17 September 2006

Scholarship System Blues

So now they begin to realise. Heheh.

I once wrote, on this blog, a series of posts about the flaws and failings of the scholarship system in Singapore - here, here, here and here. In one of them, I posed this question to my readers:
Find two differences between Group A:

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.

... and then I gave 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.
This, of course, leads the reader to the next question:
Why is this the case? What makes genuine, bona fide commercial organisations shy away from offering undergraduate scholarships?
For my answers to that question, you'll have to read my old post. Slightly more than one year later, a few government-linked entities seem to be catching up with Mr Wang's analysis. The Sunday Times reports that PSA, DBS and SLA have all cut back on their scholarship programmes:
Sunday Times, Sep 17, 2006
Scholarship blues
PSA, DBS and SLA have cut back on their scholarship programmes. Is this the start of a trend as employers become more wary of bond-breakers?

By Nur Dianah Suhaimi

AT LEAST three scholarship boards which fund undergraduate studies are relooking the way they do it, with one stopping the scheme altogether.

PSA Corp, which has been awarding about 20 scholarships a year on average, is no longer doing so this year.

DBS Bank, one of the first companies here to hand out scholarships in the early 1970s, has tweaked its programme and will only award scholarships to those in their final year of undergraduate studies or postgraduate students.

And unlike previously, these scholarships are not likely to have a bond attached to them, the bank said.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which handed out about three scholarships a year, is now only offering local scholarships.

The Public Service Commission (PSC), which for years was the primary source of scholarships with over 200 given out annually, has also cut back dramatically, though this was a decision made to avoid crowding out the private sector.

From 253 scholarships in 2001, the number was slashed to 54 in 2002. This year, only 39 students were given the PSC scholarship.

........

the moves by PSA, DBS and SLA could signal a wider problem: recruiting talent via the scholarship route isn't working out for some companies, the experts said.
Well, of course it isn't working. That's why, as I have observed in my earlier post, genuine, bona fide commercial organisations generally do not offer scholarships - at least not in the way the government and the GLCs do.
When contacted by The Sunday Times, the three agencies did not pin down reasons for the change.

SLA said it had not awarded any overseas scholarships this year because there were no suitable candidates. But its website said it would offer only local undergraduate scholarships this year.

DBS, on its part, said its scholarship programme has been restructured to suit the bank's current focus on regional and emerging markets. Its future scholarship holders will study at top universities in the region instead of popular study destinations like Britain and the US.

It did not give a reason for no longer giving out scholarships to students fresh out of junior college.

A PSA spokesman would only say: 'The number of scholarships we offer year to year varies and depends on the organisation's needs and how these needs are met by other channels such as direct recruitment.'

The cause for the cutback could be the problem of bond-breaking, said human resource experts, or a realisation that some scholarship holders do not meet job requirements after they graduate ...
Took them a long time to realise it, didn't it? Too bad the Singapore government will take an even longer time. Next time, they should all just read Mr Wang's blog and push themselves more quickly up the learning curve. Even this person, Tan Joo Sin, doesn't quite get it:
The way around this problem is not to do away with scholarships, said Mr Tan Soo Jin, vice-chairman of Amrop Hever Group, an executive search company.

Instead, companies should focus on developing career plans for the scholarship holders to entice them to stay - which is how big companies like Shell, Nestle and Unilever retain their staff.
Tan Soo Jin works for an executive search firm. What does an executive search firm do? It helps companies to find, screen and hire the most suitable candidates for job vacancies in the company. It also helps job seekers to find jobs that provide the best match for their skills, knowledge and career expectations.

Suppose I go to Tan Soo Jin today and say, "Hello, my name is Mr Wang. I am a lawyer. Please find me a job as soon as possible. However, please let them know that I can only start work in the year 2011, and they must continue to employ me until the year 2017."

What would Tan Soo Jin say? "You're crazy, Mr Wang. Which company would know today whether it would have a vacancy in the year 2011 for a candidate like you? And how can they be sure you would be good for the job until the year 2017? How do YOU even know you would want to work for them until then?"

