National School Savings Campaign

The National School Savings Campaign (NSSC) was introduced to government and government-aided schools in 1969 to cultivate thrift in students and to encourage them to save with the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB).1 The campaign was also part of a domestic savings drive to have one million depositors, or one out of every two Singaporeans, place their savings in the POSB. In addition, the drive aimed to double the deposits in the bank to S$100 million.2 The government saw domestic savings as a source of funds for investment that would bring about greater prosperity and economic growth for Singapore.3

The NSSC enabled students to save money by depositing cash or by purchasing 10-cent postage stamps that were then pasted onto stamp cards printed with squares. Each card could hold up to S$2 worth of stamps. When completed, the stamp cards were handed to the bank as a form of deposit.4 In addition, secondary one students who had a minimum balance of $5 in their POSB accounts were given a S$5 cash gift by the government. However, the combined sum of S$10 could only be withdrawn from the bank after a minimum period of five years.5 During this period, the deposits earned interest at a rate of 4 percent per annum.6

National School Savings Competition
To spur students to save, annual school savings competitions were organised among schools, with prizes and certificates given to schools with the highest average saving per student.7 The top three schools were rewarded with S$3,000, S$2,000 or S$1,000 while the rest of the top 10 schools received certificates. In the first year of the competition, Nanyang Girls’ High School clinched the top prize.8 Following the success of the competition, a separate competition was held for primary schools in 1971.9 In that year, Kwang Teck School took the first prize in the primary section while Anglo-Chinese Secondary won in the secondary section.10

Discontinuation of savings campaign
The NSSC aimed for all schools to participate in the competition and for all school children to each have a postal savings bank account.11 By the end of 1971, the target of 100 percent school participation was achieved.12 Despite its success, the campaign was discontinued in 1978 when the competitions led to some undesirable effects. Some parents deposited large sums of money into their children’s accounts, only to withdraw them after the competition. In other cases, students from poorer families were embarrassed when they were not able to save as much as their classmates had.13

Relaunch of savings campaign
In 1983, the NSSC was relaunched, but competition and prizes were no longer offered. March was designated as the campaign month, with the first Friday in March being School Savings Day.14 As part of its new look, the campaign introduced Smily (or Smiley) the Squirrel as its mascot.15 The animal, known for its habit of storing food for rainy days, was chosen as a model to inspire children to save.16 The mascot featured prominently in many of the POSB’s publicity materials for school children during the 1980s and the 1990s.17

To promote the school savings programme, the POSB produced and distributed various types of giveaways such as posters, bookmarks, folders, brochures, stickers, stamp sheets, memo pads, door-knob hangers, coin boxes, T-shirts, calendars, address books and activity books.18 The bank’s marketing unit also organised activities such as assembly talks, the screening of educational flimlets such as Smily Squirrel Saves the Day and Smily Squirrel Gets His Rewards, skits, edutainment shows, exhibitions, story-telling sessions, colouring, drawing and spot-the-difference contests, as well as magic shows.19

The Squirrel Savers Club badge was introduced in 1985 to recognise and reward regular student savers. To join the club, student savers were required to pass a written test, and had to spread the message of thrift to their peers.20 In 1986, POSB sponsored a pair of golden lion tamarins from the Singapore Zoological Garden’s Squirrel and Marmoset Complex, as part of the school savings campaign.21

School Savings programme
The student savings scheme was reintroduced as the Student Gift Account Scheme in 1989. The plan encouraged all primary one students to save with a POSB bank account. Pupils who had the minimum savings of S$5 in their POSB accounts by the end of each year would receive a credit of S$5 from the bank. However, the money could only be withdrawn after five years.22 In 1990, due to declining interest and the amount of administrative work involved, the bank discontinued the use of stamps as a form of deposit. Children were encouraged to bank with cash instead.23

In 1996, the POSB launched its First Account programme for newborns.24 Two years later, all primary one students were automatically given a bank account with a S$1 credit.25 In 2004, an e-savings programme, which enabled students to save using their ez-link cards, was introduced to Naval Base Primary School. As part of this programme, the unspent daily amount stored on a child’s ez-link card was automatically transferred to his/her savings account.26

