BEYOND THE BICENTENNIAL
2019 marked the commemoration of Singapore’s Bicentennial. This was an occasion for us to reflect on how we came to be, how far we have come, and how we wish to go forward together. Our understanding of our history, the values that drive us, and the resolve we apply to overcome the challenges of the future will determine whether we celebrate our Tricentennial or Quadricentennial.
The world is becoming both more integrated and more fragmented. Technology, trade and big data increase the potential for more collaboration. At the same time, the beliefs that guide how different parties use and benefit from these diverge, and the result is a deficit in trust among different groups of people, and between people and governments. Singapore is not immune to these tensions.
Singapore’s future is tied to the fortunes of the rest of the world. Our global links have to remain strong for our businesses to flourish, and we continue to welcome new citizens to remain vibrant and competitive. In the coming years, ASEAN must strengthen its relevance to the international order. Singapore’s Public Service has a key responsibility to serve our community by navigating many uncertainties. This will require outward-looking public officers, who are nimble and flexible, able to engage externally and work well across cultures, technologies and sectors, and to build trust with citizens, so as to turn anxieties into confidence about the future.
WORKING TOGETHER IN NEW WAYS
The Singapore Together (SG Together) movement, launched in June 2019, leads the way for Singaporeans to organise ourselves to design policies and community-level partnerships. It seeks to create opportunities for people with diverse viewpoints and interests to work with one another and with the government. SG Together requires empathetic Public Service officers who can listen, engage and successfully work with citizens to design and implement ideas. The Public Service needs leadership and facilitation skills to successfully deliver SG Together.
Our core Public Service values – Integrity, Service and Excellence - need to be constantly refreshed by an understanding of what these will mean in tomorrow’s Singapore. Integrity is based on incorruptibility, but with increasing complexity in the external environment, it will require a deeper and more nuanced understanding of conflicts of interest. Anticipating and dealing transparently with these conflicts, and upholding standards of good governance, is essential to maintain trust in the Public Service. Service to achieve best in class will mean more than standard operating procedures. Excellence must rise beyond efficiency to leverage innovation. The Public Service must transform such that personal and organisational learning becomes inbuilt, to achieve excellence in the citizen experience.
Understanding and designing services around citizens’ needs, enabled by technology, mean that citizens have an important part to play in co-creating policies and service delivery that affect them. Given potentially diverse views, public officers have to be clear in deciding on and communicating policy intent. Clear rationale will better allow exceptions to be considered and empathy to be exercised.
SEEKING DIVERSITY AT ALL LEVELS
Development of talent will continue to be key to the strength of the service. As the environment for talent becomes more diverse and competitive, the Public Service needs to attract skills and temperaments from a wider range of backgrounds to successfully tackle future challenges. This will mean a wider range in recruitment age and external experience and posting public officers out to the private and people sectors. In appointing and promoting senior Public Service officers, and bringing in top talent for the Public Service, the PSC will look for a broader range of skills and experience, as well as in-depth domain knowledge and commitment to deliver.
To enrich the diversity in scholarship selection, the Commission piloted game-based assessment (GBA) in 2019. The results of the validation study so far for GBA are promising for future application in selection. In 2019, PSC undergraduate scholarship recipients came from a good spread of pre-tertiary institutions. Significantly, the number of Polytechnic students awarded the scholarship was at an all-time high. The increase in Polytechnic awards was achieved through deliberate outreach and partnership with leadership teams in the Polytechnics. Our scholarship holders study in a range of different countries. In 2019, the number of scholarship awards to study in the USA exceeded those to study in the UK, and the number of awards for Singapore undergraduate studies continued to trend upwards.
The scholarship experience is also growing richer and more diverse. Scholarship holders are encouraged to take up the Gap Year programme, with interesting internships in the private sector and international organisations, especially where these venture into regional countries. Experience in non-traditional destinations is encouraged, to learn about different cultures and operating environments. Scholarship holders have the opportunity to acquire capabilities to meet future needs, such as digital skills and understanding of new technologies and business models.
I am confident that talented persons who possess the heart, imagination and determination to serve Singapore will continue to seek a career in the Public Service. The breadth and depth of opportunities to serve our community and nation is unparalleled, and the satisfaction unique.
Mr Lee Tzu Yang
Public Service Commission