How we groom local talent also part of progress

It is time to create national and specialised scholarships, which support the pursuit of excellence in sports, that are equivalent in prominence to perhaps the Public Service Commission or even the SAF scholarships ("Time to encourage our kids to dream" by Mr Ang Ter Shien, "Practical factors will snuff out most Olympic potential" by Mr Seah Yam Meng, and "Backing crucial in producing winners in sports" by Mr Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan; all published yesterday).

Corporations and the civil service should also contribute by initiating such scholarships, and should even allow employees who are national sportsmen to take paid time off to train for events such as the SEA Games.

Sports associations and corporations should also relook their own talent search and development programmes to ensure that local talents get as good support and focus as foreign sporting talents we try to recruit from overseas.

There are many benefits to such a revamped sports development programme.

Promising sportsmen get the financial incentive to pursue excellence in their areas of specialisation, mitigating the burden on their families.

Equally important is the message that is communicated to the nation, as we de-emphasise the focus on academic excellence, and encourage parents to allow their children to develop their individual excellence in sports, the arts and other fields. This new focus will boost our national confidence that Singaporeans can be as talented as those from overseas, and not just in sports.

We should be more proactive and willing to develop Singaporean talents (and strengthen a Singaporean core in all areas of our lives), as much as we invite foreign talents to lift Singapore's overall competitiveness.

The next step forward should not be just about producing another Joseph Schooling, but should also be part of the progress in the kind of nation we want to live in.

Chong Wee Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'How we groom local talent also part of progress'. Print Edition | Subscribe