“But disciplinary records are not listed under the requirements in the Education Ministry’s scholarship page online, similar for other organisations” (References And Interviews Are Key To Scholarship Selection, Miss Ng Jing Yng).
Jonathan Wong’s arrest for possession of child pornography, and the subsequent revelation of the fact that he is a recipient of a Ministry of Education (MOE) teaching scholarship, has set many wondering if scholarship selection processes are adequate or sufficiently all-encompassing. Allegations that Jonathan had been previously dealt with disciplinarily in high school for serious offences have further compounded opinions. The report, “References And Interviews Are Key To Scholarship Selection” (November 20, 2010 by Miss Ng Jing Yng, makes the salient point that disciplinary records should constitute an important element of the application process.
Realistically, it is virtually impossible to determine an individual’s character and integrity in spite of the psychometric assessments, interview processes or personal statements. The Public Service Commission’s (PSC) over-reliance on “teachers and principals” to assess a student’s behaviour over a period of time might be misplaced. References are often biased by schools and teachers’ relationships with the students, and the pertinent desire to increase the number of scholars produced; further, applicants have been trained to handle a plethora of interview situations so as to be perceived favourably; while conduct grades are hardly accurate determinants of an applicant’s personality and overall disposition. Even as an all-round evaluation remains a tall order for scholarship boards, including a review of one’s disciplinary history would definitely render the selection process slightly more wholesome and holistic.
This is particularly important for a teaching scholarship, since educators are expected to be exemplary individuals not just in teaching-learning per se, but also as role models – in character and values – for their students to emulate. Even if there are blemishes on the records, the key is not to pass judgement right away, but to ascertain whether the student has genuinely reflected upon the mistake and progressed. We are not expecting scholars to be perfect goody two shoes; but people who learn, grow and mature with time.
With this episode, as the scholarship boards seriously review their methodologies and include reviews of their applicants’ disciplinary records, Jonathan should be given a second chance. Undoubtedly, his teaching scholarship would be revoked as he potentially faces up to five years imprisonment, but the MOE should help facilitate his rehabilitation process together with his family and friends. Even as his actions should never be condoned, Jonathan should be allowed to repent and think upon his actions, and speedily move along a recovery process.
His offences with regard to child pornography would certainly serve as a stern warning for many in Singapore and around the world. However, if his rehabilitation process can be followed through respectfully, it would reflect well on Singapore and the MOE.