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Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the 2019 President's Scholarships Award Ceremony on Thursday, 15 August 2019 at The Istana
Keynote Address by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, at the 2019 PSC Scholarships Award Ceremony on 17 July 2019.
Opening Address by Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Public Service Commission, at the 2019 PSC Scholarships Award Ceremony on 17 July 2019.
Two candidates have been awarded the 2019 Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship.
Mr Teo Chee Hean, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security
Ladies and Gentlemen
Every year, the President’s Scholarship is conferred on outstanding young men and women, who have committed to serving Singapore and Singaporeans through the Public Service.
This evening, we recognise and celebrate the achievements and commitment of four outstanding young Singaporeans. They are:
Allison will be studying International Relations, and will serve in the Singapore Armed Forces. John and Dhafer will pursue their studies in Liberal Arts at Stanford and Harvard Universities respectively, and Mein Yeak will read Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London. The three gentlemen will serve in the Public Service upon graduation.
My heartfelt congratulations to you.
Today is a memorable occasion for you and your families. It is even more meaningful to receive the award in Singapore’s bicentennial year. The bicentennial year reminds us to look back with gratitude to our pioneers who had worked hard and tirelessly to build our thriving modern city, and to look forward with humility and optimism. We all know that no matter how brilliant we are, without the right support and opportunities provided for us to develop to our fullest potential, our growth will be limited. Our forefathers helped to build a strong foundation and we have benefitted from it. Now it is your turn, to play a role in helping Singapore forge ahead for the next 200 years.
During the launch of the Singapore Bicentennial Experience a couple of months ago, I spoke about key traits of the Singaporean DNA that has brought us to where we are today – openness and connectedness to the world, multi-culturalism, and determination to survive as a nation no matter what the circumstances are. The same traits will bring us ahead.
I encourage Allison, John, Dhafer and Mein Yeak to think about how you can prepare yourselves to contribute to the future Public Service. To enable the Public Service to be more open and receptive to the evolving needs of citizens; to help Singapore continue to forge stronger relationships with our allies amid uncertain times; to continue to be aware of the fault lines and actively promote inter-racial and cultural understanding; and to stay resolute in the face of our national challenges. Above all, how to ensure that we remain a progressive, contemporary and globalised city state but, at the same time, one that is inclusive, caring and compassionate where no one is left behind.
The President’s Scholarship is an honour and also a responsibility. We believe that you have exemplified, and will continue to espouse, the values and ethos of the Public Service. Within your cohort, we expect you to be leaders and role models. Public service goes beyond doing a job well. It is a complete dedication to the people and nation.
I hope you will bring Singapore forward by shaping a cohort of future public officers through your actions, inspiring them to lead by example, to be connected to the ground and the community; and to put the needs and interests of the nation and our citizens at the core.
This is a weighty responsibility to shoulder. I am confident that you are ready for this. Through public service you can improve lives and the world around you. Its greater reward, however, is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring to your own life.
Today, you are joined by your families, principals, teachers and friends who have supported your growth, shaped your character and values, and helped you develop your potential. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate them on their role in your development.
Allison, John, Dhafer and Mein Yeak – I wish you success in your journey ahead and look forward to you serving the nation with passion when you begin your careers in the Public Service.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY MINISTER FOR TRADE & INDUSTRY AND MINISTER-IN- CHARGE OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE,
MR CHAN CHUN SING AT THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SCHOLARSHIPS AWARD CEREMONY
ON 17 JULY 2019 AT PARKROYAL HOTEL, GRAND BALLROOM
1. A very good afternoon Chairman and members of the Public Service Commission, parents, teachers, principals, and recipients. First, let me thank the Public Service Commission for your hard work. They have been working hard, not just this year. A few of them actually interviewed me when I took the scholarship, and they are all volunteers. It is not easy to sift through 2,000 to 3,000 applicants to find the 90 plus of you.
