Monday, May 30, 2011

Back to basics in award of scholarships

Back in December 2009, this blogger seek for a review in the role of MRSM and other boarding schools here. The number qualified has risen dramatically and boarding school does not meet the current role in education.

Boarding school is a misallocation of resources for elite middle class few over the masses. The role of boarding school must go back to the basic of assisting social mobility for the facility-deprived rural and urban poor students.

Few months back, this blogger was in the audience listening to Prime Minister, Dato Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak's speak in the Parliament building. The gist of his speech is the new way forward for the country. The 1Malaysia Government will be fair to all.

In the reward of scholarships, he said the Bumiputera affirmative action program will remain in tact. On the same note he said, it is not fair that the straight As or A+s are not awarded scholarships.

The SPM result were just out.

Students are in a rush for placement into Universities and Colleges. Once places are secured, there will be a mad rush for scholarship. As happened for several years, the argument on scholarship resurfaced again.

Like the case of MRSM and boarding schools, this blogger advocate going back to basic. Government must face up to the economics of limited resources. Scholarships is a vehicle for social mobility of the rural and urban poor.

The Middle class, be they Bumiputera or non-Bumiputera, have to take responsibility for their children tertiary education.

Wee Ka Siong-Guan Eng Game

It started out with Lim Guan Eng criticising the manner public scholarship were awarded on May 20th. This was in response to Deputy Minister, Dato Dr Wee Ka Siong's suggestion a day earlier that students accept their offer before appealing to JPA for the University of their choice.

This is a far cry from the days Bumiputera scholarship recipents were told to accept whatever University and courses offered to them many decades ago. It seems JPA scholarship has no bond like before and have become a source for brain drain.

Wee has said a day earlier that some 363 straight A+ students who deserved to be funded to study abroad had lost out to those with lower grades. He seemed to invite criticism and Guan Eng took a poke at Public Service Department (PSD).

Guan Eng claimed that PSD decides on the scholarship awards and they had offered the top scholars placement in local matriculation or diploma programs. He highlighted that scholarships should be given to the best students and instead awarding it to the worst.

MCA Youth secretary-general Datuk Chai Kim Sen replied to DAP as “instigating problems” but the message was in-sync to highlight the problem of “victimised” top students. He went on to make a false claim that the prime minister had decided to give PSD scholarships to all students who achieve 8A+ in the SPM regardless of race.

Guan Eng added on May 21st the "mistake" of not granting scholarships to qualified students.

By May 22nd, MIC’s deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk SK Devamany join the fray to seek an independent committee to investigate the scholarship distribution.

His concern is not so much about full A+ heartbroken for finding their applications rejected. He said 367 students had approached him, where 200 claimed of being rejected unfairly and 167 claimed of rejection for Matriculation and diplomas despite having 6As and 7As.

Devamany claimed students deserve scholarships for a degree programme of their choice. That indirectly brought the debate to another level whereby any qualified students deserve to be given scholarships to study abroad.

DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua added more fire the next day, May 23rd when he said that role and responsibility to award scholarship be given to Talent Corp instead of being “sabotage” within the PSD.

Getting Political

This invited Perkasa's same day response. Perkasa, who has been watching the exchange and set-up from the side, spoke through their Information Chief, Ruslan Kassim.

He claimed many Malay students were being “unfairly” treated by the PSD as they failed to obtain financial aid despite being qualified. There have been widespread talk that competition for place and scholarship is competitive among the Malays that cronyism and nepotism practise is creeping in. It takes a "know who" to even secure only invitation to scholarship interview and more to secure schiolarship.

Ruslan reiterated that the federal constitution ensured that Malays were prioritised when it came to receiving scholarships and that remains an unquestionable fact in the special rights of Malays under Article 153.

Though Government and various political parties acknowledged the special position of the Malays with respect to reservation of scholarships, resources is no more unlimited since Government introduce the 55:45 ratio for Bumiputera to Non-Bumiputera and a special scholarship award on merit basis.

Minister in charge of PSD, Dato Nazri also rebuked Wee as trying to be a hero for criticising PSD. He reminded that Putrajaya never promised scholarships abroad to all SPM top scorers. Instead, the government can only commit itself to ensure that all top scorers in the SPM be guaranteed places, be it local or abroad.

Government allocated 1,500 overseas scholarships to top students but only 300 were given based entirely on merit to students scoring straight 9A+. The remaining 1,200 were distributed according to those qualified within four categories: Sabah Bumiputeras (5%), Sarawak Bumiputeras (5%), social composition or the population’s racial composition (60%) and socially handicapped (10%).

