Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scholarships for top scorers

Being transparent in awarding them

The ongoing debate on the unfair award of scholarships to top SPM students is nothing new as it comes up every year but with no definite solutions. It deeply regrettable that many eligible and deserving students failed to secure the grants, but those who did not deserve them had successfully obtained the financial assistance. It is more disturbing to know that the main reason why top students failed to obtain those awards was due to Public Services Department(PSD) officers who failed to follow Cabinet directives with regards to the awarding of those scholarships.

This is the last thing we want at a time when the country is facing severe brain drain and major incentives are being planned overcome this negative development among our intellectuals and academia. By denying financial aid to our top students we would only be driving them away to ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere where they are gladly accepted without much fuss.

The government spends billions of ringgit yearly in scholarships for top SPM students and it must ensure that those who really deserve are not neglected due to some skewed mentality of certain officers entrusted with implementing them. It must be emphasized that the money spent comes from the taxpayers and it must be spent not only prudently but reach the right people for whom it is targeted and not politically hijacked.

Despite selection of students for scholarships causing uproar every year, it is yet to be adequately redressed. The government has come up with set rules for the award of these scholarships, why aren’t they adhered to strictly? Why should unsuccessful candidates seek the help of political parties to handle their grouses when it the PSD that should be professional enough to handle that? Is the award of scholarship a political process?

We understand that many of those rejected have obtained full A+ (super distinction) and above and were from poor families, some being underprivileged students from hardcore poor families. Don’t these brilliant students deserve scholarships for a degree programme of their choice? Isn’t it a great injustice to the students and a disservice to the nation to turn away such deserving students? Where will they go to now?

Many excellent students were given matriculation or diploma scholarships when they deserve scholarships for a degree programme of their choice.Why give them something that is far below what they deserve?

Here we have a simple situation where our own students are applying for study grants to their own government to pursue their education to serve the nation better. Processing these applications for scholarships from our own students should be an administrative exercise that must be handled professionally by the PSD based on set regulations by the government. It is not a political or racial issue to be handled by race-based political parties. Why then make it one?

It is time for the government to put this issue of scholarships to rest once and for all as its annual recurrence causes a great deal of frustration, unhappiness, anger and anxiety among the students and parents particularly those from lower income group, who cannot afford the high cost of education today. It also puts the government in bad light as being unfair to its own people.

I admit there is no one ideal system that would satisfy all but whatever method is chosen must ensure that genuinely deserving students are not deprived of the opportunity to pursue their tertiary education. Denying brilliant students their opportunity to excel will be doing a great disservice to the person and the nation as a whole. These awards should be granted to all who are eligible based purely on overall merit which takes into account the student’s academic results, financial affordability and aptitude for the courses selected, without any form of prejudice or bias.

In this regards certain set rules and regulations must be strictly adhered and not changed at the whims and fancy of certain officials for any reason. The people know that the funds are limited and not all who apply will be successful but those who failed to obtain scholarships will accept their failure if the selection process is transparent and is in accordance with the formulated guidelines. It is when the rules are not followed that people start complaining.

The selection criteria should be reviewed to end complaints about injustices of the awards so that it is in line with 1 Malaysia concept and Government’s Transformation Programme.These programmes initiated by the government are aimed to take our nation to greater heights if implemented effectively. It would be a tragic failure if the government allows the ideals of 1Malaysia to be thwarted by certain overzealous officials. Unless we give every deserving Malaysian child the opportunity to pursue its ambitions and ideals, our nation will not be able to move forward in this highly competitive global world.

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