Profile of Sg Govt scholars

April 5, 2006 at 10:38 am 5 comments

Taken from Sze Meng, who found it from the ST.

April 5, 2006
Profile of govt scholarship holders

By Leslie Koh

STUDENTS from better-off families made up about half of government scholarship holders last year.

Around one out of two came from families that earn more than $5,000 and live in private homes.

Figures from the Prime Minister’s Office show that 53 per cent of Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarship holders came from families earning at least $5,000.

This places them in the top one-third of families by income as only 37 per cent of all families in Singapore earned $5,000 or more in 2004.

PM Lee Hsien Loong also said 47 per cent of PSC scholarship holders live in private homes, putting them among the 15 per cent of all families here that can afford more expensive private housing.

He gave these figures in a written reply to Nominated MP Tan Sze Wee in Parliament on Monday.

These figures are likely to fuel concerns that poorer families find it harder to move up the social ladder, as students from poorer homes have a lower chance of getting sought-after government scholarships that often pave the way for a good career in the civil service.

In a column last year, recent graduate Soon Sze Meng asked if social mobility is on the decline here.

Wealthier and better-educated parents can send their children to better schools, he noted, and they will, in turn, do better and win scholarships.

Sociologist Alexius Pereira of the National University of Singapore took a different view of the numbers, saying they give little cause for worry.

It is common across the world for the highly educated to make it into the top social class, he noted. In the United States, students from richer families dominate the newcomer list at top Ivy League universities every year.

‘At these universities, only 5 per cent are from underprivileged families. In Singapore, half of scholarship holders come from average-income families. That’s okay,’ he said.

The PSC, which gives out about 50 scholarships each year, stressed that it awards them based on students’ abilities and potential, not on their socio-economic background.

‘PSC scholarships are not study loans or bursaries which are granted based on financial need,’ said the director of the PSC secretariat, Mrs Choo Lee See.

The statistics appear not to have changed much over the past few years.

At a scholarship award ceremony in 2000, PM Lee said 49 per cent of the 110 recipients that day had at least one parent who was a professional or manager.

He also stressed then that restricting scholarships to poorer students is not in line with Singapore’s principles of meritocracy and equal opportunity.

Dr Pereira also noted that Singapore’s meritocratic system ensures that bright but poor students do not miss out.

‘If you’re stupid and rich, you can’t buy yourself out of it. But if you’re bright but underprivileged, there are enough safeguards to ensure you can still make it.’

They forgot to mention – if you are bright and rich, you can choose not to take up the (PSC) scholarship and still head overseas to (insert expensive prestigious university name here).

You also don’t need to be rich to leave. Many of the top, elite US colleges are trying to increase access for the lower income folks by waiving tuition and fees.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. vivienne  |  April 5, 2006 at 10:56 am

    If they separate the profiles for the local and overseas scholarship holders, to be honest, I won’t be surprised to see another emerging pattern. Ie. The students from wealthier families are statistically inclined towards the overseas scholarship.

    Anyway, what is your opinion of the appeal of these local scholarships to those who are rich and bright?

  • 2. takchek  |  April 5, 2006 at 11:00 am

    It’s probably not very attractive. At least from looking at my JC peers (of my batch). They still headed overseas anyway.

  • 3. skybellzz  |  April 5, 2006 at 11:23 am

    well it sounds quite logical. you see, parents who are smart are usually more capable which makes them easier to climb up the social ladder. Good brain = better in studies = higher education = good job = faster promotions = richer family.

    When the genes pass on to their kids, it’s no wonder that the rich make up the larger percentage of the scholars.

    Where will you find doctor parents living in an old dilapidated hut? If huts do exist in Singapore.

  • 4. Peishan  |  April 5, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    One obvious reason for the statistics that was not mentioned (and for good reason, can’t be) in the ST, is that there might simply be a higher proportion of brighter people in the upper classes than the lower classes.

    But of course the government can not say that, and it’ll never say that. But we do know that it believes in that (think LKY and eugenics in the 70s/80s). And of course us common folk will not dare to categorically say that. Instead, we content to dance around in tiny little circles, pointing our fingers this way and that. To what end?

  • 5. schizophrenic  |  April 6, 2006 at 12:54 am

    i find the pm’s response somewhat questionable – why did the p.s.c. set the criterion at $5k/mth and not according to income brackets of say,


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