2. On such occasions, the first thing that I always tell all the recipients is this - you are here, not because of your intelligence and your hard work alone. I am also not here because of my intelligence and hard work alone. We are all here, because this country has given us the opportunities to be here. When I was in Cambridge University, I was always reminded that there were many people who were more hardworking, more intelligent than me. But in life, they did not necessarily have the same opportunities that I have today. And their children, do not necessarily have the opportunities that our children have today. So today, we are here because of the opportunities given to us by society, the love and support given to us by our parents, and teachers and principals. Now as I was preparing this speech, I wondered what to say to you. Because from my experience, none of you will remember anything I say 12 months from now. I could have used my speech from last year, and not many people may have even noticed the difference. So I asked my staff to ask around, what would all of you like to hear from me?
3. Boils down to three questions - Why I joined, why I stayed, and what worries me about the Public Service of Singapore. I am going to just share with you three stories. Three real stories.
4. Why I joined. I did not join the Public Service because of some lofty ambition to change the world and bring Singapore to the next higher plane. I joined the Public Service because I needed a scholarship to continue my studies. Otherwise, like many in my generation, I would have to start working after my ‘A’ Levels. Even getting to my ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels had required many scholarships and bursaries for me to be there. I did not aim to be a Minister, I wanted to be a librarian – it was a very logical choice.
5. I like to read books. The old library at Stamford Road, the red brick building, was one of the few places in Singapore that had air conditioning and allowed you to read books free of charge. And if I was a librarian, they would even pay me to do the job. I went to the PSC, got a scholarship application form and I indicated PSC (Open) so that I could be a librarian. But there were two blanks there. My teacher taught me that in any test or examination, never to leave a blank. I asked around about the other scholarships the PSC offered, someone shouted SAF, so I dutifully put SAF.
6. When I went for my interview, the PSC members asked me if I would be prepared to serve in the SAF. So I said did not choose the SAF, I wanted to be a librarian. The PSC told me, no, second choice the SAF, second choice is still a choice. So I joined the SAF. I did not wear spectacles. I was supposed to go to the Air Force. My mother told me in Mandarin - “做 人要脚踏实地” - keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. So I joined the Army. And to be even more specific, I joined the infantry.
7 I started learning to take care of my buddy, then my fellow section mates and another eight fellow soldiers. Then when I graduated, I became a platoon commander to take care of 28 men. Progressively, they trained me to take care of 100 men, a few hundred men, a few thousand men, a few ten thousand men, and eventually, a few hundred thousand men.
8. Why do I share this story with you? Moral of the story is that life has many twists and turns. Very often, we start off aiming very high to try to change the world, but it is often very useful to start doing things small and practically. And a good way to start to take care of the country is to learn to first take care of our fellow men who work with us. If we can take care of our buddy, then we can take care of our section mates, then we can take care of a few tens of people, a few hundred, we will get there. So do not worry as to why you decide to take up the Public Service Commission Scholarship. You may have loftier ideas than what I had, but I can assure you, you will go through the same path that I had. So long as your heart is at the right place, we will get from a few men to a few hundred thousand men, and these are fellow Singaporeans under our charge, looking forward to our service so that they all can have a better life than their forefathers.
9. Second story. Why did I stay? Now, more than 30 years in the Public Service. I will just tell you one story. During the course of my Public Service career, I had a chance to be posted overseas, to go on overseas missions, to go on overseas trips to talk to counterparts. And I will just share with you one very vivid example as to why I stayed.
10 I was in a foreign country. I was to call on one of the regional leaders away from the capital city. I submitted my request to meet that regional leader. I tried to get a breakfast meeting, it did not happen. I tried for a lunch meeting, it also did not happen. I tried for a dinner meeting, it still did not happen. Then I tried, why not the next day, I will wait for you, lunch, breakfast or dinner, any one will do. It still did not happen. On the second night, at about nine plus pm, a call came. “This particular personality has a slot at 10pm. Would you like to meet him for 15 minutes, maybe half an hour?”
11. I rushed over to meet him at 10pm after he had finished all his engagements. He looked at me and asked.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from Singapore.”
“And why do you want to see me?”
“I am from Singapore. I am here to establish friendship.”
And he looked at me, “Yes?”
12. And you could see the eyes politely trying not to ask the question “and of what value are you going to bring me or my region or my area?” And suddenly he turned around, “Where exactly is Singapore?”, asking his assistant.
