We agree with Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong that young Singaporeans today have more options when considering tertiary education, especially since there are many types of scholarships available ("Public service needs the best to navigate in complex world"; last Thursday).
The Public Service Commission's (PSC) aim to select Singaporeans who have the commitment and passion to serve Singapore and Singaporeans remains unchanged over the years.
The PSC scholarship is awarded on merit. It is not a financial transaction, and students who seek a PSC scholarship must accept that it comes with the moral obligation to serve the people of Singapore through public service.
In the search for talent, the PSC casts its net widely, and reaches out to all the post-secondary institutions, including polytechnics.
The search is not for the "cream of the crop" as defined only by academic outcomes.
The commission looks for candidates who are a good fit for the public service, that is, those who demonstrate a genuine interest to serve in the public service and have the capability to help our nation navigate the highly complex domestic and global challenges.
Candidates are evaluated on more than academic results and extra-curricular and community service records.
They are also evaluated through psychometric tests, which provide a further measure of candidates' critical thinking skills, situational judgment and coping strategies in stressful situations.
In addition, the candidates are evaluated by our psychologists on qualities such as their leadership qualities, character and values, as well as interpersonal and communication skills.
We also work closely with local pre-university institutions to understand the students' qualities and characteristics.
While a quality such as "creativity" is not easily measured by selection tools, the PSC continues to look out for candidates who have good problem-solving skills and the ability to think of novel solutions.
Ms Loh has pointed out correctly that Singapore needs innovative people to navigate the complex challenges faced by the nation.
Such people are required in both the public and private sectors to take the nation forward, and, therefore, the PSC continues to target taking only a fair share of the talent.
We believe that the PSC scholarship will always be a valuable and meaningful option for those who have the passion to be part of the public service. And indeed, that would be the reason to take the scholarship and make a career in the public sector.
Ng Li Sa (Dr)
Public Service Commission Secretariat