Seven scholarship recipients received their scholarships from Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at the Foreign Service Scholarship Awards ceremony on Friday (Aug 19).
Of the seven recipients of the scholarship, four received the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship, and three were awarded the Singapore Government Scholarship.
The scholars will be pursuing their studies in the United Kingdom, China, and Germany.
Mr Balakrishnan said in a speech at the awards ceremony, “Acceptance of the scholarships represents a commitment to serve the nation, and that the issue of breaking one's bond obligations should not even be a consideration.”
"In that journey, if sometimes you have to compromise even your individual preferences, you have to wait out that bond period, and serve it as a matter of honor, please do so. This scholarship is not a transaction; this is a commitment to serve the nation."
"It's not just a recognition of your academic ability, it is a life-changing moment for you and your family," Dr Balakrishnan said.
He also advised the scholarship recipients to pursue other interests outside of their studies.
He urged them to seize every opportunity to experience all they could expand their horizons, and to make friends from various backgrounds at school.
There were comments about the awards in CNA’s Facebook page on the speech of the Foreign Affairs Minister.
A commentator, Daryl Yeo said,
"The minister also touched on the significance of the award. 'It's not just a recognition of your academic ability; it is a life-changing moment for you and your family. And the opportunity from the Government to rule,' Dr Balakrishnan said, likening the award to the Imperial examination system in ancient China."
“No, Vivian, the Government does not rule its people. The Government serves its people,” Daryl Yeo said.
To this comment, the minister took the trouble to reply,
“Dary Yeo - you are right. The government is certainly supposed to serve our people. MediaCorp did not carry my full speech.”
He then pastes his speech of this quote in full
"Because it is not a transaction, it is not something that you sign off. It's a life-changing moment for you and your family. Now having said that we are not imperial China. You are not signing on to rule over Singaporeans. We are public officials. We are civil servants, and the emphasis is on the word 'servants'. So it is different."
"But nevertheless, I hope you understand that you are actually making a commitment to serve this nation of ours and if in that journey, it means sometimes you will have to compromise even on your own individual preferences, sometimes you have to wait out that bond period and serve it as a matter of honour, please do so."
"Ok this is not a transaction. This is a commitment to serve your nation. So that's the first thing I wanted to tell you as someone who has gone through the system."
And another commentator wrote,
“Most of those I know, especially those who break bond, see the scholarship as a personal achievement, a trophy. It is not a bursary (where it is given to needy and meritorious graduates), so they neither feel obliged nor committed to the nation at all.”
“Now many of these recipients are also from our elite families, who are more well-off. Since they see the scholarship as a personal thing, they also see paying money to break bond as fulfilling their personal desire to achieve higher personal attainment.”
“In their minds its like this: You sponsor me, I don't want it anymore, I pay you back, so what is the problem?”
“In short, linking scholarships to ‘commitment’ is too far fetched based on the way our system works.”
True enough, Straits Times has earlier reported on 4 August about the speech by the Principal of Raffles Insitute saying that meritocracy is failing for the new generation of citizens.
He said, "Wealthier families have been able to give their children an edge through tuition and enrichment, leading to exams such as the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) no longer being "the level playing field that they once were"
Meaning those scholarships to even the odds for students with disadvantaged family backgrounds will likely to be disadvantaged to get that same award at the very start since the criteria of scholarship is solely based on academic achievement.
This is sort of the same scenario of giving a huge reward to Olympic medalist with no financial support at the very beginning.