Your Letters

Family background shouldn't matter in scholarship selection

It is generally true that children from higher-income families do better in school and are more likely to graduate from university. Still, the financial status of one's family should not be an issue when deciding whether one will make a good civil servant (Move beyond focus on grades to embrace skills: Ong Ye Kung; July 12).

The role of the Public Service Commission (PSC) is to select the best civil servants with the heart to serve the nation. Surely it should not be its mission to address inequality in society.

Therefore, an applicant's school and family income should not feature in the PSC scholarship selection process.

For good public governance, we should avoid politicising the income gap because it is the quality of our youth that will determine Singapore's future.

It is important to send the right signal that one can reach the highest positions in government regardless of the professions of one's parents.

What Singapore needs to do is increase the competence of our returning scholars to compete in global markets, regardless of their family backgrounds.

If we do not tread carefully, we might end up discriminating against those from higher-income families instead.

In addressing the issues of social stratification, we should not go so far as to confine scholarships to those from lower-income households rather than candidates from more affluent families.

Doing so may hamper Singapore from getting the best candidates to serve, because judging the commitment and character of a candidate based on his family's financial status is a recipe for disaster.

Such presumptions abandon the principles of meritocracy and equal opportunity in favour of affirmative action.

While we may be able to level up low-income families, we will in fact be holding back capable people from high-income families.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 22, 2018, with the headline 'Family background shouldn't matter in scholarship selection'. Print Edition | Subscribe