“Ah,” he said. "Now I remember, that place south of the Malay Peninsula.”
13. We continued the rest of the conversation. But this left a deep impression on me. Sometimes in Singapore, we take for granted our very existence. Sometimes we forget that we are a small country trying to defy the odds of history by ensuring that we continue to remain relevant to people. Others who are bigger, stronger and mightier do not necessarily have to find reasons to engage us. We have to be the one to create the relevance for others to want to engage us and for us to be of value to others. Relevance.
14. What keeps me going. I have never taken for granted that Singapore will always be what it is. In my conversations with students and young people, I always ask them, “Do you think we will celebrate SG100 with greater pride and confidence?” Many of them say so and say yes, and I am very proud and very happy that they do so. I always start from the other assumption that we might never get there, unless we work hard, unless we continue to create relevance within the means that we have. I always start from the other assumption that we might not get there, unless we work hard as a team, muster the resources that we have, create value for other people, create relevance, and we will get there.
15. Finally, what worries me about the Public Service that I am so proud of? The more established and matured our system, the greater the dangers of ossification. The greater our success, the greater our dangers of complacency. The longer we defy the odds of history to not only survive but thrive, the greater the risk of hubris. And this comes to why we are here today. We are here today because we want to be eternally vigilant to guard against ossification, to guard against complacency, and to guard against hubris.
16. Like Tzu Yang, we are all proud of the Public Service not because the Public Service is perfect. We are proud of the Public Service because the Public Service constantly challenges ourselves to do better for our country and our people.
17 Many foreign commentators say that we have one of the best, if not the best, Public Service in the world. Some of them even give us a backhanded compliment and ask, "is your Public Service for hire?" No. It is not for hire nor for sale. But we are never complacent and this is why the Public Service Commission is constantly evolving and reviewing the way we select the next generation of Public Service scholars who hopefully will in time take over the leadership responsibility of this country. This is why we constantly challenge the Public Service Division to evolve and review the way we develop our officers, the way we deploy them, and the way we keep them agile.
18. Today's Public Service is different from the Public Service of the past. But that need for diversity has never changed; the need for teamwork has never changed.
19 And now, the last story that I promised you.
20 I grew up in the Singapore Armed Forces. I had the privilege to train with the militaries overseas, and I will just share with you one particular vignette of my training history. This was in the 1990s. I was in the US. I met a lady in my Command and Staff course. She was at that point in time 40 plus years old. She was five-foot plus, not exactly very tall by American standards, not exactly very fit from the look of it. And she was in the US Special Forces Reserves. And I looked at her, "Special Forces... No bulging biceps? No six-foot tall physique? Special Forces, really? Did you get it wrong?" No. In the US Special Forces, everybody has some minimum physical criteria, but that is just the entry level. One of the characteristics in all of US Special Forces selection was that everyone must bring a unique skill to the Special Forces.
21. The first Special Forces guy that I met in Fort Benning, my buddy. Besides being fit, he was an expert in astronomy. And what has astronomy to do with Special Forces? The lady whom I met – she was an expert in IT and computer system. That was in the 1990s. That was when the internet was just taking off. That was a time where the terms bugs, viruses, advanced persistent threats were not heard of. But for those learned people, these were already talked about; later, micro-robots that could fly in-between the gaps of a window, enter a room and spy on people – in the 1990s.
22. My laptop broke down. My very expensive, very heavy laptop broke down. At that point in time to get it fixed, I would have to send it to Texas. I passed it to her. She passed it back to me, back in original condition. That was almost 20 over years ago. Why do I tell you this story about the US Special Forces? Because I think it is a good value for us to have. Everyone brings something special to the team, and we need different teams to form the Special Forces. They have diverse capabilities that they can put together for a mission to surprise and outwit the enemy. The Singapore Public Service can take a leaf from this story.
23. I hope all of you will be like my friend, the lady. That in your studies, you will bring back a special unique skillset to Singapore, to the team; that one day while each of you having possessed that special skill will come together and wield those special skills as a team to take Singapore forward.
