Report on the National Chem-Battle competition 2013
The Chemical Society of the South Pacific had in its calendar only two activities (Regional Chemquiz and National Titration Competition) for secondary school students to participate to increase their knowledge and laboratory skills in Chemistry. A new activity that was organized by the CSSP in 2009 was the Chem Knowledge Battle. As ChemQuiz and Titration Competitions focus on individual performance, the Society decided to organize activities that involved team work. In this competition, a team of three members try to score the maximum number of points by answering chemistry related questions within one hour. Since this was the first time such a competition was organized, it was held only in the Central Division where schools from Suva, Nausori and Navua competed in an open category where team members could be from any Form (F4 – F7). After the successful completion of the competition in 2009 it was decided that in 2010 it will be held at the national level.
The competition is in its fourth year and every year there is a strong response from schools around Fiji for participation. The competition is divided in two stages, the Preliminary and the Final Rounds. In the Preliminary Rounds, schools around Fiji compete at four different centres, Suva, Nadi, Ba and Labasa to qualify to the Final Rounds. A cut-off mark is set for the qualification of the schools that will compete for the first, second and third place in the Final Rounds. The Final Rounds is held simultaneously in Suva and Labasa and there is a stiff competition between the schools that have qualified from the Preliminary Rounds. The Final Round winners are awarded with cash prizes and trophies for achieving the first, second and third place and the participants that have participated in the Final Rounds are awarded with Certificate of Participation at the Annual Awards Function.
This year the Preliminary Rounds of the competition was held on the 22nd of June at four different centres around Fiji and a total of 64 schools participated in the competition. A total of 27 schools from Suva, Nausori, Navua competed in the competition held at USP. There were two centres for the schools to participate in the competition in the Western side, Nadi and Ba. The host school in Nadi was Nadi Muslim College and a total of 17 schools including Nadi Muslim College participated in the competition. A total of 12 schools participated in the Ba Centre which was hosted at Xavier College. For the schools in the North, a total of 8 schools participated which was held at the host school, Labasa College. A cut-off mark was selected and a total of 28 schools were invited to participate in the Final Rounds.
The Final Rounds was held at USP, for schools in Viti Levu and at Labasa Sangam SKM College, for schools in the North on the 12th of October. Twenty three schools from the Central and Western Division competed in the Final Rounds held at USP. There were 9 schools that were selected from the Central Centre and 14 schools from the Western side of which 10 schools were from the Nadi Centre. There were 5 schools that participated in the competition in the North and the competition was held simultaneously at USP and at Labasa Sangam SKM College. After battling for an hour, the winners for the National Chem-Knowledge Battle 2013 were announced. The winners were awarded at the Annual Awards Function which was held later in the afternoon with cash prizes, certificates and trophies. The first place was awarded to Natabua High School from Lautoka. Vashist Muni College of Navua came in second place and there was a tough battle between Nadi Muslim College and Labasa Sangam SKM College for the third place which went to Labasa Sangam SKM College.
The competition was introduced to the school students to help better understand and test the knowledge of Chemistry, work as a team and understand the role of Chemistry in their daily living. The questions in the competition were categorized under recalling concepts, solving numerical Chemistry questions, understanding graphical illustrations and relating terminologies and concepts. In order to determine whether the aim of the competition was being achieved an analysis was carried out after each round of the competition to identify on how well the students were able to attempt the Chemistry related questions successfully. It was found that students did not have much difficulty in answering questions related to recalling concepts, understanding graphical illustrations and solving numerical Chemistry questions that had less critical thinking involved. It was found that students had a lot of difficulty attempting numerical questions that had a lot of critical thinking in order to solve the questions. Furthermore, it was seen that students had a lot of difficulty arriving to the correct answer because of significant figures. It was found that the rules of significant rules are not well taught at secondary school level and students found it difficult to use significant figures when calculating the answers to the numerical questions. This has been discussed with the Ministry of Education and hopefully the change is made in the curriculum so that students are able to know the correct concept of applying the rules of significant figures in calculation.
Overall the competition has become very challenging and students as well as teachers take a lot of interest and look forward for the competition. A healthy and positive team atmosphere is seen amongst the students during the competition and as a feedback the students always give suggestions in which the competition could be improved which eventually fulfills the aim of introducing the competition in the CSSP calendar of activities. Once again congratulations to this year’s winners, Natabua High School, Vashist Muni College and Labasa Sangam SKM College.
To all the schools who participated this year and big thank you and we hope to see your school participating in the competition next year.