Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scholarships : Give opportunity for all

Distribute scholarships fairly to all those who deserve

There has been a lot of public dissatisfaction expressed over the awarding of PSD scholarships to high achieving students. Many top scorers have been denied these financial aids and this has caused a great deal of frustration among them.

There is a lot of unhappiness with the criteria used in the selection process and many have called on the PSD to review its system of awarding these scholarships. There are those who want academic merit alone to be the determining factor whereas others want race, social-economic status and extra-curricular activities especially sports to be also considered as the criteria for awarding these scholarships especially for studying overseas.

Ideally all those who excel must be given scholarships but with limited resources this may be impossible. With 10,000 applicants for 2000 grants, the competition is indeed tough. I agree there must be some form of selection criteria and I admit there is no ideal system to pick the right candidates. What is most important is to ensure whatever method we choose, while benefiting the majority, should not deprive any deserving candidate of an opportunity to pursuit his tertiary education. In this regards the PSD must be more transparent and open on how their selection was done.

Apart from academic excellence other factors are equally important in deciding whether a student is deserving or otherwise. Financial capability, extra-curricular excellence and aptitude are equally important.

With the prevalent obsession with the ‘A-syndrome’ one has to spend a lot of money to obtain the extra coaching needed to obtain the A’s. Even brilliant students who cannot afford such expensive tuitions may not obtain the straight A’s needed to qualify for the scholarships. It would be a grave mistake to award scholarships only to maximum scores with 10 A’s and above from extremely rich families whereas the vast majority of students with 8 or 9 A’s from financially deprived families are denied such aid.

It is therefore important to specify the criteria for a deserving student in order to ensure only such students are awarded scholarships. A deserving student is one who not only obtains excellent grades but has a good extra-curricular record is also financially disadvantaged. Without financial assistance these students will never make it to the university whatsoever.

The purpose of scholarships is to assist eligible students to pursue their studies in institutions of higher learning irrespective of race, religion or political ideology. Towards this end the PSD must review its policies to ensure that these ideals are strictly adhered to without any bias whatsoever. It would a great injustice if a high-performance student from a poor background and with the right aptitude is denied such assistance thereby forcing him to abandon his pursuit of academic excellence. It would not only a setback for the individual but also a great disservice to the nation.

Education remains the best means to eradicate poverty that transcends race and religion. There is a need for all to appreciate the importance of uplifting the poor of all communities as a neglected community however small it may be is a source of ‘threat’ to all in the long run. There is a need cultivate a new mindset of fairness among all the people so that a time will come when all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, will be made to feel equal. In a multi-racial country the well being of every community is importance for lasting peace and prosperity.

The government should provide scholarships not just to the maximum scorers but to all who qualify but cannot afford, so that no group will be left to fear of being robbed of its opportunities. The government could increase the total number of scholarships from time to time as deemed necessary but it should be fairly distributed to all who genuinely need them regardless of race. This would ensure that no excellent performers are left out because of their ethnicity.

The time has come for the nation to rise above the racial divide and unite for the well being of the nation. We may differ ethnically but we are all Malaysians, ready to share the fortunes and the misfortunes of our beloved nation. Let every Malaysian child be given equal opportunities in his struggles to realize his dreams and those of the nation. No community need to fear or worry as the country has enough for all. What is needed is to manage its resources with fairness and prudence.
In this context the people too have their role to play. They must rid themselves of the greed and selfishness that denies others who are more deserving and desperate for such assistance. Malaysians are known to be generous to the outsider but it is time to demonstrate that generosity to our own less fortunate fellow citizens especially of a different race?

The government must heed the cry of all students, Malays and non-Malays alike, who have performed well, especially those from the lower income groups and those with the right aptitude. It must work towards establishing our education system that will be based on true meritocracy that will not distinguish the applicants by race and creed but by his excellence, zeal and commitment to serve the nation and the people.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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