24. This is why in the Public Service, it is no longer sufficient just to have policy-making skills. You need policy-making skills. You need operations skills. You need communication skills. You need skills to mobilise the public to come along with us. And you need exposure beyond the Public Service. And we will systematically put everyone in the Public Service through the paces. Because the Public Service that we want is not a monolithic Public Service that can only answer the challenges of today. The Public Service that we aspire to be is one that will not only take care of fellow Singaporeans today, but to be able to anticipate the challenges and solve them ahead of time, even before fellow Singaporeans may become aware of it.
25. I learned lessons from the Special Forces lady who was skilled in computers. I knew about bugs, viruses, advanced persistent threats 25 years ago. Because I knew a bit more, I could help my own organisation become a bit less unprepared. And that, perhaps is all that we need to make sure that we keep Singapore staying ahead.
26 Finally, I would just like to end on this note.
27. Today, Singapore is no longer the same as the Singapore of 1965. The resources that we have are much more. The challenges that we have are also much more. The Pioneer Generation and the Merdeka Generation had much less, but they work hard individually and as a team to leave us with what we have today.
28. My generation has the duty to continue to build on this. By working as hard, as smart, if not harder and smarter to make sure that your generation will do even better than us. And I hope your generation will continue to maintain this sense of mission for Singapore to defy the odds of history, to not only survive and thrive as a small nation state without a hinterland. But instead, our hinterland is the world.
29. We will get there. We will get there, so long as each and every one of us in this room remember that we never defined our success by how well we do for ourselves in this generation only. We will get there. We will distinguish ourselves as fellow Singaporeans because each and every one of us in this room is committed to making sure that the next generation will do even better than us. Our definition of success is not how well we do for this generation alone. It is how well we enable the next generation to do even better than us. 30 20 years, 30 years later, maybe one or more of you might be standing on this stage to give out the awards to the next generation of scholarship recipients. The room may change, the challenges may change, but may our values never change. Always put our country before ourselves and always strive to take Singapore to the next level and ensure that every Singaporean has a better life tomorrow.
31 Thank you very much for your commitment.
OPENING ADDRESS BY CHAIRMAN OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION,
MR LEE TZU YANG AT THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SCHOLARSHIPS AWARD CEREMONY
ON 17 JULY 2019 AT PARKROYAL HOTEL, GRAND BALLROOM
Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister of Trade and Industry, and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service
Mr Leo Yip, Head Civil Service
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Firstly, I would like to send my warmest congratulations to all scholarship recipients and their family, many of whom I know are present this evening. We also want to thank the teachers and principals for their tireless efforts in education, and also for working with the PSC in guiding the students on their career paths. I would like to also mention my fellow PSC members and the secretariat, for their time and energy input to the scholarship selection. Since coming into this role almost a year ago now, I have seen how committed my colleagues are to their responsibilities. The selection of scholarship recipients is an intense and long exercise, yet at every point we seek to improve.
2. Although not a constitutional role of the PSC, scholarship selection helps us maintain alignment with the objectives of the Public Service. At its best, it forces us to re-examine how we achieve our desired outcomes through people. As I mentioned at a recent dialogue with Year 2 PSC Scholarship recipients, I have fallen in love with the public sector despite its imperfections. So we work together on transforming to be a first class Public Service, worthy of Singapore.
3. This year, of the many thousands who applied for government scholarships, over 2,200 applied for PSC Scholarships. We will award 90 undergraduate and 3 postgraduate scholarships, making a total of 93 this year. The breadth and depth of talent is impressive in the young people we have seen. But as I’ve said before, a PSC Scholarship is an opportunity to serve the public, and we look beyond “smarts” for qualities like integrity, dedication to service and excellence.
4. This year, we looked harder into more areas to seek potential talent. In addition to a wider range of schools, we worked with the polytechnics to encourage interest in a Public Service career. We have 9 scholarship recipients from polytechnics this year, the highest so far, and our scholarship recipients come from 17 different institutions in total, which is also highest. We have scholarship recipients from IP (Integrated Programme), non-IP schools, as well as IB (International Baccalaureate) backgrounds. Our newest junior college, Eunoia has 3 scholarship recipients in their very first graduating cohort, which is as many as our oldest - National Junior College.
