Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scholarship Fiasco - Be transparent!

I have three boys, the eldest is currently sitting his IGCSE (SPM), second in year 10 (Form 4) also taking two IGCSE papers in advance. Both are all As students and active in school. Alhamdulillah, we are proud for their talents and achievements.

As parents, we would like both of them to go for further studies in their chosen fields, possibly with scholarships. However, they are not eligible for Malaysia government scholarships for not being there in Malaysia. No regrets.

If they are eligible and qualified for scholarships on merits without taking others' rights i.e. stealing (like through political means), why not. Otherwise, we have to fork whatever savings we have for their future. It is better to be safe rather than sorry in the next life by robbing others' rights for scholarships just because we are in the better positions to rob.

Both of us had been given the opportunities to receive scholarships with successful careers, and are very much grateful for the affirmative actions. Hopefully, our kids will be fortunate enough to be awarded scholarships based on their own merits, not necessarily from Malaysia government's institutions. As I have been telling them, be prepared to slug and struggle during their university's years.

The below article does make sense.

Be open for grouses to stop


FORMER national hockey captain, N. Sri Shanmuganathan captained the Klang High School hockey and cricket teams; played soccer and volleyball for school and also excelled in athletics. After his Senior Cambridge, he was offered a place at Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur because of his abilities in sports. A job as a police inspector came along after leaving school and he subsequently joined the Anti-Corruption Agency before turning to the private sector.

Tam Chiew Seng, played cricket for the country before he turned 16 and then played hockey for Malaysia. He was another whose career started in the police force and is now in the private sector. Scores of other names come to mind when it comes to “good” jobs, which were scarce in those old days.

If the police force gave priority to sportsmen, matching or even doing better was the Central Electricity Board, then National Electricity Board and now Tenaga Nasional Berhad. Under Sharples and later Raja Zainal and Tan Sri Abu Zarim, you could rattle off the names of national cricketers and more than half of them would be from this stable.

Headmasters of yesteryears scoured the playing fields all over the country and followed the sports pages of the newspapers to “discover new talent” so that they could be lured to their schools to play one game or another. Anandarajah, as headmaster of Malacca High School gave a number of sportsmen a break. Even if they did not do well enough in Form Five to be allocated a place to the Higher Certificate of Education, Master Rajan as he is popularly known, bent the rules with the support of sports-loving chief education officers with only one aim – giving priority to sportsmen and enhancing the image of the school. Those days, sports was the passport to education in the best school and a “good job”.

Yesterday, I received this email from one reader: “My son achieved eight A1s, one A2 and one B3 in his SPM examinations. He sent in his application to pursue his education in Marine Engineering. He had met the criteria to get scholarships and duly sent out applications to JPA, Petronas and Sime Darby. Unfortunately none of the organisations gave him a chance. We have heard that students with lower than his qualification had been offered scholarships. This is very unfortunate as he had strategically performed well academically as well as co-curricular activities as he knew that it would count.”

This is just one letter. In the “Letters to the editor” pages of newspapers, several have appeared. I sympathise with the unsuccessful applicants, but there are major issues which ought to be addressed and let me categorically state that I don’t intend to hold the candle for the Public Services Department (PSD) or any other organisation. What I am seeking to do is contribute ideas to a system which is fair and equitable to all citizens.

There are 2,000 PSD scholarships up for grabs and there are 10,000 applicants who meet the academic requirements. Besides, some schools put a limit on the number of subjects students can offer in their SPM examinations, in some cases, a maximum of 10. So, if one gets 15As and another gets nine, should the former be given priority for a scholarship? Isn’t a student who gets only five As eligible for the same scholarship if he had played, say, in the Thomas Cup or represented the country at hockey?

If we go by mere academic qualifications, then all the 10,000 applicants will qualify, but when there are only 2,000 places, what is the criteria to be used? I don’t profess to have the ideal formula, but at a time when we are crying at how the level of sports has dropped in this country, shouldn’t it be used as a yardstick? Over the years, I have heard arguments from parents of sportsmen who say: “If my son had put all his effort on his books instead of dividing his time between studies and sports, he could have achieved better results. So, where is the reward for being in sports?”

But again, the real issue is: What level of competence has the student achieved in his chosen sport? Playing for Blue House is a non-starter, but if the student was a Tam Chiew Seng or a Sri Shanmuganathan, shouldn’t he be given a scholarship, even if he did not meet the minimum academic requirements? No one should complain if Nicol David is given a scholarship to pursue her studies after she retires from squash. Never mind the fact that she earns prize money. She sacrificed her education for sports and in the process, brought fame and glory to the country. She deserves it.

Similarly, shouldn’t a student who finishes as the top trainee in the National Service programme be given priority or one who has represented the country at an international quiz or debate? What about those who have excelled in other fields such as music or the arts?

The reason for the unhappiness is that the public has no knowledge on the weightage, if any, given to co-curricular activities. Understandably, a few hundred places are allocated to students from Sabah and Sarawak and from poor families. No one begrudges that.

This problem can be solved if the whole system of selecting the scholars is made transparent. I have been told that the PSD invites professionals like doctors and engineers to conduct the interviews. No one will take umbrage to that.

Any misconception people have in their minds must be dispelled by making everything open – a trait which is rarely seen these days. The PSD must set the example of putting everything on the table for all to see. That will put an end to all the moans and groans.

R. Nadeswaran is editor (special and investigative reporting) at theSun. he can be reached at: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

3 comments:

Ina said...

Dear Sir,

Thank you for highlighting this issue. Transparency in the system would be the best way forward and make sure the same yardstick is used for all. For me, getting all A's nowadays is not very impressive. It just means that you've found a strategic way to answer the questions and not necessary mean you're intelligent!

Amuraria said...

HATS OFF TO SDR FUDZAIL & CITIZEN NADES FOR HIGHLIGHTING THIS ISSUE ! HIGH TIME FOR THE 'GOMEN' TO NOT JUST LOOK NOT DIRTY BUT CLEAN THOROUGHLY AS WELL .THIS SHIT OF OFFERING SCHOLARSHIPS TO WELL TO DO CRONIES EVENTHOUGH SOME WITH BRAINS OF SHIT MUST STOP ! NEED TO REALLY REVAMP ALL THIS GARBAGE IN THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, NO MORE FAVOURITISM FOR A SELECTED FEW ESPECIALLY AMONG CRONIES IN THE RULING PARTIES.

NicolDavidOnline.com said...

Absolutely.

Thanks for your support of our dear Datuk Nicol!

WMSiew
Editor, NDOnline.