Posts Tagged ‘scholarships’

Dancing out of A*Star

In News Reports, Society on November 29, 2014 at 12:57 am

Dear Dr Eng Kai Er,

I have been reading news reports on your laments with interest. So you’re now in a job, or rather in a line that you say you don’t like, in a research institute studying infectious diseases. You are now chafing at being tied to your job by a bond, through a scholarship that paid for your first degree at Cambridge University, and another that paid for your PhD in infection biology in Karolslinka University in Sweden.

As you wrote in your blog: “Eng Kai Er is not interested in science at all, but has to serve her bond or pay, as of 30 September 2014, around $741,657.37 in order to quit her job. Since she understands the pain of having a paid job that is not aligned with her interests, she wishes to change the world by having more instances of paid jobs aligned with people’s interest.’’ And that is why you are pledging to give $1,000 a month from her salary to support arts projects for a year.

First, I have to say that a lot of people are in jobs that they don’t like or enjoy, but stay on for various reasons. They grit their teeth and get on with it. Of course, they are not compulsorily bonded to the job – they can jump ship or pursue their area of interest. But maybe they need the money, maybe they feel obliged to their employer who has been treating them well, maybe no one wants to offer them a job to their liking. In other words, you are not alone.

Second, I am a little puzzled that you don’t like science and yet took up a second scholarship to do your PhD. Why? Because you want a PhD? Or it’s a chance to be in Sweden? I think other scholars would be envious of your current position: you are actually in a job that reflects your area of study – not thrown into a job any old how.

Third, you’ve already finished two years of your bond and you’re left with just another four years. You will be only 34, time enough to start a second career.

I guess you’re regretting your move because you’ve (recently?) found your calling as a dancer and choreographer. Your theatre production, Fish, clearly reflected your need to be unfettered, independent and boundary breaking – according to the reviews I’ve read. In fact, in hindsight, I wonder if the production was directed at your bosses at A*Star. I gather that you asked to be transferred to the National Arts Council and was rejected. After spending so much money on your specialist education, I can see why A*Star did so. As a taxpayer, I would be pretty annoyed if you were not deployed in an area that took advantage of your privileged education. That’s the reality, young lady. You had a privileged education, courtesy of taxpayers. You MUST live up to this honour that we have given you.

You might have made a mistake at taking up a scholarship at age 18, or at 24, or even 34, and you might even have repeated the mistake, but as my late father would say, you make your bed – you lie on it. Others have, and quietly too. They bide their time, pay off their debts and start off on a clean slate. To use that awful word, they are resilient. You can do the same. It is only four more years.

I suppose you feel that as a scientist/artiste, you need to express your frustration at being in a day-time job you don’t like. I think it’s great you have other pursuits like so many others, who use what free time they have doing what you like. Oh! How you wish you can do it full-time (even pro bono if you can afford it)! An understandable feeling. You are not alone.

Maybe the media made too much of your blog comments. Maybe you are grateful for the privileged education you’ve received. In fact, you might want to make your own experience a cautionary tale for young people who jump into a bond because it offered an overseas education without regard for the consequences.

But as someone older, I just want to say: Grit your teeth, girl! Pay your debt and finish the bond! Then go show the rest of us some good art.



Bits and Pieces

In News Reports, Society on December 5, 2012 at 12:59 am

Peter Lim’s gambit

So billionaire Peter Lim has gone to Johor to build its motorsports hub. He’s not putting his money in the Singapore version in Changi. Today has the best story on this, focusing sharply on the difficulties the stalled Changi motorsports is facing. So another tender is going to be called.

When Peter Lim said that costs were prohibitive in Singapore, I wish he hadelaborated on it. Did he look at the Changi project, did his sums and said no? If so, what were the sums like and what did Johor offer? Nobody is going to fault him for going where the money is, but it would be instructive for others who want to do a similar business. Now that there’s a competitor in Johor, are we waiting to hear the death knell of the Changi project? Or not.

Manufactured meritocracy

This phrase by an ST Forum Page letter writer today encapsulates most of the feelings that have been expressed so far on Singapore’s system of meritocracy. We are not against meritocracy, but how having accumulated merits once, the system is geared towards ensuring that you will always succeed.

So a “scholar’’ seems to think that his life’s path should be strewn with roses, and society bends backwards to make sure it is. I see this all the time – when people expect a constant stream of rewards because of one big achievement in an examination hall.  And worst, how companies and organisations work stuff to make sure they are too smart to fail. But you know something? A scholarship is pretty passé these days. As undergrads now tell me, almost everyone is on a scholarship of some kind these days.

Dealing with ghosts

In this day and age, I never would have thought that someone would think up a con job using ghosts. Imagine picking up the telephone and moaning into the receiver to scare someone out of his wits’ – and then demanding payment for a “cure’’ or exorcism.