5. To achieve diversity requires us to select more effectively from a larger number of candidates. So PSC is looking into employing Game Based Assessment or GBA, as an additional tool. Validation exercises have been undertaken with our population, and we are likely to see this first be used this coming year. It will provide new dimensions not currently available from existing tools, and give perspectives on the diversity of candidates in those dimensions. By understanding the behaviour of candidates under different circumstances, we will be better able not just to understand individuals but also build teams. The experience so far is that GBA is fun, at least from those who have tried it out. It does not favour gamers; it does not penalise those with no gaming experience. And we will continue to look for ways to widen the selection process.
6. This year, PSC has also been more directive in steering candidates to different courses and countries of study. Our strategic intent is to develop talent with diverse disciplines, different experiences and broader networks. While we continue to promote STEM and especially Engineering, we have a range of scholarship recipients in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. An increasing trend is to combine, if not joint degrees then adding a minor where the combination allows powerful synergistic design of approach to real world challenges.
7. PSC is also promoting a wider range of countries of study through our scholarship offers. People’s Republic of China has drawn 8 scholarship recipients this year, of which 6 are undergraduates. 3 scholarship recipients will be proceeding to France for their studies, 2 awarded last year and 1 this year. So inevitably in this process, we have had to modify and re-channel the aspirations of some of our candidates, and in some cases we have had to turn down appeals but we take this considered approach in order to build our portfolio of talent.
8. Of significance is the growing number of scholarship recipients who now choose Singapore. Our universities here in Singapore are now recognised as internationally competitive in a growing range of disciplines, and they provide local students exposure to more international students and faculty who are living here, as well as many exchange opportunities to immerse local students in different cultures. This year, 29 scholarship recipients will be studying in Singapore universities, which is the highest in 10 years. This will help develop networks of local peers and stakeholders for our future.
9. In addition to the academic adventure of university, there are many ways to gain skills and experience of value in a Public Service career. PSC encourages its scholarship recipients to explore beyond the classroom, to engage the community, to understand people and their lives, both overseas and in Singapore. A gap year is increasingly being taken by scholarship recipients to work either in a private company or start-up venture or sometimes international institutions. We had a PSC Scholarship recipient work in UNESCO in Bangkok for 6 months on the Global Action Programme for Education for Sustainable Development. We had another PSC Scholarship recipient work 8 months in Beijing with Beijing Mobike, as a data strategist, advising city-level managers on managing pricing and incentives in their markets.
10. PSC partners Youth Corps Singapore (YCS) for PSC Scholarship recipients to join the YCS Leaders Programme. Scholarship recipients studying overseas are able to work on Singapore-centric initiatives, to provide rich multi-perspectives and keep in touch with developments at home. As an example, 3 PSC Scholarship recipients in the United States worked with local frontline colleagues in Singapore to set up coding workshops for the community here. These attracted participants from the age of 8 to 80 years old to learn Scratch and Python, to write their first computer programmes. It is so successful that it is planned to continue this year.
11. PSC Scholarship recipients will join our future Public Service, they will play key roles in bringing our nation and our people forward. So equipping yourselves with hard and soft skills can be through courses, choice of minors or summer programmes, but also through involvement with the community and long-term commitment to build understanding of how people change and develop.
12. I will end here by saying congratulations again, I wish all scholarship recipients a meaningful journey and hope that, like me, you too will grow to love the Public Service. Thank you very much.
In commemoration of the significant contributions made by Singapore’s first Prime Minister, the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship was set up in 1991 by the Tanjong Pagar Citizens’ Consultative Committee. It is publicly funded and awarded to exceptional individuals who demonstrate a strong sense of commitment to serve Singapore and her citizens.
In 2019, two outstanding candidates have been awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to support their pursuit of postgraduate studies. The awardees are as listed:
Dr Hamid Rahmatullah Bin Abd Razak
Ms Lim Li Ping
Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship holders may choose to pursue their postgraduate studies in any country and field of study that best develops their potential as leaders. The scholarship holders are expected to contribute actively to better Singapore and her community.