Public Service Commission to explore new tools to select more diverse slate of scholarship holders

In an open letter released on Oct 31, 2018, Public Service Commission chairman Lee Tzu Yang emphasised that diversity is a source of strength for the public service, and will make it more resilient.
In an open letter released on Oct 31, 2018, Public Service Commission chairman Lee Tzu Yang emphasised that diversity is a source of strength for the public service, and will make it more resilient.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Public Service Commission (PSC) will explore new tools to ensure that it awards its prestigious scholarship to a more diverse range of students.

In an open letter released on Wednesday (Oct 31), PSC chairman Lee Tzu Yang set out the importance of diversity in the public service and how the move is part of the commission's ongoing efforts to cast its net wide for Singaporeans from all backgrounds.

For example, he said, many organisations today use game-based assessments to assess candidates for attributes such as perseverance, learning orientation and risk-avoidance.

These new tools would supplement PSC's psychometric tests and interviews, and open up opportunities for even more candidates to come forward and be considered, he said.

"We can never discount intellect as a desired attribute, but we will consider other attributes, such as evidenced by self-initiated community service and leading change in new, different and difficult directions," he said.

Mr Lee, who replaced Mr Eddie Teo as PSC chairman on Aug 1, wrote the letter as he approached his 100th day in office.

He emphasised that diversity is a source of strength for the public service, and will make it more resilient.

"Understanding and affiliation with our society in all its complexity will enable sensitivity and sensibility. Group-think is a weakness in a highly complex and uncertain world," he said.

Mr Lee noted that PSC has for some years been reaching out to students from a wider variety of schools and polytechnics, and now has more candidates from different schools in its scholarship selection.

He added that this is a work in progress, and PSC will continue to do more to encourage others to apply.

"We seek wide variety of life experience for our Public Service, and will work with the schools to engage young people on their fit and the possibilities of a Public Service career," he said.

The commission needs Singaporeans from all backgrounds to step forward to serve, he said, at a time when the issues facing the country are becoming more complex.

He noted that a more educated public with higher aspirations and greater exposure to ideas has led to a debate on issues such as inequality of wealth and opportunity, the meaning of inclusivity, and the consideration of diversity beyond the Chinese-Indian-Malay-Others (CIMO) categories of ethnicity.

"It means that the Public Service will be successful only if its members have the empathy to look past differences to see the humanity in people, to build bridges between competing interests and encourage trust in public policies which seek to be the best but may not always be perfect," he said.

As part of the drive to foster diversity, the PSC will encourage scholars to consider a wider variety of courses and different countries for their studies, he added.

For instance, students could pursue an undergraduate degree in France, Germany or Japan, postgraduate studies in China, or take a gap year at a start-up in Indonesia. The PSC will also support those who opt to do their undergraduate studies in Singapore before pursuing postgraduate opportunities overseas, he said.

Mr Lee noted that it is important to build networks in different countries and gain an understanding of different cultures and peoples.

He also touched on the issue of meritocracy in the public service, saying this must take the form of allocating opportunities for people to serve Singapore, based on an individual's ability to contribute to the good of the country.

Mr Lee cautioned against an "entitlement mentality", saying too much has been made of rewards and which people deserve how much - whether due to achievement, hard work or overcoming the odds.

"Scholarships are not rewards but opportunities for responsibility to serve," he said.