In 2016, POSB tested the use of POSB Smart Buddy, a contactless payments ecosystem which enabled students to manage their own finances via a card or a watch with contactless payments capabilities. Two schools were involved in this trial run.27
On 16 August 2017, POSB officially launched the POSB Smart Buddy Programme. 6000 students from 19 primary schools participated in this programme. They were issued smartwatches that they could use to make cashless payments in their schools and at selected retailers. POSB hoped to extend the programme to the remaining primary schools by 2019.28

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

1. “The $53M Success Story,” Straits Times, 9 October 1969, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Consulton Research Bureau, The First Hundred Years of the Post Office Savings Bank of Singapore (Singapore: Post Office Savings Bank, 1977), 20–21. (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 CON)
2. Yong Nyuk Lin, “The Prize-Giving Ceremony of the 1969 Schools Saving Competition,” speech, Singapore Conference Hall, 31 January 1970, transcript, Ministry of Culture. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. PressR19700130)
3. Goh Keng Swee, The Practice of Economic Growth (Singapore: Federal Publications, 1977), 8–11. (Call no. RSING 330.95957 GOH)
4. Elaine Tan, “POSBank Stops ‘Stamps as Savings’ Scheme,” Straits Times, 3 July 1990, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “$53M Success Story.”
6. Edgar Koh, “$100M Success,” Straits Times, 26 April 1972, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “$53M Success Story”; Consulton Research Bureau, First Hundred Years, 20–21.
8. Yong, “Prize-Giving Ceremony.”
9. Yong, “Prize-Giving Ceremony.”
10. Yong, “Prize-Giving Ceremony.”
11. Yong, “Prize-Giving Ceremony.”
12. Yong Nyuk Lin, “The Prize-Giving Ceremony of the 1971 Schools Savings and Emblem Competitions,” speech, Victoria Theatre, 15 January 1972, transcript, Ministry of Culture. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. PressR19720115a)
13. “‘Saving Scheme Faces Problem This Year’,” Straits Times, 5 March 1983, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
14. June Tan, “School Savings Drive Being Revived – But Without Contest,” Straits Times, 17 February 1983, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
15. N. Chan, “Smily Squirrel Takes His Bow,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB, 4, no. 3 (1983): 1–2. (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O)
16. Tan, School Savings Drive.”
17. Francis Chan “Comeback for Smiley Squirrel,” Straits Times, 24 November 2008, 40. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Why a Savings Campaign for Schools?” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB 4, no. 3 (1983): 2, 6 (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O); S. M. Hoong, “Save a Little Everyday,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB 6, no. 2 (1985): 5 (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O); “Spreading Savings Message to Children,” (1987). On-Line: The House Journal of POSB 8, no. 3 (1987): 1, 8 (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O); “POSBkids a Fun Way to Save,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB, 1 (April 1998) (Call no.: RSING 332.22095957 O); “The Magic of Smiley,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB, 3 (September 1998). (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O)
19. Hoong, “Save a Little Everyday,” 5.
20. S. M. Hoong, “Badge Scheme Rewards for Savers,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB 6, no. 8 (1985): 4–5. (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O)
21. “Animals Help Promote Thrift,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB 9, no. 9 (1986): 8. (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O)
22. “Student Gift Account Scheme,” On-Line: The House Journal of POSB 10, no. 3 (1989): 8. (Call no. RSING 332.22095957 O)
23. Tan, “‘Stamps as Savings’.”
24. Claudette Peralta, “Banks Queue Up for Teenage Customers,” Straits Times, 3 October 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “POSBank’s Gift of S$1 for Every Pri 1 Child,” Straits Times, 1 April 1998, 35. (From NewspaperSG)
26. “Ez-Link Card Helps Pupils to Save,” Straits Times, 19 February 2004, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
27. “ A Taste of Financial Management for the Kids,” Business Times, 10 November 2016, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Daniel Ong, “Pupils Go Cashless With Smartwatches,” Straits Times, 17 August 2017, 6. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at July 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


National campaigns
National School Savings Campaign, Singapore, 1969-
Savings accounts--Singapore
Savings stamps--Singapore