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Why I gave up a government scholarship to revolutionize ASEAN youths’ perspectives and experiences

Written by Chua Shion Published on 

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Worried about the lack of a regional mindset of ASEAN youths, Shion Chua set out to build an NPO youth organization with a key emphasis on both ASEAN and China.

Ever since secondary school, I only had one goal in mind—to get a government scholarship and land a job in Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE). It was a career dream I never questioned for years.

Serving MOE for four years after university wasn’t a blind decision. My childhood experiences have inculcated in me a passion to do something about the stark disconnect between the modern working society and our traditional education system.

My epiphany came right after graduating from National University of Singapore. Halfway through my scholarship attachment with MOE, I became overwhelmed. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I was very different from my other co-workers, from the way I interacted and taught my own students. I was drifting further away from what I hoped to accomplish with the system and I felt like a cog in an impossibly large machine. I knew that the path I’d been treading on wasn’t the one for me. It would be an unpleasant journey if I really served out my bond, but I ignored my intuition and continued.

It was still a fruitful experience because I loved working with youths. I was well-paid and grateful for all the opportunities and experiences I was given during the 18 months. I got to learn various pedagogies, engage in youth education development, and so on.

However, something was still bugging me: the current formal education system wasn’t sufficient enough to serve the youths’ needs and it was too real for me to ignore.

In December 2019, I decided to go with my gut feeling and broke my bond.

The start of something extraordinary

Me clad in Peranakan kebaya while attending a closing ceremony of a youth conference in Hong Kong and China. Courtesy of author.

I was equipped with the greatest advantage I could ever have—time. Yet, I didn’t know what path to take. Should I climb up the corporate ladder? With minimal corporate knowledge, would I be able to survive?


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