The Inaugural Edwin Thumboo Prize 2019

The Inaugural Edwin Thumboo Prize 2019

The Department of English Language and Literature (DELL) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is pleased to announce a new prize for Pre-university students of English Literature.

The Edwin Thumboo Prize, named after one of Singapore’s most prominent poets and scholars, recognises works by outstanding A-level and International Baccalaureate (IB) students of English Literature in Singapore. It is administered by DELL with support from the Ministry of Education (MOE). The Prize is funded by generous donors, including patrons of the arts and former winners of the Angus Ross Prize.

About Professor Edwin Thumboo

Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo is one of Singapore’s earliest poets. An accomplished literary practitioner and critic, he dedicated his life to the composition and study of English Literature. His work is studied in schools, both locally and abroad, and featured in public places in Singapore. At NUS, Professor Thumboo has served as Head of the Department of English Language and Literature, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Director of the NUS Centre for the Arts. He has also received numerous awards, including the Book Award for Poetry in English (1978, 1980 and 1994), Southeast Asia Write Award (1979), The Cultural Medallion (March 1980), ASEAN Cultural and Communication Award for Literature (August 1987), Public Service Star (August 1991), the Meritorious Service Medal (2006), and Distinguished Service Award (2008).

About the Prize

The selection process for the Prize is rigorous and multi-faceted. Government pre-university institutions, including those offering the IB Diploma Programme, were invited to nominate one candidate each. The competition attracted entries from 10 Pre-university institutions.

Each school submitted a write-up on their recommended candidate, who also submitted a piece of academic writing (not more than 10 pages in length) on a literary text or topic.

Candidates will be assessed by a selection panel, comprising representatives from NUS and MOE, as well as former prize-winners. Each year’s winner will receive a monetary award of $200. Merit awards of $100 will also recognise deserving nominations.

The selection panel for this year’s Prize included Dr. Jane Nardin from Yale-NUS, and the 1997 Angus Ross Prize Winner, Mr. Aaron Maniam.

In identifying the winner, the selection panel looked particularly for an excellent grasp of the written word, and a sensitivity to its significance as a creative endeavour.

The winner of the Edwin Thumboo Prize 2019 is Mr. Gan Chong Jing from Raffles Institution. Mr. Gan impressed the panel with his outstanding essay on the theme of forgiveness in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Chong Jing’s work was subtle, elegant and demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the play. It navigated complex and rich ideas while displaying coherence, fluency and economy of expression. In addition, all interviewees were given the challenging task of critically analysing two unseen poems – one by a Singapore writer – that they were shown only 20 minutes before their interview. Chong Jing’s nuanced response was exemplary in its rigour, comprehensiveness and detail.

When informed of the results of the Prize, Chong Jing was quick to attribute his success to his family and teachers.

“I wouldn’t have gotten here without every single one of my literature teachers, who not only taught me everything I know but also showed me how to love the written word for all its depth and beauty. Neither would I be here without my parents, who read to me when I was too young to read, stocked a house full of books and filled my childhood with stories. I owe this to you all; thank you.”

Three Merit Prizes will also be awarded to Ms. Jane Lee Jia Hui from Dunman High School, Ms. Lim Yi Jun from River Valley High School, and Ms. Yew Jien Huey from Victoria Junior College.

Merit Prize Winners (from top): Jane Lee Jia Hui, Lim Yi Jun and Yew Jien Huey.

Associate Professor Michelle Lazar, expressed the Department’s gratitude to the donors who initiated and donated to the ET Prize which aims to promote excellence in the study of Literature at the pre-university level. She added, “We are very encouraged by the quality of the entries and the high level of critical thinking displayed in the essays.”

The prize-giving ceremony will be held on Friday, 26 April 2019 at NUS.