This subsequently lead to a retaliation from MCA with President, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek stepping in. He seek the BN government to review the racial quotas used to allocate the PSD overseas scholarships. While he claimed to support the quota for Sabah Bumiputeras, Sarawak Bumiputeras and socially handicapped, he hinted the 20 per cent quota reserved for meritocracy be expanded.

The self serving Chinese interest element was obvious since Chinese usually dominate the top results.

Perkasa responded by demanding that 67% of PSD scholarship be awarded to Bumiputera in accordance with Bumiputera population. They attacked MCA and MIC to stay out of the scholarship row and not interfere in the affair of PSD. MCA and MIC responded by telling Perkasa to not be bigger than Government.

In the midst of the war of words between Nazri and MCA, DAP demanded for government’s assurance that all top students be awarded PSD scholarships. PKR responded through their Education Bureau Chief and former Federal Territory Education Director, Abas Awang, who pressed the Najib administration to abolish the race quota in PSD overseas scholarships.

The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM), through their Chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun called on the government to abolish overseas scholarships and for qualified students to be given financial aid to attend local universities instead.

This is in contrary to an Indian NGO, Malaysian Indian Student Association (Misa) president Kishur Goonasaran, who exchoed Devamany to demand that all students who scored 8A+ be awarded the overseas grants. This was just MIC stretching their luck
to get more Indians included.

The Way Forward

Let's face the economic reality. The resource required to support a scholarship program is only money and it is in limited supply. No resources is available on unlimited basis. That's basic economics.

How do one maximise utility or the economics term for satisfaction for all parties affected by the demand for scholarship? The ideal solution would be free for all with meritocrasy being the basis. The best qualifies.

That is what MCA and DAP wanted. Multiracial PKR was almost saying the same but measured for overseas program for fear of being criticised of betraying Article 153. But will it be fair to all?

It is only self-serving for the Chinese interest and not even the other non-Bumiputera like Indians. When it is too bias in favour of one race, groups like Hindraf, Perkasa, and what name you will come in. To each, will come with their own argument.

Hindraf will use some general clauses in the Constitution and some sad Indian discrimination stories, lying the statistics if need be, to justify more places for Indians.

Perkasa will revert to the constitution. If they take the extreme to say that the Constitution does not impose on the Government the responsible for tertiary education of the other non Bumiputera races, they are not totally wrong.

However, the other side of the Article 153 argument is that it accords the same right to wealthy Bumiputera.

This reminded of this blogger's own experiance in University whereby a wealthy Perakian UMNO politician cum entrepreneur, manage to have five of his children to study abroad on MARA scholarship and loans. All these years, this blogger kept feeling that it was morally unfair despite it being legally right.

With money a limited resource and other budgetary constraints in fulfilling the demand for tertiary education, overseas education is a luxury the country can ill afford. The call by PROHAM is really appealing.

Scholarship should only be available for local Universities and the savings from sending students abroad help improve local Universities and get good professors from abroad. After all, what's the point of spending on overseas education when students refused to return upon graduation?

Overseas education should be limited to post-graduate studies and seeking specialist subject not available locally.

Since Government is not constitutionally bound to provide for tertiary education, making available scholarship for more local Universities students shed a positive light on Government. This is in addition to absorbing the cost of primary and secondary education.

The existing merit-based scholarship program to award top students is also not fair. Children from wealthy families stand to benefit on something they can afford.

Despite making more money available for scholarships for local Universities, it is not likely to be enough. Any selection criteria will still limit the availability of fund. The use of quota only answers the political questions. It does not solve the distribution issue.

The way forward is to limit access to scholarship in the same manner we advocated limiting the number of MRSM and boarding schools. Scholarship is meant for only the economically disadvantaged to meet their tertiary education needs.

By making scholarship as program to help the poor, it should stop leakage in the system to the middle class, particularly the Malays and Bumiputera, at the expense of the 60% income earners of the country earning below RM1,500 per month.

This is blatantly happening everywhere. It is high time that Malaysian middle class sacrifice their lifestyle and take-up responsibility for the education of their children. MACC should look to raid PSD, Government Departments, and agencies giving out scholarships.

Private sector can take up that slack by providing research grants, scholarship foundation as part of their CSR, and funding certain Departments or Graduate School program.

For those going for top Universities abroad at undergraduate level, one can't expect that on the Government. Parents should save up from the day their children were born.

Downsize on your lifestyle. You can't cut the cake and eat it too.


Anonymous said...

