skill.

Students are also allowed to start their own CCA with the approval of their school but that is, of course, subject to its resources and number of students who may be interested in it.

Overall, the options are extremely varied, catering to the verbally gifted and athletically abled alike.

While co-curricular activities may not be the core of the school’s curriculum, they have been impressed upon every student that it is highly recommended to be in one.

This mantra holds true- whether it may be the voice of the ministry or that of the concerned parent. This article explores some reasons why.

Holistic learning

Holistic learning means learning and honing new skills outside of what the classroom has to offer.

Joining a CCA would mean that one does not merely focus on their academic studies. Instead, students are able to choose to expand on their interests and broaden their horizons by allowing themselves to contribute meaningfully to their chosen group.

Here are some benefits of why joining a CCA aids in holistic learning:

  • Nurture talent and enriches the mind of an individual
  • Students will learn how to work as a team by collaborating and working towards a common goal
  • Develop healthy social-emotional competencies
  • Effective communication
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Character development by being in an organised group with the same beliefs
  • Prepares students for future challenges beyond the textbooks
  • Instills discipline and commitment
  • Learn values
  • An outlet to express oneself
  • Gives students an opportunity to contribute to society when trips are organised to old age homes or even through fundraising for certain causes

Pursue interests

CCAs opens a window of opportunity for youth to expose themselves and experience new hobbies that they otherwise would not have been able to.

As a student in an environment that is conducive to developing non-academic skills, it really is a good chance for them to learn new things and acquire different talents amongst peers with similar interests. 

As many eager parents have introduced various activities to their children from a very early stage, the CCAs provide an excellent opportunity for the continued pursuit of these interests.

The CCAs offered by schools these days are also way more interesting than what we had years ago.

While they still offer the usual, common ones like soccer, canoeing, girl guides, there are new CCAs now such as hacking, magic, and even e-sports (of course, it depends on individual schools).

Completely unheard of a decade ago!

There is always something for everyone.

If one prefers a quiet space, being a library may offer the perfect outlet for the bookworm. In sharp contrast, the percussion section of the military brass will suit the head-banging audiophile.

Promoting friendships

One of the best aspects of joining a CCA is getting to network and socialise with the rest of the interest group despite their age, classes, or background.

New friendships are more easily forged with the platform of common interest.

Everyone would also be on the equal playing field and have ample of opportunities to rise to leadership positions in the CCA depending largely on an individual’s ability and commitment.

Unexpected friendships can be formed with students from other schools when workshops are being organised jointly or it can even happen during inter-school competitions.

Expanding one’s social circle always has its advantage for you never know who may be able to help you in the future when you are a working adult and vice-versa, you never know whose life you may impact for the better.

Hanging around like-minded individuals would also likely create a sense of belonging and identity in the group as well as in school.

Overseas opportunities and collaborations

Some CCAs in schools gives students opportunities to travel overseas to learn more about their interest. Students in some CCA groups are able to participate in global events such as International Mathematical Olympiad or ASEAN School Games.

Some opportunities could even be workshops organised by international bodies such as NASA and some could also have the chance to go with their CCA group to build a house in Indonesia for the less fortunate. 

Facilitated by an increasingly globalised world, any of such organised trips give students perspective on how teens of similar age groups overseas are being groomed in their country, facilitates the exchange of ideas, and promote cultural immersion which will help develop cultural sensitivity and appreciation.

Who knows, one might find an interest in picking up a new language too!

Gives focus

Personally, I see CCAs as something that keeps students busy in school where they will be constantly monitored while providing them with a safe place to hang out throughout the day.

Without CCAs, I imagine there would be a lot of students gathering in malls or loitering at nearby places  after school just to pass their free time.

By joining a CCA, one is accountable to show up and stay through the day at least a couple of times per week instead of roaming free after classes daily where they could be more susceptible to mingling with the wrong crowd or with people of questionable characters.

Working parents can also set their minds at ease knowing where exactly their child is.

Bonus points

The Ministry of Education (MOE) recognises students’ CCA contribution and awards bonus points for O Levels which is always helpful for you in your admission to a Junior College (JC), Polytechnic, or Institutes of Technical Education (ITE).

Depending on your contribution and participation levels during your stint, students may be entitled to score up to 2 bonus points if they have a stellar record. Free points while doing something you enjoy, why not?

A stepping stone for future courses and schools

If you are aiming to go to a prestigious or highly-sought-after course or school, focusing on your CCA alongside scoring good grades may help you clinch a spot.

Most applications would have hit the minimum score so what would help you stand out from the rest eventually would be your achievements in your CCA.

The more awards you have representing your school for and won or the higher your position is in your CCA, the more credible you would seem compared to someone who did mediocrely in theirs.

Holding a leadership position especially helps make your testimonial look impressive and robust thus, portraying an image of someone who is an all-rounder.

Schools want to know that you are a goal-oriented individual who is able to work smart and balance personal development as well as academia.

Getting into elite schools

As a continuation from the previous point, for those who may not be so academically inclined, one of the most important points of a CCA that is not emphasised enough is that excelling in certain CCA groups and winning prizes at competitions for your school may give you a huge leg up in getting into an elite school - especially to a school that places a lot of emphasis on bagging home awards consistently.

Before this, I always had the assumption that everyone who came from elite schools was the cream of the crop with regards to their studies. 

Now I know that there are exceptions to this case and that is entering through recognition of your CCA achievements when you represent your school.

I had only found out about this much later in my life and if I had known earlier, I would have perhaps paid more attention to what I picked in school and worked towards excelling in it.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

That being said, one should not choose a CCA based on this point alone especially if you have no interest in it. Otherwise, it is going to be an arduous journey trying to bring yourself to remain committed to it for so many years.

Hopefully, all the points above highlight the importance of having a CCA in Singapore schools.

As a CCA requires a long term commitment,  it is imperative that we weigh all the options available and choose our CCA wisely. With all the long hours invested in your CCA, make the effort for that few years

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.