Ensure scholarship holders are made of sterner stuff

Ensure scholarship holders are made of sterner stuff

LAST Friday's report ("A*Star scholarship holder 'stressed, shy and insecure'"), if extrapolated to its logical conclusion, could call into question the selection criteria for the awarding of scholarships.

It is surprising that a top scholarship holder like Ouyang Xiangyu could allegedly poison the drinking water of her Stanford University classmates.

In 2012, Malaysian Alvin Tan Jye Yee, an ASEAN scholarship recipient studying in Singapore, uploaded sexually explicit photos and videos of himself and his girlfriend on his blog, sparking an outcry in Singapore ("ASEAN scholar in flap over sex blog"; Oct 16, 2012).

Is there something that our scholarship selection panel failed to see beneath the veneer of these applicants?

The late Dr Phay Seng Whatt, former chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), was tasked with finding good people with quality.

He was able to select and evaluate people, and his piercing eyes would tell the scholarship applicants that they could not hide behind a facade of canned answers to his questions.

Universities overseas also have stringent criteria when evaluating potential students.

At Harvard, candidates are assessed on academic performance, personality, and career goals. At Yale, applicants have to write two comprehensive essays for evaluation. Besides standardised tests and school transcripts, applicants are also scrutinised on their intellectual curiosity and relationships with classmates.

Our scholarship selection panel and the PSC should be more stringent in selecting students for scholarships.

These bodies should look into academic and non-academic achievements, leadership qualities, emotional maturity, and the ability to endure family and peer pressure.

Our scholarship holders ought to be made of sterner stuff and have a high threshold of endurance before snapping.

Heng Cho Choon

This article was first published on April 8, 2015.
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