I agree with giving scholarships to students who studied in IPTA rather than sending the students abroad ... and instead of sending students, the government should attract top overseas professors to come in and lead research

hemisfera said...

I Agree:
- there is no need to send our SPM holders to oversea for their degree. Instead, only send post-grad.
- realign the MRSM and all boarding school intake policy. They exist to help the students from rural areas and the urban-poor to get the best in education.

Quite sad to read that only students from the rich and influential get the chance for scholarship and placement in public universities.
But, as long as those in power feel comfortable with the current situation, nothing in this matters is going to change.
That's all we can do.
Bosan betul.

zaidi said...

Dear Brick

I agree with your observation.To complete a 3-yr degree course in UK will cost the government RM 400k. With such money we can support 5 students in a local university (private) or 7 students in public U. The power that be should go back to basics. No more overseas degree. Just for postgrad AFTER they have proved their worth.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that location of (SPM) candidates also be taken into consideration; imagine one who studied with no 24-hour electricity and no internet and still managing a 6As compared to an everything-at-your-fingertips student who managed 10As. I for one will always go for the underdogs; those who beat the odds should be given the chance to take on more challenging odds.


Anonymous said...

I never quite understand the fuss the Chinese kicks up regarding issues like scholarship. Hello? Save for your children education la. If your kids are straight As then apply to Singapore or Australia unis. Lots of private colleges these days have scholarships. Why must wait for JPA scholarship? Like it's the end of the world if you don't get it. Cry here, cry there. Definitely not a scholarship material. Cannot think out of the box to get other funding? Plan A fail, then go for Plan B.

Another thing, Talent Corp is a waste of money and a waste of time. What diaspora are you talking about? You know the majority are Chinese and Indian. Like you want them back in the country. The policy has always been to 'drain' away the trouble. The Chinese and Indians have never been consider talents anyway.

Then there is this problem that I see all the time. Bond those kids that take up JPA scholarships especially those sent aboard. Double the bond. Get guarantee from the parents that they will return to serve the country. Make life hell for existing family members if the scholar renegade on the bond. Taxpayer money here. Not PaMa scholarship. I don't care you can get better opportunities out there. It's the scholar's duty to return n serve the country. Seems like we like to give brains away for free.

Also, make it compulsory for Malays to come back to serve the country. If got take JPA loan or any form of financial assistance from the Government, they should come back. This is a MAlay country. Time for the Malay diaspora to come back and contribute. Hey, you reap from the affirmative policy, you are obliged to give back to this country.


Anonymous said...

i will tell you something

i am financing on my own child at an ipts, at least for now
i know no one influential to ask for a scholarship and besides the A's are not as many to deserve any merit
to bad huh
i don't own a house, neither do i own a car of my own
this is the measure of wellbeing they say

so let me raise this question, why so many unwilling souls must look for government assistance in giving their child tertiary education ?

i am teaching my child to be independent of any sort of aid when one doesn't merit it. frank enough ?

i will say today my child will make a better human being in her life journey; i want her to know the struggles and sacrifices

i observed some of my white university mates worked part time to finance their own college educations

i was one of the fortunate ones that didn't merit a scholarship but got one; i did not ask for it, i know i didn't qualify. it came to me and until today i am thankful

back in those days boarding school meant entirely different from today

even my grade school which i traveled 16 miles every morning to go to is an elite school today. one could register as many children as one wants then; no que, no favor

then and now...
we have become pampered bastards and bitches from the nations prosperity

Skilgannon1066 said...


In a word - rubbish!

What makes you think that qualified Malaysian Malay professionals who have graduated from top universities overseas would want to come back to Malaysia when they can make a better living, with less restrictions (moral strictures, khalwat, interracial marriages etc) elsewhere?

Ditto for Malaysian Chinese and Indian graduates.

You want to make your mark in banking - think London, New York, Hong Kong or Singapore. IT - Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Hyderabad. Law - London, New York, Singapore. Medicine - the list goes on.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing is transparency in awarding scholarship to students to study locally or overseas. First the PSD must state the number of scholarship to be awarded locally and overseas according to different fields. Second, the top A+ students are given a basic score plus his or her co-curriculum activities. Have a panel of 5 interviewers which make up of all races to interview the students. After each interview the student must be given a marks agreed by the panels. Display the total score showing why a student should study locally or overseas. This will stop all the crying and shouting.

Anonymous said...

I agree ; That money should be spent locally, or is our local prop has not the ability to teach our students.

And I agree, parents has to start saving the day they send their children to school

Anonymous said...

