The Public Service must be more diverse, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday at a scholarship ceremony, and that is why it is widening its recruitment to include those of different backgrounds, skillsets and experiences.
He was speaking to a cohort of 92 young scholarship winners that is the Public Service Commission's most diverse in recent history.
While the bulk are still from top junior colleges, five scholars this year hail from polytechnics, while two are from the School of the Arts. PSC scholarships are seen as a pipeline of future top civil servants.
Most of this year's scholarship recipients are heading to universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, while 15 are staying in Singapore for their studies. A handful are going to East Asia and Europe.
Mr Teo, who is the Minister in charge of the Civil Service told them yesterday that ability is important but so is empathy and integrity. "Public officers must have our hearts in the right place, and derive happiness from other people's happiness and well-being," he said in his keynote speech at the scholarship ceremony.
He emphasised that the best policies are developed when public officers reach out to different segments in society to understand their needs.
The public, he said, can also be tapped for their "collective wisdom." Being open to ideas and suggestions from the public helps develop proposals, refine policies and generate better solutions, he said.
Pointing to the Our Singapore Conversation exercise as an example, Mr Teo noted how some of the suggestions it yielded have already been acted upon, like including neo-natal and congenital diseases under Medishield coverage, and introducing paternity leave.
The work of public officers is built on trust between the Civil Service and the public, he added, which is why integrity must undergird everything they do.