So this woman did this to her “friend’’ – who fell for it. The “ghost’’ got six months jail, for witching $14,000 from her poor hapless “friend’’. I wish we were told how the “ghost’’ got found out? Did the “friend’’ decide to have it out with her, after losing everything? Did the “ghostly’’ phone calls stop after she had no money to pay? How was the “ghost’’ busted?

Preparing for PSLE results Part 2

In News Reports, Society on November 21, 2012 at 12:34 am

Diary of a wimpy kid (from a top school) Nov 21

Hey, looks like I don’t have to worry about the newspaper people anymore! The ministry isn’t giving out the name-list of top scorers! Phew!

Mom and Dad aren’t too pleased about it though. They think the best students deserve some sort of recognition. I mean, they were top scorers too in their days. Dad was even a President’s scholar! They said it was nice to be in the spotlight. Also they could thank the people who helped them study. Dad even gave out a whole list of study tips to the newspapers! Mom said the newspaper published a photograph of her and her form teacher and Mrs Tan was so happy she had the article and picture framed and put up in the teachers’ lounge.

I wonder if my principal will announce the names of top scorers at least at some school assembly. Last year, we all went wooooah when the names of scorers were announced. So proud of our school! Almost as good when they announced that we won rugby, table-tennis and ballet! You know, if the newspaper people find me (I think Grandma is going to call them…news tip you know..) I will ask to be photographed with Mom, Dad, Grandma, my form teacher, my five private tutors, Maria, Lucia, Ah Tiong and Ali…But I don’t think it’s going to happen because I am reading about principals and teachers saying it’s a good thing. I suppose they don’t want to go against ministry policy and some code of conduct for teachers they have. Maybe they are not even allowed to pin up the names on the school notice board…


You know, even if I don’t get my name in the newspaper, maybe I will get an LKY award – then they HAVE to publish my name. Can’t offend the former Prime Minister right? I mean, is the ministry going to say: We have two winners for the LKY award but because we don’t want to emphasise academic results, we are not naming them.

You know, studying is what I am good at, but I think I had better take up some sport and be sportsman and win at some national schools championship. That’s clearly brawn. Like PSLE is clearly brain. Nobody minds schools and students that top the sports table. I better work on my golf handicap..

I think secondary school will be quite “relaxed’’ now. Everybody’s talking about a more relaxed school system. Maybe Mom and Dad will relax too…At least I don’t have to study for O levels, just A levels. In any case, no more secondary school O level ranking – not that my new school was a part of it. That O level ranking was actually meaningless for some years because so many top schools not even on it after the IP schools started! I can imagine how the IP schools sniffed at the old school ranking…Hah. What’s the big deal? It doesn’t really measure excellence…

Anyway, I’m glad I don’t even have to worry about taking part in this Singapore Youth Festival. No point. No award. Yay! I play the piano, the violin and the er hu quite well, you know. Now, I can just play for fun. Unless the principal forces me to join the SYF because the school wants to get picked for the Singapore Arts Festival. Must ask piano, violin and er hu tutors what to do then….

Dear diary, I am secretly hoping that I will be this year’s top student. But if I am, I might have to keep it a secret. Everybody else will ask me though. What should I tell them? I think I’ll just say I’m stupid.

Scholarship jungle

In Money, News Reports, Society on August 3, 2012 at 12:16 am

I don’t understand the rationale for this Singapore-Industry Scholarship at all! Who is it for? What is hoping to achieve? I know Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has said some things. Jargon about “complementing our core”, to build the best “multi-disciplinary team”, who can bridge “global cultural literacies” (Why can’t people speak English?). All scoped under a Singapore +++ strategy.  But boil all the jargon and catchphrases down and it’s this: The G is giving out 90 scholarships for study at local unis here, after which the scholars are bonded to serve four years in one of the 27 companies the G has picked.

Okay. You know these companies include the likes of Singapore Airlines and Resorts World Sentosa? And Boustead. BHP Billiton and Infineon? You telling me they can’t afford to put up scholarships, or already have their own? So we are grooming talent for companies which can afford talent? I mean, I can make allowances if they are home-grown start-ups or newish players like Charles & Keith or for a sector like retail, but the big boys too? National Healthcare Group doesn’t have its own scholarships?  Gosh! Shame on these big boys who have to depend on G largesse for something that is well within their means and for their own good.

Or is this scholarship about getting the best students to work at jobs that are important but not glamorous? Can’t be. The best and the brightest will go for the overseas scholarships not local ones which these industry scholarships are about. There is one qualifier: the students who are ALREADY studying overseas can qualify for this scholarship. Which is strange. So you are picking undergrads who have already decided on their choice of course and not looking at whether they are worth the scholarship?

How much is the Government pumping into this anyway? No figure’s been given. In fact, what is the worth of  Government scholarships, including those by stat boards, in all? Can’t the money be used to do other things? I know there are a couple of scholarships to do Social Work studies. Maybe the money could have gone into funding more of them? And get the bonded to serve NGOs and organisations which have difficulty recruiting talent?

I want to know why my tax money is being used this way!