I feel honoured and grateful to have been selected to meet Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, during his recent visit to Singapore.

When I received the unexpected invitation from…

…Mr James Soh, the executive director of the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Council, I was on cloud nine. I believe I was chosen because I had submitted my record book for the NYAA Bronze Award in January – that and probably, my ability despite my disability.

The awesome experience made me feel I had been rewarded twice for fulfiling the requirements for the NYAA.

I had taken part in the award scheme with the encouragement of my school, Catholic High, and I found it to be challenging and exciting. It is certainly better than the school co-curricular activities (CCA) in terms of organisation and administration.

What’s more, unlike most awards, the NYAA is neither limited nor decided by an award panel. All participants are entitled to the award when they complete the requirements of each of the four areas for bronze and silver, and five for gold. They are service, adventurous journey, skills, physical recreation and residential project.

I like the NYAA system because the participants know precisely what they have to do and how long they have to do it to achieve the awards. The record book serves to sustain participants’ interest and motivate them.

The Ministry of Education CCA Board can improve the running of CCAs in schools by studying the NYAA system and adopting some of its practices. After all, I believe that the objectives of both schemes are similar. They are about leadership, enrichment, achievement, participation and service.

For my CCA, I have no idea of the exact number of points I will get for my involvement in the various activities. I am aware that I will get two points for achieving the NYAA bronze award and one point for participating in some activities – but other than that, I am clueless.

Reading the CCA guidelines is of not much help to me. Although I know the maximum points I can score for each category, I am not sure how long I have to perform the function to be entitled to the points.

For some categories, I can make a guess: For example, the maximum points awarded for service is five for 100 or more hours. Therefore, I assume that I will get one point for 20 hours of service.

I hope it is a correct assumption.

It is important for students to know the number of points they will get for what they do, so that they can keep track of their progress. They can also have better control of the grades they want to achieve in their CCA.

To help students further, each should be given a booklet to record their involvement and the points attained as they go through their CCA journey. This will excite them to participate more actively.

On top of that, all students should have equal opportunity to obtain the highest grade. As I am a disabled person, I will not be able to participate in most physical activities. Therefore, I will be disadvantaged. So will all handicapped students in mainstream schools.

I know that that is part and parcel of life for the handicapped. And I am not complaining. After all, it may not be easy to come up with a system that is fair for all. It is just a thought and it would be nice if it could be done.

As for the NYAA Scheme which I have found beneficial, I would like to recommend it to all eligible young people. It is open to those between the ages of 14 and 25. Perhaps, the NYAA Council should consider extending the upper age limit to 30 because youth, according to the National Youth Council, is defined as those between 15 and 30 years of age.

The council can hand out platinum awards to those who have earned the gold award. This will encourage more of them to use their time, energy and knowledge for the community. I am sure their contribution will make Singapore a better place for all.

(This journal entry was published in TODAY of 4 April 2006)