From music to public service

Music is her pursuit but working in government is her ambition.

Ms Charis Tan is heading to one of the world's top music schools: Berklee College of Music in Boston, in the US, next month.

But the alumna of the School of the Arts (Sota), who majored in music, has "never seen herself having a career in music".

"I've always been attracted to the notion of giving back to society through the Government," said the 19-year-old.

She is one of 92 recipients of this year's Public Service Commission (PSC) undergraduate scholarship.

They are from 14 schools and three polytechnics and were selected from a pool of more than 2,000 applicants.

Like Ms Tan, most are heading to universities in the United States and Britain, while 15 are staying to study in Singapore, including at new institutions such as the Yale-NUS College and the Singapore University of Technology and Design. A handful are heading to East Asia and France.

Among those going to France is another Sota alumna, Ms Ruby Gayle Thiagarajan, also 19, who majored in theatre.

She will do a three-year course at Sciences Po, studying political science and sociology.

Like Ms Tan, she did the International Baccalaureate last year.

Both did well: Ms Tan scored 38 and Ms Thiagarajan, 44, with 45 being the perfect score.

At Berklee, Ms Tan plans to major in film scoring and on returning home, work at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to help develop the arts in Singapore.

A believer in no boundaries for the arts, she said: "To create a more vibrant arts culture, people should be allowed to express any idea they are passionate about."

Similarly, "the point of an arts education is not to have a career in it, but to have an informed perspective", said Ms Tan, the youngest of three daughters, whose father is a director at Singapore Polytechnic and mother, a housewife.

"When you go through the rigour of training in the arts, you focus a lot more on the process than the product.

"In Singapore, we tend not to enjoy the process of waiting, as in allowing things to develop over time like our culture, we always want things to be ultra-efficient," she added.

Likewise, Ms Thiagarajan - whose father is retired and mother, an executive assistant - hopes to be posted to MCCY when she completes her studies.

Said the older of two children:

"This scholarship allows me to rotate among ministries, and better understand governance, which is something I'm also interested in."

Among the PSC scholarship holders are also five polytechnic graduates, the highest number in recent years.

One of them is Mr Sim Jing En, who will read law at the National University of Singapore.

His mother is a secretary and his father, a director at Microsoft.

Although the younger of two sons qualified to enter a junior college, he chose a polytechnic for its hands-on learning style.

"Education is about the experience and memories, not about the grades at the end of two years," said the 20-year-old who studied tourism and resort management at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.


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