I've earlier blogged on Anisah as well as my wife's experience with the Public Service Department (PSD). Rozanna Latiff then wrote to me about her experience during her scholarship application with MARA. She was one of the very very few bumiputeras who has applied and successfully received the ASEAN scholarship from the Ministry of Education in Singapore. And she's now in the midst of completing her double degree in Law and Arts (Media and Communications) in University of Melbourne.
I applied for a scholarship after getting accepted into uni. I had my race on my side but not much else. During the interview, they insisted on conducting the interview in Malay, assuming that I was already fluent in English. While I had no problems with that, I felt vaguely insulted. I am a bumi, I studied BM throughout my entire school life, maybe just slightly less than your average Malaysian. I also didn't see the point.
Like your wife's account, the interview had nothing to do with my education, preferring to concentrate on my parents and asking about the Singapore scholarship provisions. Then right at the end, they asked me why I wanted to study arts media and why I wasn't interested in engineering. I gave them my reasons. They then told me that theydidn't usually give scholarships for law OR arts, at which point I definitely knew I wasn't getting it. Sure enough, I was right, myapplication was rejected.
Which brings me to my next issue with the current system. TOO many students have absolutely no idea about what they want to study in uni. Too many bright, smart students take the easy option and go for(usually) medicine, engineering and IT. What's worse, a number of students were told specifically by their scholarship provider what course they should be doing, despite the fact they may do better or are more interested in a different course. As a result, there are so many students who may be good at what they're doing but have absolutely no real passion / enthusiasm for their chosen courses - something which in my opinion only serves to encourage the culture ofmediocrity in Malaysia.
I didn't bother with getting a scholarship in the end - my dad [flight instructor, and mum's a former school principal] in the end told me that he had started saving for college since I was born but that he thought a scholarship might ease the burden a bit. He's 59 now and still working to put me through school, something that I'm forever grateful for. But I know I'm lucky and there are many other people who don't have the same opportunities.
As far as I'm concerned, meritocracy simply doesn't exist within the current system. It's not just race-based but class-based as well (too many stories of scholarships given out to children of already wealthy goverment officials). The current policy of encouraging students to enrol in such-and-such courses helps no one either.
Rozanna, I agree with a lot of the points raised and hopefully you'll return back home to help us make the system a little better. I'm a firm believer of the maxim "sikit sikit, lama-lama pun jadi bukit" :)