SINGAPORE - Sixteen students applied for the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) scholarship this year, the highest number since the scholarship started in 2011.
Four of them clinched scholarships to study at China's prestigious Peking and Tsinghua universities in September.
The bond-free scholarship is meant for undergraduate studies in top China universities. There were 13 applicants last year, six of whom were successful.
At the scholarship ceremony on Monday (Aug 5), SFCCA president Tan Aik Hock noted that the increase in applicants over the years had resulted in stiffer competition.
"I hope that in the coming years, we will see more applicants from different backgrounds and nurture them to be the future leaders of Singapore," said Mr Tan in his opening address delivered in Mandarin.
Mr Tan told The Straits Times that the rise of China may be a factor for the higher number of applicants in recent years.
"The value of the Chinese language has increased, and Singapore has also been emphasising the development of bilingual talents," he said.
Among the recipients this year is Ms Grace Chong Qiao Yi, part of the first graduating cohort of Eunoia Junior College and therefore the first from the school to receive the scholarship. She will be studying Chinese language and literature at Peking University.
"I feel very passionate about the language. I feel our generation and the younger generations are becoming less and less in touch with Chinese," said Ms Chong, 19.
The other three recipients are Mr Ng Joong Hwee, 21, Mr Loy Wei Peng, 21 and Ms Jazlin Tan Kaiqian, 19, who are all from Hwa Chong Institution.
Hwa Chong has historically nabbed most of the scholarship spots - 15 out of 23 in the last five years - and all four scholarship recipients in 2017 were from the Special Assistance Plan school.
Mr Loy, who will be studying economics and finance at Tsinghua University, said that the scholarship provides many opportunities at the SFCCA, like networking with members.
"It is also a good chance to interact with new immigrants at activities conducted by the federation, to learn more about them and also help them to learn more about Singapore's culture," he said.
Since the scholarship was started eight years ago, 39 students have benefited from it, 21 of whom have graduated. They have gone on to jobs in the public service, multinational companies or graduate studies.
The scholarship - given to Singaporeans or permanent residents - funds up to $15,000 per academic year, including airfare, school fees, accommodation, insurance and living expenses.
While there is no bond, scholarship holders are expected to contribute 55 days of service to the SFCCA and its related organisations.