[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, January 14, 2008

[Scholarships and Bursaries]
1. I've been giving out scholarships and bursaries last weekend and the weekend before to students living in Bedok Reservoir and Hougang-Punggol, about three hundred at a time. I'll do the third and last batch next Saturday at Holy Innocents School. In addition to Edusave Scholarships and Merit Bursaries which are funded by the government, the CCC gives out additional bursaries to children of poorer. The CCC Education Fund has been built up over the years from private donations.

2. Education is the most important investment we can make for the future. We can lose the things we have but, with education, we can rebuild our assets. Conversely, we can have all the riches in the world but, without good education, we will lose them eventually. China made a wise decision years ago to pour resources into education. India made a big mistake by not doing so and is discovering that it is increasingly short of skilled manpower. But this is finally changing. When I had breakfast at the Botanic Gardens with Montek Singh, the Deputy Chairman of the Indian Planning Commission a few weeks ago, he told me that big monies would henceforth be diverted to education.

3. Singapore parents worry a lot about their children's education and our students are under pressure all the time to perform. The private tuition industry is booming. Although many aspects of our education system can be improved, we are doing very well on the whole. That is why our kids do very well in international tests in both science and mathematics. The scholarships and bursaries we give encourage our students to continue making the effort. This is the best way to secure our future.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am always syrprised at how the sons and daughters of ministers and politicians also need scholarships. In fact.. so many are on it.
Is it because they arent paid enough to pay for their own childrens education?
Do they repay the cost of education and just take the title of "scholar" and the accompanying iron rice bowl?
Why no means testing here? Its rather vulgar for multi millionair politicians to accept scholarships for their children.
Or is it because without the scholarship, their children will become "quitters"?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 9:23:00 pm

Blogger George Yeo 杨荣文 said...

There is means testing for Edusave scholarships and bursaries, in the form of an income ceiling.

As for PSC scholarships, they are entirely merit-based. In recent years, a declining proportion of our best students apply for scholarships because a number of them have parents who can finance their education overseas. This is worrying because scholars with bonds to serve are the most important source of talent for the public service.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 6:11:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I apologise for my less than civil tone in the first comment. Call it the helpless ranting of a disappointed citizen.
Respectfully, your reply skirted the point entirely.
Why is educational subsidy (actually handout) worth hundreds of thousands for a multi millionaire's child "merit based" while say... to start, health care subsidy for ordinary citizens be "means tested"?
Should not the multi millionaires' - especially political leaders - repay the educational cost and just take the title of "scholar"? Its common sense fairness.
If a political leader's child refuse to serve (with a generous salary too) without being given a scholarship, it really speaks volumes about their moral fibre and upbringing, then thank God they are out of public service.

Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:39:00 am

Blogger George Yeo 杨荣文 said...

WIthout scholarships, the public sector would face difficulty recruiting its share of the best students every year. It is not only the government which is offering scholarships. The private sector does too. Without the bond, many of our scholars would be tempted to remain overseas because of the generous packages they are offered, sometimes even before graduation. I prefer to see scholarships as a major recruitment tool for the public sector. And, as I indicated earlier, this tool has become less effective in recent years. Is 'moral fibre' important? Yes, of course, but that is a separate factor to be considered and should not be prejudged by family background.

Sunday, January 20, 2008 10:47:00 pm

Blogger Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I think it is somewhat misleading to say that the private sector gives out scholarships too.

In Singapore, the only companies in the private sector which give out scholarships are those with strong links to the Singapore government.

Typically, these are the GLCs such as Singapore Airlines, Singapore Press Holdings, Development Bank of Singapore, Singapore Power Ltd etc.

You will hardly find a non-GLC giving out scholarships. For example, companies such as Citibank Singapore, Hyflux / Creative Technologies, Courts Singapore, Osim International etc simply do not give out scholarships.

I think that the reasons are for fairly obvious. The scholarship system is simply a highly flawed way of attempting to attract and retain talent.

The non-GLCs see the flaws and therefore do not use such a system. As this ST article shows, a few GLCs and statutory boards seem to see the flaws too and are therefore trying to move away from it.

The rest of the GLCs still persist, perhaps as a result of their historical baggage or the current / historical influence of their senior management members with strong links to the PAP / Singapore government.

Thursday, January 31, 2008 9:47:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

First off, I am truly amazed and honoured that you took the effort to reply to my postings, I assume its not a ghost writer.

