T he Public Service Commission (PSC) was established to safeguard the principles of integrity, impartiality and meritocracy in the Singapore Public Service. It offers scholarships to groom talent with the commitment to serve Singapore and Singaporeans. The range of PSC scholarships paves the way for scholarship holders to achieve a meaningful career in three paths – Public Administration, Professional Service and Uniformed Service.
For Nur Syahidah Sahrom and Tan Chun Ghee, the prospect of serving the public and helping Singapore succeed appealed to them when they were exploring their career options. They tell us about their respective roles in the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), and what they find most fulfilling about their jobs.
Nur Syahidah Sahrom
PSC Scholarship Recipient
Assistant Director (Community Care),
Ageing Planning Office, Ministry of Health
Tell us a bit more about your roles at work.
Nur Syahidah Sahrom: I work in the Ageing Planning Office (APO) at MOH, where we look into the needs of Singapore’s ageing population. Specifically, my team looks into developing the community care sector, in order to support our seniors as they age in place and empower caregivers to care for the elderly. We are rapidly expanding the provision of community care places through the development of eldercare centres within the community, which provide health and social care services.
What I find fulfilling about my job is being able to make Singapore a better place for our people to age in. I find myself thinking about my parents and what they need in their senior years, in order for them to live healthily, comfortably and meaningfully. In some ways, I am also planning for my own senior years!
Tan Chun Ghee: My current role at MTI is to formulate policies to raise productivity across the economy, and co-ordinate the efforts of different Government agencies in the national productivity drive.
During my previous posting at the ministry then known as the Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports (MCYS), I worked on policies to maintain racial and religious harmony, as well as improve the integration of foreigners and new Singapore citizens. I also helped to implement new policies on the use of industrial and public spaces by religious organisations, which improved utilisation of our scarce land while safeguarding the secular nature of such spaces.
What are some of the more memorable episodes you have had in your career?
Syahidah: One memorable episode is when I was at my previous posting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where I served as a Political Secretary and Foreign Service Officer (FSO) at the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While I was there, I facilitated visits by our leaders and those by our domestic agencies, gained an understanding of the developments and policies in Malaysia and how they would impact Singapore, engaged and cultivated interlocutors in the country, and looked out for opportunities to enhance bilateral relations.
Through the course of my posting, I met people from all walks of life, ranging from academics and journalists to civil society activists. It was interesting to hear their stories, what motivated them, as well as their perspectives about various issues.
Chun Ghee: Some of my more significant projects at MTI include the review of the direction for the national productivity drive. We wanted to focus on measuring productivity in domestic sectors such as construction, food services and retail in a way that reflects the situation on the ground.
Tell us about your undergraduate experience.
Syahidah: I chose to study Biochemistry because it was an extension of things I enjoyed most about Triple Science in Junior College. I pursued my degree at Imperial College London because of its reputation in the field of Life Sciences. Its location at the heart of central London was also a huge draw!
Tan Chun Ghee
PSC Scholarship Recipient
Senior Assistant Director,
Resource Division, Ministry of Trade & Industry
I decided to come back to Singapore to pursue the Master in Public Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. My master’s programme allowed me to develop a good understanding of the analytical tools for policy making and evaluation. It was truly a global classroom and I enjoyed learning from my peers! I also got to participate in a semester exchange programme at Japan’s University of Tokyo.
Chun Ghee: I chose to read Chemistry because I have always been interested in the subject. Chemistry has improved many aspects of our lives. For instance, it has helped to create more effective medicine and anti-rust paint, and allowed us to better understand molecular gastronomy.
I then did my postgraduate studies at Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, which is where Einstein studied. Having read many stories in my early years about him, ETH was definitely an aspirational choice! PSC was supportive of this non-conventional choice, especially since Switzerland was once a role model for Singapore’s development.
In my second year in university, I returned to do an internship analysing crime statistics at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The internship was a good introduction to the Civil Service, and allowed me to interact with others who were in the service. It also struck me how we balanced hard data with policy instinct, without being overly dogmatic about either.
Tell us how your scholarship organisation has facilitated your development.
Syahidah: The scholarship offers a structured training and development programme that looks into your developmental needs at every milestone or stage of your public service career. Each milestone programme, like the PSC Scholarship holders Mid-Course Programme (PSMP) and Foundation Course, is designed to progressively give you a more in-depth understanding of the workings of public administration in Singapore, and equips you with skills and networks not just for policy-making but for effective leadership as well.
Chun Ghee: I participated in the Foundation Course which, among other useful lessons on policy-making, offers young officers the opportunity to visit different Southeast Asian countries. I still reap the social capital benefits from this trip. It is not enough to depend on building bonds through electronic or formal means—but also through informal channels.
What would you like to tell aspiring PSC Scholarship Holders?
Syahidah: Make an informed decision by understanding what a scholarship is about – such as the developmental opportunities available and the nature of job postings. It also helps to speak to family members, friends and seniors with more experience. It is not an easy decision, as scholarships would require a commitment of at least 10 years!
Chun Ghee: Those who yearn for a sustainable career in the service should possess twin characteristics of curiosity and resilience — the curiosity to question the status quo and seek meaningful change, and the resilience to accept that sometimes the conditions are just not right for that change.
In Singapore, we are blessed with choices in many aspects of life. If one decides to pursue a scholarship, go out there and talk to current and former scholarship holders about their experiences, in addition to reading scholarship magazines and doing desktop research.