Exactly, Mr Tan. That's why the scholarship system is stupid.

And that's why our government, which has many scholars, is also __________.

+++++++++
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39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another possible effect of the government scholarship system is the policy flip-flops and U-turns we see in ministries every few years.

You see, when scholars are posted to a new position in the public sector, they are given "projects" to do. The unwritten rationale being these "projects" are chances for the scholars to prove their worth.

But what happens when a scholar leaves the post and a new one comes in? You have the new scholar sweeping away the policies of the old scholar in his/her attempt to prove his/her worth via a new "project".

Hence policy flip-flops.

porcorosso said...

Porco has these few thoughts:

1. GLC's were never going to be able to compete with the government for scholars.

2. Scholarships were a means for some people to get to a university they could not otherwise afford.

3. Scholarships were also a means for the PSC to tie young people down to up to 8 years of relatively low pay (in those days).

4. HK has a scholarship system where the bond for a partial scholarship is 2 years working for anyone in HK.

5. At age 18, when Porco failed his final PSC interview, he thought it was the end of the world. Actually, it was the best thing to happen to him - but he wasn't to know that, at least not then.

Anonymous said...

While scholarships do seem a bad deal to GLCs or the government who offer them, they are a good deal to the young people who take them up, so grab the chance while you still can, before the scholarships stop!

Monkey said...

at this point in my life, i hope very much for more graduate scholarships.

on the other hand, i find my sister a victim of scholarship bonds. she can graduate top of her class both for undergrad and grad from top universities but then all she can do now is stuck in a job beneath her real potential because of a combined 13 years bond.

Anonymous said...

http://forums.hardwarezone.com/showthread.php?t=1398053

The ancient scholar system was meant to entrap the 'best' in the system to serve the ruling family so that the 'best' in the country will not think or have the chance to take over the ruling family in ruling the country. This means the 'best' may not be running the country from generation to generation in a dynastic period. The system was meant to keep the ruling family in power for long term.

This was why there was frequents power struggles and political intrigues in the ancient dynastic and scholar system as the 'best' scholars serve under low-quality rulers. This system led to the demise of the dynasties and eventually held back China for 2000 years.

The Singapore system is pretty similiar. The scholar system gave high positions to these academic achievers but there is a limit they can go as they cannot go higher than the VIP families of Singapore and there is too many scholars for that few positions. Even the Singapore Zoo and Bird Park are run by scholars who do not know anything about animals but only about profits.

The MPs who are less ambitious are just there to make up the numbers, support the core group of ministers, gain extra income and a better resume.

Sooner or later, trouble going to break out as the repeat of what happen to China is going to happen to Singapore. One period of growth and prosperity followed by the period of chaos and darkness.This might be the legacy left behind by the Lees.

While the 'imperfect' democratic system introduce by the West at least allow the 'best' to plot their own path and allowed them the same chance to be leaders in the country with lesser restrictions. The system believes no country belongs to any individual.

The civil service remains separate from the ruling party as much as possible. Ruling parties change but civil service remains.

The politicians have to join a political party but they are not entirely subject to the machinations of the party. Joining a party is only a platform, the rest depends very much on themselves to raise funds, gain support and champion their own poilitical views. This was why in a single party, there are room for left,centre and right elements e.g. Conservatives, Labour, Republican, Democrat etc.

In Singapore, everything is centrally controlled. Our MPs have no views of their own. They are just there to outvote the alternative parties in any bill vote.

Anonymous said...

Letter to ST Forum. It was published.

Sep 9, 2006

Scholars should work their way up

I HAVE many friends and relatives who are in the civil service.

The civil service is such that those on scholarships are 'guaranteed' high positions even before they come on board.

While it is only right that as scholars they command a high position, let us not forget that most of the time these people are young and inexperienced. Some may not have held down a job.

A diploma-holder may be in the civil service for 10 years but due to his qualification, he may not have opportunities for promotion. In comes a scholar, who becomes the diploma-holder's boss right away.

