Opening Address by Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, at the 2021 PSC Scholarships Award Ceremony

28 July 2021

1. Good afternoon.
Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister of Education and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service
My Fellow Commission Members
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

2. On behalf of my Commission colleagues, let me first extend my warmest congratulations to all recipients of scholarships and your families. I would also like to thank your principals and teachers for their patience and support in your education journey. This is a proud day for all of you.  The selection of young Singaporeans for public service is an intensive effort and many stakeholders have come together. I would like to express my appreciation to everyone, and this includes my fellow Commission members and the secretariat team. 

3. I would have preferred a physical ceremony today. Unfortunately, we are not able to do so owing to the uncertainties and measures these couple of months. Nonetheless, we have endeavoured to make today’s virtual ceremony a meaningful one.  We each have the responsibility to ensure good outcomes for Singapore, and in the current circumstances this means not having a physical ceremony, to keep the community and our loved ones safe. In these unconventional times, we must be willing to change in how we approach new challenges.

4. The PSC Scholarship is Singapore’s premier scholarship for school leavers. We aim to bring committed and able young Singaporeans to serve in the Public Service. You are selected for whole-person qualities, with emphasis on character, integrity and passion to serve. Where you come from and your background are less important to the Commission than where we think you are capable of going to and contributing. 

5. Of the 75 of you this year, 74 will pursue undergraduate studies and 1 for Masters. You come from different educational pathways and institutions, including Junior Colleges, Integrated Programme schools, International Baccalaureate schools and Polytechnics.  You will pursue a wide variety of disciplines at many well-established local and overseas universities.

6. Our development of a stronger and more resilient corps of future public service leaders leads us to search for diverse backgrounds and various perspectives, as the Public Service must tackle many wicked problems with no obvious solutions. This is why, even in a pandemic, we continue to award overseas scholarships. This range in your experience will strengthen your ability to make sense of the world and contribute to Singapore.

7. I would like to offer just two pieces of advice.  We must be able to apply learnings from multiple disciplines and seek synergies from them to understand and solve problems. The fight against COVID-19 teaches us that we need this multi-disciplinary approach to tackle challenges. Science and technology are critical, but alone they will not suffice. Societal understanding, economics and business, good communications and building of trust – all these are needed. You should take the opportunity to learn more widely than your chosen courses.

8. Second, follow your curiosity and take courage to venture where it is new for you. This could be in your chosen course, in your choice of Masters, or in your internships or vacations. Wherever you go, you should explore and seize opportunities to engage.  Experience more of other countries, especially our regional neighbours, but also, in the private sector and people sector. As a student you have many many more degrees of freedom in how you choose to spend your time. Yes, grades matter, and English-speaking countries may appear more familiar, but the diversity of insights and perspectives which you grow will become your assets.

9. Now in all this, your safety and wellbeing are important to us, and we will continue to look out for you. When the pandemic situation was worsening last year in many parts of the world, the PSC Secretariat worked with other agencies to bring PSC and other public sector scholarship holders back safely to Singapore. As the situation evolved, we provided flexibility to suit needs and circumstances, such as the option to temporarily study for overseas degrees from Singapore. For those who decided to proceed overseas, we provided support. I am happy to say that all our scholarship holders are safe and well, and we have kept in close contact with them. We have engaged professional services to support their well-being, including provision of counselling, advice and services. 

10. The PSC Scholarship is the beginning of your journey to prepare you for a career in the Public Service. Later this evening, you will take the pledge as a PSC scholarship holder. It will affirm your commitment to do all that you can to serve Singapore. Ask yourselves – what will you do with this opportunity?

11. Congratulations once again and I wish all of you a meaningful journey ahead. Thank you.