Singapore Airlines / Singapore Press Holdings / Development Bank of Singapore / Singapore Power Ltd / SembCorp Industries / Singapore Armed Forces / Singapore Police Force
and Group B:
Citibank Singapore / Hyflux / Creative Technologies / Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation / Asia-Pacific Breweries / Courts Singapore / Goodwood Park Hotel /
Osim International / Fraser & Neave Ltd.
Got it? Here's the answer:
- 1. All the Group A entities are linked to the Singapore government. But all the Group B organisations are genuine private-sector entities.
2. All the Group A entities offer undergraduate scholarships. But none of the Group B organisations do.
Why is this the case? What makes genuine, bona fide commercial organisations shy away from offering undergraduate scholarships?
Money is not the issue. These are not puny little SMEs we're talking about. The Group B organisations are big players in their own right. If they thought that scholarships were a good idea, they would have no problems plonking down a few million dollars a year to fund the programme.
It is also not about the private sector not valuing talent. In fact, Citibank Singapore is an award-winning employer, well-known for the quality of its human resource programmes and policies. Banks like Citibank and OCBC in fact also run sophisticated management trainee programmes for people whom they believe have the potential to become their top employees. No bonds, and no scholarships, though.
The real reason is that the private sector knows that the undergraduate scholarship system is simply not reliable. It is a poor method for attracting and retaining talent. There is just too much crystal ball-gazing involved.
You will be bonded to the A*STAR Test-Tube Washing Department."
Suppose in the year 2005, you plonk your money on a bright young lady with excellent A-levels and a great CCA record. You are actually betting:
1. that she will perform well and learn valuable things in university from 2006 to 2009;
2. that in the year 2009, your organisation will have a job vacancy that's a good fit for her;
3. that she will be an outstanding performer when she starts work in 2009, (so outstanding that it was worth waiting 4 years for her);
4. that she will remain an outstanding performer from 2009 to 2014;
5. that from 2009 to 2014, there will be no mismatch between what your organisation can offer her, and the kind of career she expects or aspires to have.
So right now in 2005, scholarship boards are making bets all the way to 2014. And you thought the traders from China Aviation Oil were bad.
I prefer to speculate in oil derivatives."
- Chen Juilin, China Aviation Oil.
In reality, some scholars break their bonds because they suddenly realise that their true interest lies somewhere else. Others grow disinterested and perform mediocrely. They count down their bonded days the way NSmen count down their military days to ORD. Others find that they just don't have the temperament for the job they're given. I know someone who took a PSC teaching scholarship only to find out too late that she really hated teaching. Other scholars are really great at physics or engineering or chemistry, but just don't like government policy-making.
Crystal ball-gazing is very difficult. You can't even tell where the oil prices might be next week. Never mind what will happen between now and the year 2014. That's why the private sector generally does not adopt the undergrad scholarship system.
GLCs follow the Singapore government system, because the GLCs are linked to the Singapore government. Ever notice how GLCs tend to be headed by ex-PSC scholars?
Meanwhile, the Singapore government struggles to revise the scholarship system. That's because this was the same system on which the Singapore government built itself. It would be a tricky exercise for ex-President's Scholars like Lee Hsien Loong or Vivian Balakrishnan to come forward and say that maybe President's Scholarships aren't such a great idea.
The traditional PSC scholarship system may have worked well in the past. Times, however, have changed, and the system hasn't evolved sufficiently. It is now a weak, wobbly dinosaur struggling with climate changes.
If the readers of Commentary Singapore are interested, Mr Wang will, in a subsequent post, explain why the system that once worked, no longer does.
Enforces moral obligations & feeds on bond-breakers.