In terms of experience, the scholar is nowhere near the diploma-holder. He may have excelled academically but this will not guarantee that he will be a good leader.

Also, as scholars climb the career ladder too fast and too high in a short period of time, they tend to be arrogant.

Is there any way we can change the system so that they gain experience by working their way up? This would help them understand how an entire ministry works. In time, they may become good leaders, and, potentially, ministers.

Annie Koh Seok Kien (Ms)

YCK said...

I am impressed how you pre-empted the report in ST. Keep it up :)

Anonymous said...

There was also reply rebutting the letter a few days ago.

Anonymous said...

I like Anon's comparison of the scholar system in Singapore to the Mandarins in imperial China which reached their zenith during the Ming dynasty. But look at what happened to that dynasty. Group think, ossified views based on untested theories, rent-seeking behaviour among the Mandarins, and blind subservience to the emperor or ruling dynastic family, caused the closing up of of China in comparison to the renaissance of Europe. (All right, I've over-simplified history.)

Do you know that within the scholar class in the Singapore government, there are 'grades' or 'classes' just like the Imperial Mandarin system?

At the top are the Administrative Service, of whom there are about 200 in the civil service. These are the ones who are steered to to become the Permanent Secretaries or CEO's of stat boards. Below them are other scholarships usually offered by the individual ministries or stat boards.

Within this set-up, it is very important to know your 'place' in the hierarachy. You know very well that the Admin Service scholars will get their promotions in double quick time. For these scholars, it is very important for them to find a 'patron' (could be a Perm Sec or a Minister} who would give them a higher profile.

Sounds a lot like Imperial China, right? I'm kust glad I'm now in the private sector.

TheBizofKnowledge said...

First of all, I'd like to say that I found this to be a very interesting post. Now: there's no question that the scholarship system is deeply flawed and should be overhauled at some point in the near future. But like one of your other commenters said, it's still good for the students, so they better snap up the money while it's still available!

Marcus said...

Scholars may be good at tackling exams and scoring aces but when it comes to solving practical problems or starting out as enterpreneurs, they have very little advantage.

Outside of the system, people who are street-smart will have a greater chance of survival and success.

Anonymous said...

Based on my trivial understanding of young people today, I think scholarships are lousy for them, unless of course they are from very poor families - "it's still good for the students, so they better snap up the money while it's still available!
Young people will resent being tie down to any organisations, Its "the ipod' generation, music on demand...FREEDOM.
Scholarships for some are like jail term... We will see more bond breakers in the future..

Any body will information of GLCs or Govt bondbreakers' numbers to share?

Hoffnungsfunke the billygoat said...

Well, I agree that it is silly to use scholarships to retain talent as there is no way to predict work performance from exam smartness. However, I still feel that scholarships are important -- but in a different form as bursaries. People from poorer families should always be given a chance to further their studies as much as they can. And there should be no bond, not even for them either. We should give them the best that we can do for them, and then let them decide what to do with their lives.

Anonymous said...

HI, I am a PSC Scholar and let me give my two cents worth on this issue. I apologize for any grammatical and/or spelling errors. Its getting late and I have to wake up disgustingly early tomorrow to get to camp on time.

A bit about me: I’m pretty much the typical PSC Scholar. Good A Level grades, Ivy League/Oxbridge degree, arrogant, cynical and liberal as hell. LittleSpeck's Article pretty much describes me.

I’m also quite fond of criticizing the very same scholarship system that made me (for better or worse… ok worse) into what I am. I’m simply not looking forward to working with the same people that wrote this memo: MR Brown's Scholars

Ok now that you know a bit about me, here’s what I have to say:

1. Mr Wang is spot on in his observations. It’s the first time I’ve read his articles on the Singapore scholarship system and I agree with them completely. Today’s scholars (at least those awarded scholarships in the 1990s – 2000s) are a different breed from the visionaries responsible for our growth as a nation in the early years. Back in those days, I suspect that scholars actually wanted to become civil servants and they wanted to serve the public and help the nation. My colleagues and I see our scholarships as personal trophies. It’s quite an ego booster to be seen as “god’s gift to the public service” (as we were referred to by a certain PS). By and large we come from wealthy families, stable homes and perhaps most importantly, well educated parents who saw the need to instill in us the importance of doing well in our studies. Good just wasn’t enough for most of them. We needed to crush the competition and wreck the curve. It’s not surprising that the typical scholar (yours truly included) is pretty darn selfish and self centered.

