Co-Curricular activities (CCAs), previously known as Extracurricular Activities (ECAs) are activities that education organisations in some parts of the world create for school students. They serve to promote a variety of activities which all school students must attend alongside the standard study cirruculum. In Singapore, the policy was first introduced by the Ministry of Education, which believe extra activities for school students are a means to instill active social-interaction. The original initiative later came to include important qualities, such as leadership, healthy recreation, self-discipline and self-confidence. In higher educations, CCA participation is even accountable for precious academic points.
The scope of CCAs is wide due to a nearly inexhaustive list of interests. Some of the major groups include Computer Club, Art Club, Dance Club, Swimming Club, Basketball Club and Photography Club. Uniformed groups include the St. John Ambulance Brigade (SJAB), Red Cross, school band, The Singapore Scout Association, Girl Guides Singapore and National Cadet Corps (NCC). Performing arts groups are also included, with Chinese Orchestra, the school choirs and dance clubs among such CCAs.
CCAs are held outside standard curriculum hours and the activities partaken depend on the nature of CCA. For example, Uniformed groups do foot drills and team-building exercises while competitive sportsmen spend most of the time training and learning their respective sport techniques from their instructors.
In the first year, the students are required to pick one or more interest group to join. While the choices available to students differ from school to school, national requirements for the different levels of education exist.
In some Primary schools, students may choose not to join a CCA. In Primary School, Brownies are likened to junior Girl Guides.
In Secondary schools, CCAs are treated more seriously. Belonging to a Core CCA is compulsory, and the students may choose a second CCA if they wish. At the end of the fourth/fifth year, 1-2 "O" level points are removed from the examination aggregate (lower indicates better marks). Although the marks are few, it is believed by many that they may make a big difference when the students are considered for the most popular Tertiary school courses. In addition, as the students are in their early teens, they are given some responsibilities. Red Cross and SJAB members, for example, are often required to render first aid at public events. Most uniformed groups require precision, management and organizing skills, important training required in the "outside" world.
In Polytechnics and Universities (Tertiary education institutes), CCA records are actually considered by potential employers. CCA groups are mostly groups catering to specific interests. Such groups would elect from among themselves a Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, among other positions. As with Secondary school, there are many interest groups to choose from. Currently, the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) has started a few Open Units in the tertiary institutions, recruiting members to serve as student leaders in the secondary school units.
Many former students return to their alma mater after graduation to help impart what they have learned to their juniors. Some do so within a formal framework, such as those in the uniformed groups (where ex-cadets are appointed as cadet officers), or the Voluntary Adult Leader scheme (for those above age 21). Others do so on a purely casual basis.
Competitions may also be organised to create a competitive environment and provide such CCA groups with an objective towards which they can work. In Singapore, there are many competitions at the zonal and national level. These include the Annual Zonal and National Sporting Competitions for sportsmen and the one-in-two-years Singapore Youth Festival for the Aesthetics-related CCAs.
There are generally two types of CCAs. They are the Core CCA (also known as Main CCA) and the Merit CCA (also known as Secondary CCA or Optional CCA)..
Core CCAs (e.g. Band, Rugby, Boys' Brigade, Track & Field, Singapore Youth Flying Club) normally take up more time and resources and have more emphasis placed on them by the school. Joining a Core CCA is compulsory for secondary school students in Singapore and it is considered an integral part of the education system.
Merit CCAs (e.g. Chess Club, Gardening, Philatelic Club, Library Club) are less time-consuming. They are an optional addition for students with interest in the Merit CCAs' respective areas to further their knowledge.
Note that the School Band may count either as a uniformed group or a performing arts group.