1. Agree all PSD scholarships are for local universities. Overseas scholarships are for post-graduate only. If we send all our good students overseas, how do we increase the standard of our local universities? BUT I don't think PSD/Govt got balls to implement this coz I'm very sure among the Pak2 Menteri mesti ada ramai anak2 yg nak PSD scholarships to study overseas.

2. All scholars must be bonded most especially those that were sent overseas. And I agree with Din, make their lives hell if they break the bond. The practice of giving our scholars for FREE to other nations must be stopped.

3. If the students & parents object - then maybe it is time we tell them: Stop being materialistic & start being patriotic will ya? If not, there is always PaMa scholarships route. If they start threathening Govt with their votes, BN shd not worry too much coz I'm very sure they never voted for BN anyway..

4. For non top scorers: priority shd always be given (regardless of race) to smart-poor students from rural area & urban slum. Rich kids - if you could afford (while in your teens)luxury items iPod, iPad, iPhone, tuitions - chances are your family can afford to finance your own tertiary education. Hopefully after they graduated, they are patriotic enough to serve the country. If not, too bad. After all we have bonded top-scorers now to serve the country ;p

Anonymous said...

My comment is that only students from national schools are entitled for government scholarship consideration at local universities. This will allow more students to get the aid. After all this years, I don't understand why rich students still get scholarships? Government must revamp PSD to ensure guidelines are followed.


Anonymous said...


Rubbish did you say?

The Malays are where they are today because of Government policies. They might not like how Islam is being implemented here but they are obliged to come back to serve MALAYsia. If not, please give back the scholarship and please take up citizenship elsewhere.


Skilgannon1066 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
A Voice said...


This tone of comment is not what I wish for this blog anymore.

Cool it, ok?

Anonymous said...

a special note to skewedmoron

the red dot is the country with a Parents Maintenance law, No chewing gum but can smoke, baby bonus but no babies, govt-sponsored SINGLE DESPERATE & UGLY initiatives (must get the grads to marry & produce), FLUSH the toilets campaign, never-ending courtesy campaign, no littering campaign with CWO, racial quota for HDB etc

See what this means - they studied textbooks ALL their lives and they FORGOT the basic life requirements

1st in this and that, high watever ranking in dis and dat blah blah blah

but haiya donno how to get mates, donno how to make babies, donno how to look after mum and dad, donno how to flush toilets, donno cleanliness, cannot chew gum but can abort unborn babies, can smoke and drink and crash innocent pedestrians


Anonymous said...

Too many students getting "A" grade, too few scholarship.

All the so called 'A' graduates are reflected in the market places, strangely they cant string a good sentence in english.

Skilgannon1066 said...

A Voice 8:52 PM

I hear you, o mighty one!

But what precisely in my posting are you objecting to? Telling me to "cool it" is a catch-all phrase, don't you think?

Unless you are disputing the fact that publicly funded scholarships should be awarded strictly on merit?

And how do you define "merit" other than the quantifiable measure of exam grades?

Does ethnicity, family background and income etc have to be taken into account?

Put your cards on the table and define what exactly you mean by "basics"?

A Voice said...


We can differ, we can argue, but why cant we be civil?

This is my blog.

I be the judge to determine what is hostile and antagonistic. I don't answer to you.

You dont like, your comment is not welcome. Open your own blog and write what you want.


Skilgannon1066 said...

A Voice 4:54 PM

I am quite willing to put your blog on my verboten list. No probs there.

But why have you avoided answering my very specific questions, which imho, were couched in very temperate language? Unless you don't have the answers, which is understandable.

If everything was, and is, hunky-dory in the matter of scholarships and related matters, then why would the government bother to set up the Talent Corp and get a high-flier to run it?

The education system should run on autopilot, should it not?

And, to put matters on record, it wasn't me who first used the term "MALAYsia" in this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha huhuhu heeheehee

skewedmoron kena one good jentik


Skilgannon1066 said...

Anon 10:24 PM

There are none so dumb as those who wilfully disregard the truth.

Including the person who manifests as "Another Brick in the Wall".

Afraid to debate on specifics, he/she resorts to banning and censorship!

There are plenty of other fora to post in.


gerbert said...

why is it when it comes to scholarships, the racial quotas are mentioned. but when it comes to those refusing to come back and serve the country, no race statistics are provided. this should be put up as well.

the savings from subsidy should be poured into tertiary education. that way, everybody will get scholarships. make tertiary education free. currently, students have to pay about RM7k per year to enroll in public universities. if this is made free, no body will complaint.

My Say