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SAIPA’s new Olympiad

brings reality-show feel to school competition
South African Institute of Professional Accountants
24 May 2021

SAIPA’s new Olympiad brings reality-show feel to school competition

The South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) has launched its National Accounting and Maths Olympiad (NAMO), a complete reboot of its popular annual National Accounting Olympiad.

Unlike previous years, the 2021 competition will be held in a case study format where learners submit their business solutions to industry experts. So says Professor Rashied Small, Executive at the Institute’s Centre of Future Excellence (CoFE) and concept creator of the new Olympiad.

“We’re breaking free of the exam hall to build an engaging and immersive experience that will challenge entrants’ ingenuity in real-world business scenarios rather than their textbook maths and accountancy skills alone,” he says.

Why the new format?

The typical technical duties of professional accountants will be increasingly automated using AI, software robots, and other technologies. This will free them from mundane financial administration, allowing them to add greater value to their organisations as strategic business advisors.

Future-ready professional accountants will be expected by their organisations and clients to turn AI predictions and corporate data into profitable business initiatives. “This will require them to develop advanced business, technology, and communication skills that, through the new Olympiad, SAIPA is promoting into schools right now,” says Professor Small.

How it works

The Olympiad, open to grade 11 and grade 12 accountancy and maths learners, has abandoned the classic approach of having pupils write tests at their school and selecting the winners based on top marks alone.

The entire project is open-ended, leaving entrants to formulate their own approach to researching information, solving problems and reaching their objectives.

Grade 11 learners will write an online assessment followed by a final exam with a twist, where they will be given the answers. They will be judged on the use of their syllabi knowledge, and their analytical and critical skills to determine the correct answer.

Grade 12 learners will receive a case study that should be used to develop business ideas and solutions. The case study approach will incorporate the principles of accountancy and maths in a business context. There will be two consecutive submissions in total, each building on from the last. The first submission will be due at the end of July and the second at the end of September.

Now there are teams

An intriguing aspect of the 2021 Olympiad format is the ability of Grade 12 participants to tackle the project individually or to form a team of up to five members. Working in teams will expose entrants to multidisciplinary teamwork and collaborative engagement that is now the new normal in business.

“The introduction of teams promotes a dynamic, collaborative dimension not found in previous competitions,” says Professor Small.

Regardless of which approach they choose; winners will be selected based on the excellence of their individual performance.

In the “hot seat”

After reviewing both submissions, learners or teams will be shortlisted and these contestants’ final challenge will be to present their idea before a panel of judges.

The session will focus on their ability to research, conceptualise and communicate their assumptions based on the case study challenge. This will include how they applied both their accountancy and maths skills when developing the proposal, financial statements, a basic business plan and other reports.

“A contestant’s chance of winning hinges on the judges’ assessment of their ability to communicate their financial, mathematical, and technical reasoning behind the business’s development,” says Professor Small. Team members may also be asked to evaluate each other’s contributions and performance while lone competitors will evaluate themselves.

Selected members of the accountancy, business, and academic communities will be invited to preside as Olympiad judges.

Registration and information

  • Visit SAIPA Accounting & Maths Olympiad 2021 for a detailed overview of the NAMO.
  • Registration for the NAMO will open on 1 June 2021 and close on 1 July 2021.
  • The registration fee is R75 per learner and, for Grade 12 entrants, R200 per group of up to five members. Schools may enter as many pupils as they wish. No-fees schools may register their learners for free.
  • Winners will be announced in October 2021 and invited to the prestigious awards ceremony at SAIPA’s Accounting iNdaba on 2 and 3 November 2021.
  • Enquiries can be directed to