2. The most talented and able scholars leave the civil service (ie break our bonds) after 4 – 6 years. This gives us enough time to earn enough money to pay our steadily decreasing scholarship liability. Assuming that an overseas education costs $300k, and that it is straight-line depreciated over six years (ie 50k a year), in year 5 the bond will only be worth $100k. If you’ve been working in an accelerated career scheme in the civil service for 5 years you will be easily able to afford the bond and maybe business school back in the US. So what will happen is that those with the most transferable skills, the ones who are good enough to work for GS, JPM etc end up leaving the civil service, those that end up staying are the sycophants, toadies and brown-nosers who have no where else to go. At the same time, as Mr Wangmentioned the excellent non scholars (not necessarily farmers, they might have god NUS grades too but they simply aren’t on scholarship) get disgusted by what they perceive as cronyism among the scholar elite and they too leave the service. So as you can see the civil service gets systematically worse with each passing year

3. We scholars are by and large a homogeneous lot. We go to the same schools, read the same books (Roald Dahl is perhaps our favorite childhood author) have the same friends. It’s quite incestuous really. I don’t know how rampant in breeding is but we are constantly tricked into coming for tea sessions, pot luck parties, etc that they really should have the next scholar gathering in the lobby of hotel 81 and give us copious amounts of alcohol if they really are serious about getting us to hook up. Sometimes I think that the PSC has its own GEP (Genetic Engineering Program) where they secretly hope that if you cross last year’s Angus Ross prize winner with this year’s Physics Olympiad gold medalist you’ll get a kid who can read Shakespeare and Stephen Hawkins before he learns to crawl. Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at is that there is an enormous tendency for group think. We all think we are right because hey, no one is going to tell us we are wrong. And it is my opinion that over the years this has done an immeasurable amount of harm to Singapore, the most recent example being our self inflicted humiliation at this year’s IMF and WB meetings. Why our scholars don’t have the helicopter view needed to see that letting people protest (oh come on, it’s really too hot to protest in Singapore and I was rather hoping to see that KFC girl naked) is much better than having to endure billions of dollars in negative publicity.

4. The last point I’d like to make is about scholars and business. At the moment we have many scholars running GLCs, stat boards etc. It’s pretty easy to make money as the CEO of MRT or SBS but once you have to move out of your protected markets and invest in places such as China (Suzhou), India and the Middle East these scholars are going to get slaughtered. There are two reasons for this. A. Scholars are not businessmen and B. Its not their money. As a PSC scholar I’ve never once had to worry about money, although I did hear about the Stanford guy who blew his tuition in Vegas. We get all our fees, tuition, allowance etc up front so we’ve never really had to think too hard about money and when the time comes for us to allocate capital we, as a group, do a terribly poor job of it. And if were going to blow money on some investment in some developing country it’s a good thing is not our money, or our clients’.

OK that’s my first blog entry ever. I am a person of strong convictions but fortunately they are strong PERSONAL convictions so I don’t let anyone else know, family, friends, PSC etc about how I feel. If I did I think I’d get myself into a lot of trouble. Mr Wang did an excellent job analyzing the article and giving us his take and this inspired me to write this rather long diatribe. THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT.

Anonymous said...

Hi in the post above I meant to say that in year 5 there is a $50k bond value and NUS students had "good" not GOD grades. I'm sur ethre are many more typos so don't be a spelling nazi.

Kritias said...

I really like the posts comparing the scholarship system and the Imperial system.

There are many clever, experienced people with a lot of spirit and vocational ability...they just weren't that great at exams or belonged to the "civil royalty". I feel money should go to them so they could be given chances to shine. The PAP complains about Singaporeans lacking certain qualities, but people with these qualities or trying to exercise these qualities are punished instead of rewarded.

Anonymous said...

One of the comments metioned

2. Scholarships were a means for some people to get to a university they could not otherwise afford.

If you are referring to local universities, then this is not true. If you want to get a degree from NUS or NTU and you have no money at all, you can get loans that will be just enough to cover all your expenses. These loans are virtually guaranteed to all students and you just have to ask to get it.

That is why I think all kinds of scholarship for local universities are raw deals. The difference is after you graduate you have some loans to pay off. However the sum is not that big and you can clear it off in 3-4 years easily. One of the loans is even interest free.

If you are going to study in NUS/NTU and you have been offered a scholarship but you are unsure of what you want to do after you graduate, please do not take the scholarship. You might want to continue to graduate studies and with a bond that will be delayed or it might not happen at all. I have seen brilliant classmates who has to give up the opportunity to do graduate studies abroad because of their bond.

I got my undergrad degree from NUS and right now I'm doing my grad studies in USA. I still have to pay off my study loans but fortunately my stipend is enough to cover it.

Then it is natural to ask what if the scholarship is for a foreign university. Would it then be a good deal? I still don't think its worth it. Being an NUS graduate does not really hurt your chances of getting into good schools for your graduate studies.

yh said...

what an insightful post by the anonymous PSC scholar!

what i think is one of the biggest ill of the scholarship system is this:
all the smartest 18 years old in the country aim for nothing but a scholarship from the government. Who's is going to be out there starting our google and yahoo? It is no wonder that we have to rely so heavily on direct foreign investment; we have very little successful SME. Everyone wants a guaranteed cushy job in the civil service and a life that is completely charted when they are 18. At the same time, you are telling the rest of the people that because they did not do as well in an examination when they are 18, they will never amount to anything.

John Riemann Soong said...

Aye - today's "scholars" are somewhat like the pedantic scholars in the Ming Court that ended up recalling Zheng He , the true intellectual, because they were worried about what the implications of his voyages would bring to China.

leigh said...

hello
I feel like I'm shooting myself in the foot- With increased awareness of the real deal of scholarships, I personally am growing averse to the idea of a scholarship. Yet, I have absolutely no means to finance myself through a foreign uni. I totally see how it's quite silly to dabble in this sort of forward-employment market, yet I envision myself doing some Ally Mcbeal of sorts, telling e interviewers, "I know. I know i'm not being interviewed to get admitted into a school. I'm getting a job now, and I'm better at work than at school" (for I struggle like mad in school and I don't see a clear cut 4 As to call my own) thus beating the their flaws.

Good thing is that I was exposed to the paradoxes that exist, untold to me when I entered JC last year (since mr wang's articles were posted last year), and that has given me the time to reconcile with the upheaval of the 4As-2Ss-1 scholarship- or die notion. Tho I still wonder I'm still wondering if I should try for scholarships next year. More discussion like this is making me very confused really~

Money is my huge stumbling block, though now I see more sense in spending 3 years in Sg doing an undergrad, then spending 7 years working overseas, then to taste the sweet-study overseas for 4 years- then swallow the bitter- 6 years in sg, in a career you needn't necessarily like. Of course, impetuousness will make me want to accept in an -about ok- scholarship deal.

Hm,I know there's this line of argument that says scholarships should be to help those who can't afford it (which is not really happening), but NUS sociology lecturer at some forum i attended last year did elucidate the fact that scholarships offered here are not philantropic. These orgs are looking for employees or serve another function of retaining the creme de la creme. it's unlike those scholarships that rich towkays who made good scrapping steel give. gov scholarships are to be earned; they're not bursaries. Many of us will like to think in terms of equity, but maybe that isn't the issue here.

Gosh, you should hear some chatter in school, "try MOE scholarship? over 300 right? the probability is higher"-- that is one I wont even think of trying. Many of my teachers are such scholars, nice people, yes, but thier service is such an irony. How to inspire students to go for their dreams, get out of the 4As-2Ss-1 scholarship thinking, when they are the products of it? Maybe I think too much, but I get a strong sense of suppressed vitality in them, or that they are not very keen to teach, though brilliant in their field of expertise.

If the scholarship system is to be modified, I recommend flexibility. I'm sure there's somewhere in such a big system where they can be better-employed, and happily so too. Makes more sense than forcing them into a corner and making another bondbreaker.

Oh, and Porcorosso, could you kindly direct me to where I may find more information on this HK partial scholarship thing please? thanks!

Mr Wang Says So said...

I know Porcorosso in real life, and I can honestly say that I think Point 4, in his comment above, is right.

On a separate note, there is something that I feel bright, young Singaporeans consistently fail to realise. This is it - when you get your 4 A's and 2 S-Paper distinctions and glowing CCA record, then even if you do not take a PSC government scholarship, many other doors will open to you.

If you do take a PSC government scholarship, well let's put it this way - it's really not the end of the world nor the worst thing that could happen to you - but the six-year bond does indeed mean that many of those other doors will become closed to you ...

... (unless, as some recent cases have illustrated, you're prepared to break the bond and pay back, in which case you're better off not taking the scholarship to begin with).

Mr Wang Says So said...

By the way, my insurance agent does not even have a university degree of any kind, but she is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table and probably makes a lot more money per year than PSC government scholars her age in the civil service.

Ahh, the things you can do ... without 4 A's and two S-Papers.

The Singapore government is right to say that our society's definitions of success are too narrow. Whether the Singapore government can change that - that's another kind of question.

Anonymous said...

I believe one of the reasons why there is so much confusion about the purpose and merits of scholarships as well as debate over whether equity in education is realistic is the way we interpret the meaning of scholarship.

To me, it is crystal clear that scholarships are meant to help those who can't afford to further their studies. The problem might be that those who provide the funds have used the word too loosely.

Somebody mentioned that corporate scholarships do not serve a philantropic purpose. I agree and don't see anything wrong with them. But I believe the proper word to use is sponsorship.

This may seem pedantic and I am no expert in semantics but if we can differentiate between scholarships and sponsorships, and label them accordingly, then those who apply for them would probably be more aware of the purpose (philantropic vs commercial) and obligations (moral vs contractual) and make wiser and more responsible choices.

Many of the local university scholarships are actually sponsorships and they are really nothing to shout about. But using the word "scholarship" and giving them out by the dozens sure makes our government look good.

Finally, it is a comforting sign that at least one of our PSC scholars is aware of his/her strengths and weaknesses. If he/she will do something positive about the weaknesses, he/she will definitely be one step closer to the kind of scholar I truly respect.

There is hope for our nation after all :).

Anonymous said...

I think a scholarship is still a good deal, even a local one. Instead of paying up the study loan in 3-4 years, a scholarship holder can invest that amount of money and get a headstart over a non-scholarship holder, e.g. if he can save S$20,000 over that 3-4 years, it is a pretty good headstart in inverstment over the non-scholarship holder, who would have to use those savings to repay the study loan instead.

Overseas postings or travel opportunities are also abundant if you are in EDB, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc.

Anonymous said...

The two primary reasons that the GLCs, Stat Boards and even the PSC ( despite any public statement to the contrary ) are reviewing the scholarship scheme are:
1) the declining quality of the applicants over the years. One needs only to look at the biodata and academic results of the more recent scholars ( incl President Scholars ) to see the trend
2) the increasing rate of pre-mature termination of bonds by the best and brightest of each recent cohort of scholars ( this has already been pointed out in an earlier post )

I have only anectodal evidence but the trend of bond breakers is greatest amongst those awarded scholarships by the government, stat boards and GLCs. The few genuinely private sector organisations that have awarded scholarships have managed to retain most of them in their employ. In fact SPH has the distinction of being the only pte sector organisation to have lost 100% of its scholars by the time their bondage is up ( the exceptions are the initial two batches of scholars who are now esconsded in snug supervisory positions too comfortable to move out from or who have become part of the Singapore establishment.

