Helping Youths Find Their Voice for 33 Years

Seven years ago, Theijes Therrat Menon would suffer from stage fright and jitters at the thought of public speaking. Now, he carries himself with confidence and charisma, and is set to emcee for the Awards Presentation Ceremony of a major National English Speaking Competition in front of some 250 audience members.


For 33 years, the annual YMCA Plain English Speaking Awards (PESA) has served as a platform to nurture the communication and critical thinking skills of Singaporean Youths through competitive public speaking. It is co-organised by the Speak Good English Movement and the Ministry of Education (MOE). YMCA hosted a record-breaking 629 participants from 181 schools in 2019, a significant jump from its 210 participants a decade ago.

Participants, including those as young as four, engaged in research and shared their views on carefully selected topics related to moral and character development. This year’s topics were inspired by Singapore’s Bicentennial year, encouraging them to reflect upon the past and the society we live in, through topics such as “What I like about Singapore” and “DNA of My Community”.


Semi-finalists and finalists from the Secondary and JC/CI/ITE/POLY category were also exposed to the volunteering scene in Singapore and presented on the insights they gained through this experience. They had the chance to visit and interact with volunteers and special needs clients from Social Service Agencies (SSAs) such as MINDS Clementi, Blue Cross Thing Kheng Home and APSN Centre for Adults through the Experiential Learning Trip.

For participants like 16-year-old Theijes, PESA served as a crucial stepping stone to boost his confidence and public speaking skills. “The only way I could overcome the fear of public speaking was to keep pushing myself back on stage.” said Theijes, who has five years’ worth of experience competing in PESA. He is now appointed the emcee for the PESA Awards Presentation Ceremony 2019, which will celebrate the achievements of this year’s participants, including those from the pre-school, primary, secondary and JC/POLY/ITE/CI categories.


“With the increasing importance placed on soft skills in today’s workplace, we are honored to be working with MOE in co-organising PESA and providing a platform for students to nurture their confidence and communication skills.” said Mr Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore.


Contributed by Tammy Eng.