Unknowingly, I think you have exposed a serious disconnect with the public on how our scholarships are being awarded.
To be blunt, no multi millionaire should have his child educated at the public's expense, then have the child given an iron rice bowl, again at public expense. That is just immoral and wrong. They should pay for the scholarship, period.
People who do not need a scholarship, yet insist on getting one, have no business being called a "talent", and should never ever be put in public service. The infamous Miss Wee should have shown the consequences of giving scholarships to the wrong people, a fine civil servant she would make...not.
We have numerous ministers who have children on scholarships too, have any of them offered to repay the scholarship? Why not?

Sunday, February 03, 2008 12:20:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scholarships and scholars are always touchy subjects in Singapore.

I am a Fulbright Fellows (ok, so I am not of the PSC or "Singapore Scholar" route), so permit me to add a few words here.

I believe scholarship should award the best and the brightest regardless of economic well being. Here is the reason:- At which point you draw the line between a person is too rich (and hence should not deserve it) and a person is too clever (and hence deserve it). Do you measure by networth or cash? Many HDB owners are richer than the condo and BMW heroes who are in huge debt. Then again, the condo heroes are professionals and they can argue they are economically stronger. Then again, the middle income folks will say that they are richer because of their frugal spending habits. And when you tell them the richer folks dont get scholarships, both groups will out poor each other.

I am just illustrating the difficulties of a policy of awarding scholarships to more deserving students. There is really no right or wrong answer here.

Here is a personal story. When I was in NTU, my grades were good enough for the NTU scholarship. I was an entrepreneur then. I wrote my own "How to pass EXAM guides" (yup, the arrogance of it) as an undergraduate and sold it to my classmates. I would go to the lecture hall and market my guidebook and they are obviously a hit among desperate students. So during the interview, the panelists asked, "You dont look poor? So why do you need a scholarship?" I answered that I did not know family background is a criteria. I come from a middle income family but the reason why I am applying this scholarship is that I needed money to expand my exam guide business. And here is my flipchart. I will demonstrate why I deserve it."

Just like those American comedy "Revenge of the Nerds". The panelists said coldly, "Get out!"

To rub salt on wounds, the next candidate who walked in, daughter of a very well to do family got it. She said that although she came from a rich family, the scholarship is about prestige and a recognition of her hard work.. blah blah blah.. all the old foggies stuff that is pleasing to dinosauric ears. She won the scholarship.

The lesson here is, on reflection, I needed to learn humility here. Two, I was ahead of the times. Had I appeared today where everyone blindly follows the govt's call for entrepreneurship, it would have been a walk in the park. Three and more importantly, once you have those fuzzy criteria, then you can award it or reject anyone you deem too rich, too poor, too ugly, too sexy etc.

Having said that, there must be mant opportunities whereby poorer or middle income families can get scholarship, bursaries and loans. The criteria and objective must be clearer here.

So I envision a two scheme approach. One type of scholarship is really for the best and the brightest. Another scheme is for the financially needy and the rich need not even apply.

And if you are poor and smart, you can apply to both types of scholarships. If you are rich, you only can apply for the first type and compete purely on brains and performance.

I think that system is not unlike what we have now. The reality is that the rich and the connected will tend to do much better in the first type of scholarship due to their exposures and access to resources but hey, I never dare writeoff anyone. With internet access, everyone has a fair shot these days.

Oh there is a SWEET SWEET ending to my story. For years, I dreamt of doing a middle finger to the NTU panelists who asked me to walk out as if I was a criminal or some dissident who stepped on their imaginary OB markers. Remember the scene from Matrix, Keannu Reeves said, "How about I show you the middle finger and spare me the Gestapo stuff?" (See so much for my lessons in humility.) When I was CEO in Institute of Banking and Finance, I got the wonderful opportunity to be invited back in NTU to hand pick the same scholarship candidates. I became the panelists. So i told my sad story to the panelists.
And in walk a candidate who ran his won funds, conducted his own investment courses and needed the scholarship money to expand his business. And all the panelists were fawning over him as if he is the next best thing. Of course, I gave it to the entrepreneurial young man. His time has come.

But i often wondered? Am I not doing what I accused others of doing? Maybe I should award the scholarship to some boring introvert who wanted to be a scholar and wished to spend his whole life in a government job, hate risks and hate the idea of entrepreneurship.. Maybe, that is ultimate contrarian. Thankfully, that option was not available as no such candidates match my imaginary profile.

Oh, and to the panelists who kicked me out the first time, here is my finger. Got to complete what you set up to do :-)

Friday, February 22, 2008 10:14:00 am


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