I see this lesser attraction of public service as symptomatic of the increasing gulf between the government ( read PAP ) and the new intelligentsia ( and the people and the people - the PAP are too compalcent if they think that the 66.6 % who voted for them truly endorse their policies et al).

In the long term, Singapore will suffer as fewer and fewer bright ones remian in service or indeed even in the country.

I know of many bright scholars who have quitted the service because they are totally disillusioned with the way the system works. All the talk of opening windows to fresh ideas, consulting the people, engaging and having dialogue with those of different ( not necessarily opposing views ) is just talk. Period. The ones who do not question perceived wisdom and time condoned ways of thinking and working but accept meekly or ingratiatingly the ' instructions" from the powers that be are the ones who will advance in their public service career. For those who are naive enough to believe the advertising spiel about those in the elite Admin Service having an input, and influence on policy making, wake up. You are there only to "rationalise" policies not to help make them....

anonymous test-tube washer said...

Anonymous PSC scholar wrote:
Sometimes I think that the PSC has its own GEP (Genetic Engineering Program) where they secretly hope that if you cross last year’s Angus Ross prize winner with this year’s Physics Olympiad gold medalist you’ll get a kid who can read Shakespeare and Stephen Hawkins before he learns to crawl.

You only think that only sometimes? The genetic engineering is so blatant as to be laughable. At least A*Star is honest about their eugenics policies. An A*Star executive director told scholars at a tea session that the purpose of having so many tea sessions was to encourage scholars to intrabreed and produce more brilliant young scientists.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Heheh. This is truly funny, because I just happen to be reading a book, entitled "Proactive Parenting", and in Chapter One, it says:

"In our fondest fantasies, we imagine that our children will combine the best traits of both parents: Mom's easy laugh and gift with words, Dad's patience and dexterous hands - and maybe Uncle Gil's talent for finance. We recall phrases such as "like father, like son" and "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Wouldn't it be great if the combination of your genes and your child rearing brought forth a delightful child who shared all your interests and talents, and never woke you up at night? Unfortunately, reality is much more complicated than that. Now that your baby has grown into a toddler or preschooler, he's made it his business to let you know that he's a distinct individual. And, if you've had more than one child, you know what different results similar genes and environments can create."

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's the anonymous PSC scholar again. Here’s some food for thought for all of you reading this that might be interested in a PSC scholarship. If you ever get the chance to go for a tea session ask the PSC goons there what is the PSC scholar retention rate, that is to say out of every batch of PSC scholars what % stay on after their bonds. Their answer will be something like, “We do not track the number of scholars that choose to stay. A good number of them choose to serve the Singapore people in many different capacities.” Why would PSC does not track this seemingly obviously useful statistic is beyond me. The answer is probably because the number of scholars who choose to stay on is embarrassingly low. I certainly do not have official figures but I’d venture a guess that they have a retention rate of about 40% - 50%, and this number is even lower for the three ministries that will give it’s employees the most transferable skills; The MFA, MTI and MOF. They are pretty worried. MFA has started hiring people that were previously rejected by the PSC or the parent ministry. (I can’t seem to find the link, but its floating on the web somewhere) This is a huge step, because it means that the civil servants are admitting that they actually screwed up in the selection process.

I don’t know if SPH has a 0% retention rate but I wouldn’t be surprised. Journalism does have a history of attracting articulate, passionate and idealistic young people and I’m pretty sure they’d overwhelmingly reject the oppressive ever present censorship in SPH. I know one girl from Yale who’s an SPH scholar and she’s smart, beautiful and in my opinion won’t stay for more than three years there.

