Mr Wang Zhen is actually quite busy at work today. But he knows that his faithful fans are waiting eagerly for Part III of his essay on the scholarship system. And he also knows that the Public Service Commission, which is led by government scholars who lack imagination and creativity, badly needs Mr Wang's brilliant ideas. So for the nation's sake, Mr Wang will now share his thoughts on how to improve the Singapore government scholarship system.
Mr Wang's 1st Brilliant Idea
Cut down on the number of undergrad scholarships. Take the money, and instead offer graduate scholarships to outstanding young civil servants who have already worked at least one or two years in the civil service. These Singaporeans use the scholarship to do their Masters. They can then be bonded.
What are the merits of this system? Firstly, you can assess your candidates not primarily on their A-level grades or CCA records, but on their actual performance in their real-life workplace. This is a much more reliable method and you can better decide whether the candidate is someone worth funding.
Secondly, the candidates themselves would by then have had a taste of public service. Compared to an 18-year-old student who has just finished his A-levels, these young civil servants would be much better able to decide whether they are really interested in public service. If they are, they would not mind accepting the bond that comes with their graduate scholarship. If they are not, then they can decline the scholarship and thereby choose not to be bonded.
Thirdly, these young civil servants, having already worked for a few years in the civil service, would be in a much better position to select a Masters course relevant to their actual work in the civil service.
Mr Wang's 2nd Brilliant Idea
Create a new category of PSC scholarships that focuses on the applicant's combined household income. Applicants who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are favoured. If two candidates are equal in all other respects, then preference is given to the financially poorer candidate. A maximum household income level can also be set. For example, if the applicant's aggregate annual household income exceeds [ ], then he cannot apply for the scholarship.
What are the benefits? Poor but bright students get their chance for a scholarship. Rich students who don't need such a scholarship are excluded from the competition. Since rich students are likelier to subsequently break their bonds anyway, the civil service will be more likely to retain its scholars. Being the relatively poorer students, these students are also likelier to feel grateful for the scholarship, and likelier to think of their obligation to serve their bond as a moral obligation.
Also, I think that the ordinary Singaporean's morale will be boosted. We revert somewhat to the original meritocratic dream that the Singapore system used to offer to its people.
Mr Wang's 3rd Brilliant Idea
Offer a new category of PSC scholarships - partial scholarships with shorter bonds. For example, instead of a full scholarship with a six-year bond, the PSC can offer a scholarship that pays only 50% of the expenses. The bond is accordingly reduced to three years. The scholar, or his parents, can pay the other 50% of the expenses.
What are the merits? Some Singaporeans are very bright but their families cannot afford to send them to study at the world's top universities overseas. However, if the government foots half the expenses, then their families may well be able to afford the rest. Thus Singapore benefits from having a larger pool of Singaporeans who have received a high-quality education at the world's finest institutions.
At the same time, the bond is shorter. All the disadvantages of a long bond (which Mr Wang had already discussed earlier) are therefore reduced by 50%. If it turns out that a scholar is not performing or that he does not like public service, then he can finish his bond much sooner and leave without causing too much grief to himself or to the civil service.
Mr Wang's 4th Brilliant Idea
As Mr Wang has pointed out, scholarship providers in Singapore are primarily the Singapore government, and the Government-Linked Companies. They should all get together and work out a scheme whereby they can exchange scholars and post scholars to each other, based on the scholars' indicated preferences. If a GLC "takes" a scholar from the PSC or from another GLC, then the GLC which is taking the scholar can pay the GLC the costs of the scholarship.
What are the merits of the scheme? If the PSC and the GLCs get together, they are able to offer a wider range of career choices and options to the scholars. It becomes likelier that the scholar will be able to find a position that he is genuinely interested in. In turn, he will be more motivated to do a good job and to complete his bond.
To give you a simple example, an 18-year-old gets a PSC scholarship and studies Law at Oxford. During his final two years in law school, he finds that his true interest is in aviation law. In fact, it is his passion. Upon graduation, the scholar is posted to the Ministry of Law, but there the work that he is assigned does not appeal to him at all. In fact, he hates it so much that he is thinking of breaking his bond.
Thanks to the scheme I mentioned, our unhappy scholar is able to apply for a transfer to Singapore Airlines, where he can pursue his interest in aviation law. If Singapore Airlines finds him to be a worthy candidate, Singapore Airlines can pay the PSC the expenses (on a pro-rated basis, depending on how much of his bond the scholar had already served at the Ministry of Law) of the scholarship, and "take over" the scholar.
There are simple yet effective ways to improve the Singapore scholarship system. However, since the system itself is run by a bunch of idiotic scholars, those people will never think of those ways by themselves.
The ever-helpful and ever-wise Mr Wang Zhen thus will step forward to offer those ideas, which some high-ranking civil servant somewhere will read, mull over, and eventually seek to implement. Of course, the ideas will work very well, and the civil servant will take the credit, but Mr Wang does not mind. All this is for the good of Singapore, you see.
By the way, Mr Wang is an INTJ. Also known as a Systems Builder. INTJs are a very rare species of human beings - their brains are innately hardwired to analyse complex systems, detect weaknesses and generate solutions. Hence all my brilliant analysis comes effortlessly to me.
(Unfortunately, INTJs are also known to resemble psychopaths. Read what a psychiatrist wrote about INTJs and psychopaths. Sigh. This is a major impediment to Mr Wang's public image and future career success.)
Did you know that I've been typed as an INTJ as well?"
- Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs