The University Scholars Programme (USP) has received a $160,000 gift from Mr Foo Jixun and his wife, Mdm Serene Siar, to set up a scholarship for outstanding USP students. The scholarship is named USP Scholarship: Jixun and Serene Scholarship.
Mr Foo Jixun had a successful career in Hewlett Packard and the National Science and Technology Board of Singapore from 1993 to 2000. At present, he is the CEO of GGV Capital located in China. He is also Advisor and Director to many organisations including GrabTaxi, BeMyGuest Flocations, Youku Tudou, TuJia.com, and many other organisations in China.
Mrs Serene Foo, after a successful twelve-year career in retail, is currently an active parent volunteer in running school programmes such as 生命教育（Moral Education Chinese), Character Education (English), World Scholars Club, and Girl Scouts (Troop Leader) in China.
Last Friday (12 February), Mr Foo, his wife and their daughter visited USP. USP student Stacy Ooi (Sociology + USP, Class of 2017) caught up with them to find out more about the scholarship.
For Mr Foo, the scholarship is driven by his hopes for the future: his desire to promote entrepreneurship, the realisation that Singapore needs a different formula to succeed in the coming years, and the acknowledgement that education is an important tool for shaping students’ development. “We have to create our own value,” says Mr Foo with conviction. “We can no longer depend on other MNCs to create jobs for us. We have to create our own MNC. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity.”
For the past fifty years, according to Mr Foo, Singapore has done very well by sticking to a certain fixed formula. However, he feels that in order for us to better compete on a world stage, our education system needs to better encourage the entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit in our students. “Singaporeans actually excel in many ways, academia-wise,” he says, “but [we need to] better equip them to not just stay within their comfort zone, but also to venture out and try new things.” This scholarship, then, is his gift not just to NUS but also to Singapore. Mr Foo sees the scholarship as a small way of pushing Singaporean society towards a future of greater innovation and entrepreneurship.
Towards this end, Mr Foo emphasises the importance of multidisciplinary thinking, which was the reason he chose USP students to be the recipient of his scholarship.
Mr Foo himself is no stranger to the value of a multidisciplinary training. When he graduated from NUS in the 1990s, he found that his Engineering degree alone did not prepare him for many aspects of the working world. Writing skills in particular were missing - “I had to learn the hard way,” he recalls, “I trained myself on the job.”
He also learnt the value of history and literature when he started work in China, and realised how both subjects contributed to a better understanding of people. “It’s not just knowing the laws, the numbers and accounting. It’s about relationships and connectivity. And if you want to go into business, in my view, you have to be able to relate to other people.”
Such a holistic worldview is what Mr Foo wants to encourage through Singapore’s education system. He hopes to see students who can navigate the connectivity not just ‘between different knowledges and subjects, but also between different cultures and communities’.
The Jixun and Serene Scholarship is therefore really about nurturing students who are not just entrepreneurial and innovative, but also able to switch between different modes of thinking and acting. With an education system geared towards achieving these ideals, Mr Foo feels that the Singaporean society will then be able to better compete on the world stage.
USP Director Assoc Prof Kang Hway Chuan says, “It’s such a pleasure to get to know Mr Foo and his family. Mr Foo’s ethos and values strongly resonate with the educational mission of the USP. We appreciate his generosity and feel truly encouraged by his support.”
The Jixun and Serene Scholarship is bond-free, and will be offered to outstanding USP students who are Singaporeans or Permanent Residents. Starting AY2016/2017, USP students who apply for UTown scholarships will also be considered for this Scholarship. No separate application is required.
For information on making a gift to USP, please go here.