PSC does their best to keep the “Fishmonger son’s works hard and gets an SAF scholarship” myth alive. The truth is 90% of us are upper middle class, and about 25% of us pretty damn fucking rich. However if PSC takes in 50 scholars a year (I think it’s reduced now, not sure) the probability that at least one of them coming from a disadvantaged background is pretty high. When that happens they publicize the hell out of it. They also have the opportunity to see what your background is like when you apply for the scholarship, but to the best of my knowledge coming from a poor background gives you no statistical advantage. In fact the opposite is true; kids with good backgrounds are more likely to win such scholarships.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous PSC scholar

Like you, I was a PSC scholar too, but not on one of the more prestigious Admin Service-headed, PSC-mothered, Alpha Club-invited scholarships such as the President or Overseas Merit scholarships.

No, I wasn't a bondbreaker, actually completed my 8 year bond serving the country (yes, I suppose people would say I was silly in staying so long but at least I've done my part and am now working in the private sector).

What you said about the PSC scholarships being awarded to kids from rich and well-connected families is so true. These kids are exam smart, no doubt, but they don't need the money to study overseas. Their parents can more than afford it. What they and their parents want is the prestige that goes along with the scholarship, not the money.

You would have seen over the last few years news of children of our ministers getting scholarships. And the local media makes a big deal of it as if because the father is a minister, it is even better from society's point of view that the son/daughter also gets a PSC scholarship and would one day join the father and become a minister too.

I have also suspected that another reason these rich kids apply for PSC scholarships is because some of the top overseas universities reserve places for PSC-endorsed applicants. Rather than apply to these unis on their own accord, which means they would have to compete with a thousand other bright applicants from all over the world, it might be actually be easier to gain admittance to these unis on a PSC scholarship. A fantastic deal really, PSC helps you to get admitted and pays you for it as well.

When I later did my postgrad (at one of top three unis in the world according to the Shanghai Jiatong rankings), I decided to apply on my own and pay out of my hard-earned savings. I got admitted and am quietly proud of it, knowing I had competed against some of the best candidates in the world.

Anonymous said...

Sounds very familiar. I went back to search and found this http://lemondroplets.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!26F399664A850E81!134.entry

Talks about how gov should restructure scholarship plans with a macro view over economy and education sector.

Anonymous said...

They may have decided to channel the money to fund foreign talents such as the 7 foreign scholars at the LKY School of Public Policy.

New strategy?

takchek said...

Talking about the LKY SPP, I notice that Singaporeans are NOT eligible for almost all of the scholarships offered , with the exception of the Lien Foundation Scholarship for Social Service Leaders

http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/degree_prog_mpa.htm#mpaf

What kind of rubbish criterion is that?

SPP said...

I am also confused with this LKY SPP thingy. Yes, almost all scholarships are out of reach of Singaporeans. So is the LKY school trying to produce good opposition LKY himself is looking forward to? Or is this just another "MFA feel good" tool for strategic purposes which acheivements cannot be quantified again?

Anonymous said...

let me offer you the insightful observation of my very good friend, a malaysian scholar.

"eh singapore very smart ah have so many scholarships to keep all of you all here in singapore."

that may be why some things will never change, when it comes to scholarships.

Anonymous said...

and it would not be nice to just over-generalize our MPs. i've met a few who were genuine about serving. can't say that it's a decision that is free from the want of prestige, but at least they're sincere in helping with their current position. and some of them really do.

Anonymous said...

This may well be a lesson to those who think the government owes them a living. If all they can do is just whine and complain when faced with challenges, there are others who would gladly take their place.

That, the government knows very well. It may also be why the whining and complaining has little effect in changing things.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, Have you ever investigated the process of top Universities reserving places for top PSC scholars? Well, when I was applying scholarship, most of the people had the idea of "got scholarship, nevermind the gahmen will help settle the school." Only a few which I knew got their Oxbridge place first before going around pleading for a scholarship. Even my very own sister who got her scholarship first before getting "back door" entry into one of the top Unis in US, same goes with my friends who were bound for the UK. Of of which applications were done WAY PAST the date line...

oh course poor me (well or maybe fortunate me) is staying on in Singapore. Maybe I shall be like Mr Wang one day, really wish Mr. Wang would blog about how good/bad a life of a DPP is so I could forward the link to all my classmates....

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