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Public or Private – Which Scholarship Provider is Right for You?

One way to differentiate scholarships is by local or overseas. Another important difference is the kind of scholarship provider.

Do you want to join a government ministry and help advance a local mission? Or do you feel you’re more suited to the fast-paced, ever-changing corporate landscape? A clear answer to those questions will help you narrow down which scholarships you want to apply for.

So what are some key differences between the two sectors? We outline a few, and the impacts they may have on a potential scholar’s decision.


Organisational Purpose

Generally, a government organisation has a far-reaching long term purpose, which may be constantly evolving to serve different population needs. For example, a mission such as “maintaining peace and prosperity” may have many different facets, and hence require many different people to work toward it.

Also, organisation members may be more motivated by working for a cause than a salary. As Pearlynn Sim, recipient of the NParks Undergraduate Scholarship, said: “It was the only scholarship that I applied for, as I was certain that I wanted to be part of NParks to help better the lives of fellow Singaporeans by developing and managing quality parks.”

In contrast, a private company tends to be profit-driven. This can translate into competitive employee benefits and relevant industry experience at the forefront of a particular sector. Lim Jun Ji, Sembcorp Scholar, listed three reasons for accepting their scholarship: job security, multifaceted learning opportunities, and an unchanging core business relevant to his interests – all characteristic of the company-sponsored scholarship.


Job Rotations

Government ministries are known for rotating their scholars through various partners and attachments, sometimes even to other ministries. This is to give them a larger perspective of the workings of the organisation, and in some instances as a fast-track to management.

For example, Faustina Lim, MCI Scholar, was rotated from MCI to MOH and back during her career, as well as being rotated to different divisions within MCI itself. In contrast, Shek Khi Huin, GIC Scholar, described being thrust into decision-making responsibilities of higher and higher level, but did not move from his original portfolio of work.

However, a scholar’s role will always be defined by the organisation’s purpose, and all the job rotations will centre around that.


Work Culture

Driven by profit, companies are free to adopt a leaner, more driven working style. Often, they are described as “fast-paced” and “dynamic”, with ever-changing business practices to suit an ever-changing world.

A common conception is that companies are not bound by bureaucratic red tape, so work gets done faster. They also can offer a wider range of employee perks from learning trips to exclusive memberships and invites.

On the other hand, a government organisation may have more leeway in deadlines and projects as it works towards its mission. Given that there are resources aplenty, workers need not scramble to cut costs in projects or worry about working with a tight budget. Employee benefits may also include facility memberships and passes to nation-wide events to promote work-life balance.


In the end, a scholarship is more than a bunch of comparisons between public or private, local or overseas. It is about what fits the individual best. While public versus private scholarships do differ in several ways, these differences are only as important as how much they affect your choice of sponsoring organisation.

Weigh your options with an informed mind, and choose well.


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