The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef) scholarships have attracted a record number of applicants this year, with recipients from a more diverse background, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
To increase diversity, he has tasked Mindef and SAF senior officers to work with principals of schools and polytechnics to facilitate more of those living in one-to three-room Housing Board flats and those from poorer families to apply for the scholarships.
Speaking at the scholarship ceremony at the Istana yesterday, Dr Ng said he is glad that scholars come from a wide number of schools and polytechnics - 17 different institutions this year.
Some come from humble backgrounds - living in HDB three-room flats or smaller.
Explaining his decision to attract more applicants from lower-income backgrounds, he added: "The selection criteria must still be merit-based. But we should also give due recognition that those who come from families with fewer resources will need more encouragement and support. It is in Mindef and SAF's interest to have such scholars succeed."
The eight types of scholarships were awarded to 84 recipients - 22 females and 62 males - and saw a record number of 1,300 applicants, a 60 per cent increase from 2014.
They were given out by the Public Service Commission, Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), SAF and Mindef.
FUTURE DEFENCE LEADERS
Recipients of the SAF scholarships.
Number of female recipients.
Number of male recipients.
Record number applicants this year, a 60 per cent increase from 2014.
The ceremony this year included recipients of the SAF Medical Scholarship and SAF Local Dentistry Scholarship for the first time.
Lieutenant Kew Yi Hong, 22, is one of six polytechnic students who received a scholarship.
Investing in next generation of defence leaders
The former Temasek Polytechnic student, who graduated second in his cohort in aerospace engineering, is a recipient of the SAF Merit Scholarship, which is awarded to individuals with academic excellence and dynamic leadership qualities.
More female recipients of Mindef and SAF scholarships
She is one of three female recipients awarded the prestigious Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Scholarship.
And being a woman in the Republic of Singapore Navy, which has a predominantly male environment, intimidated midshipman Audrey Tey, 19, at first. "It's not conventional for a girl to join the military. As a female, males might doubt your ability and potential, but you must stand your ground and prove yourself," she said.
Out of the 84 Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and SAF scholarship recipients this year, 22 are female.
Three of these 22 female scholarship recipients were awarded the prestigious SAF Scholarship, widely recognised as second only to the President's Scholarship.
The number of female recipients of Mindef and SAF scholarships this year has doubled from a decade ago, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the scholarship ceremony yesterday.
Midshipman Tey, a former Victoria Junior College student who intends to study psychology in the United States, has been a midshipman commanding officer in the Republic of Singapore Navy for three months.
"When I was uncertain about whether I could excel in the military, my mother, who is a single parent, would encourage me and tell me that if this was what I really wanted, I should work hard for it and I would be able to achieve it," she said.
Miss Keloth Sonia Nair, 19, is another female recipient who is getting the Defence Merit Scholarship, which is awarded to individuals who will be groomed to be a major contributor to defence policies and more.
"I feel very lucky and grateful to Mindef for giving me this opportunity," the former National Junior College student said, adding that she comes from a humble family background.
"Our background shouldn't determine where we will go, and Mindef is giving a helping hand and telling us there is an opportunity, to help us to get to where we want to go, without having our background be a deterrence."
The platoon commander in Guards, who signed on in October 2016, said: "I signed on first with the purpose of nurturing others, and my unit commander told me to apply for the scholarship.
"After I found out more about the scholarship, I thought if I managed to get it, it would give me a lot more exposure to this sector of defence and can allow me to contribute better to the people I'm leading."
Said Dr Ng: "The scholarships we award today are the country's long-term investment, on a 20-year time frame, to ensure that we have the right leaders in values and aptitude to lead the Ministry of Defence, SAF, DSTA, DSO National Laboratories and other government organisations.
"It is what this generation's leaders invest in for the next generation, so that in the next generation we can secure our way of life and independence through a strong defence.