Scholarships not a transaction: Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

(From left) Mr Seow Wei Liang, Mr Mock Yi Jun, Ms Valerie Lim Xuan, Mr Chan Wei Jin, Ms Gwyneth Lee Yi Xin, Mr Roystan Ang Jun Teck and Mr Kean Patrick Murphy were awarded the Foreign Service Scholarship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Aug 19.
(From left) Mr Seow Wei Liang, Mr Mock Yi Jun, Ms Valerie Lim Xuan, Mr Chan Wei Jin, Ms Gwyneth Lee Yi Xin, Mr Roystan Ang Jun Teck and Mr Kean Patrick Murphy were awarded the Foreign Service Scholarship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Aug 19. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - Seven people were awarded the Foreign Service Scholarship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) today (Aug 19).

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said in a speech at the awards ceremony that acceptance of the scholarships represents a commitment to serve the nation, and that the issue of breaking one's bond obligations should not even be a consideration.

"In that journey, if sometimes you have to compromise even on your own individual preferences, sometimes you have to wait out that bond period, and serve it as a matter of honour, please do so. This is not a transaction."

In July, the Auditor- General's Office had found that the Ministry of Education (MOE) did not do enough to ensure that foreign scholars at local universities here who failed to serve their bonds were reminded of their obligations and paid up liquidated damages.

About 1 per cent of them have defaulted on their bond obligations, while the MOE is in the process of contacting another 4 per cent of scholarship holders to determine their bond service status.

Three of the MFA scholars received the Singapore Government Scholarship, while four were awarded the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship. The former is administered by MFA, while the latter is administered by the PSC.

All will work with the MFA after graduation, though PSC scholars will be considered for the Public Service Leadership Programme which rotates them through two or more roles in the public service, or gives them opportunities to build competencies in specific sectors like the economy or infrastructure and environment.

Dr Balakrishnan also reminded the scholarship recipients that foreign service officers have a duty to put in extra effort for Singapore.

"We are a small country...no one needs to care about us. Unless they know that this is the team that works harder than everyone else...that is always looking for solutions, and is trying to create a safer, more secure world for the sake of Singapore also because this formula is also good for the world at large."

Five of the scholars will head to Britain, while two will be pursuing their studies in China and Germany. Those studying in English-speaking countries will serve a bond of six years after graduation, while the bond period for those heading to non-English speaking countries is five years.

Miss Valerie Lim, 18, a Hwa Chong Institution graduate, said she is keen on studying in Germany because of her interest in European politics.

"Now that Brexit has happened, the situation in Europe has become a lot more complex.I thought that Germany was the centre of a lot of European politics and a lot of European financial movements...historically and culturally, Germany is also very rich."