Saturday, April 15, 2006

Nincompoops @ Public Service Department

With the annual uproar over our Public Service Department's (PSD) scholarship award and allocation process, I was slightly hopeful for a less controversial year, especially with a slightly more active public relations policy in attempting to make it slightly more transparent the evaluation process. But it didn't take long for the first controversy to be highlighted in the papers, whom I'm certain are just lurking like vultures waiting to pounce on PSD in any clear (or even not so clear) cut event of “injustice”.

It was highlighted last Wednesday that a 12 1As disabled student was denied even an interview for a scholarship by the Star.
As the country’s top special-needs student, he was exhilarated that he was one step closer to achieving his ambition of being a lawyer for people with disabilities. And he was looking forward to sharing his hopes and vision at the short-listing interview for the Public Services Department (PSD) scholarships. But he received a letter of rejection instead.

“I am supposedly the top disabled-student in the country. If I don’t get a shot at the PSD scholarship, then what are the chances of other special students?” said Wong, 18, who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dsytrophy, characterised by progressive muscle weakness, and thus requires assistance with physical activities.
One of the official reasons (excuses?) given by PSD, or at least their corporate communications chief, Hasniah Rashid, for Albert's scholarship rejection was...
... [f]or example, we can’t accept a blind student for medicine, as he will not be able to do some of the practical work. We also have to see if the necessary facilities are available in the local preparatory colleges where they will undergo the first stage of the programme (pre-university studies).
To me, while its true that there are indeed limitations to what a disabled person can study, as quoted in the example above. However, by further arguing that Albert will be denied an opportunity to secure a scholarship purely because there may not be the “necessary facilities” at the local preparatory colleges is such a pathetic excuse. To me, it's the simplest thing of all to build disabled facilities, and the hardest thing to come by is talent. Hence if the talent is indeed shown to be available, the such facilities must be build to ensure the talent and potential of the Malaysian is maximised. Read also letters to the Star here and here which highlighted the Governments lack of care for the disabled achievers.

Furthermore the reason given by Pn Hasniah above is invalid in Albert's case for he isn't seeking to study medicine, but instead to study Economics, whereby his disability will be absolutely no bearing. And this brings me to the bit where I think that some of these guys at the PSD are nincompoops. Pn Hasniah absurdly argued that
[i]n Wong’s case... he might have been disadvantaged because he was a pure-science student but had applied for an economics degree for which applicants need at least a 2A in Basic Economics and either Principles of Accounts, Commerce or Entrepreneurship Studies – subjects that he did not take in his SPM exam.
What sort of nonsense is that???

While I'm not a Pure Science student (I took Physics and Chemistry without Biology, but with Geography and English Literature), I certainly did not take Economics for my 'O' Levels (I barely even knew such a subject existed). Without being overly immodest, I dare say that I did extremely well for Economics both in 'A' Levels and at University. It is absolutely unnecessary for students who wishes to read Economics to have prior studies at 'O'-Levels or SPM for Basic Economics, Principles of Accounts, Commerce or Entrepreneurship studies!

Now, if one wants to pursue Medicine studies and they have not been a Pure Science student with Biology as a key subject, I can completely understand the rejection. But for Arts and Social Sciences related degrees where the emphasis is on analytical thinking capabilities and less on technical knowledge, prior studies of any subject is irrelevant!

Who are these civil servants in PSD making these absolutely ridiculous rulings and policies? Do they really know what they are doing at all? These are supposed to be the important people who are supposed to be wise to the ways of higher education and their requirements. The evidence so far points to incompetent fools running the show!

Thankfully, in Albert's case, the media highlighted it and the Cabinet made the decision that he should be supported.
... Cabinet members decided that the country’s top special-needs student, who obtained 12 1As in last year’s examination, should be given due assistance. For a start, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman will meet with Albert and his family as soon as possible to discuss how the Government can best help him pursue his studies.
Like civil servants who run helter skelter to carry out instructions of their superiors “to the letter”, Albert was immediately awarded a scholarship without even having to attend a scholarship interview! As highlighted in the Star today:
PSD Training Division officer Azman Ishak called on Albert at his home here to present him with the offer letter and to explain the terms and conditions of the scholarship to him and his parents. The scholarship covers the remainder of Albert's A-Levels programme at Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU) and a three-year University of London (external programme) Bachelor of Law (LL.B) programme, also at KDU.
Congratulations must go to Albert for securing his scholarship! However, big question marks must be attached to the manner in which PSD carries out its scholarship allocation and award process. In addition, it appears that it's perfectly alright for a pure science student to pursue a career in law, but not okay to study Economics.

Final footnote, particularly to Albert if he sees this post - with all due respect to the University of London external law programme, I'd like to suggest that if he does well for his 'A' Levels, aim higher and apply for the top universities in the United Kingdom or United States. It'll make a world of a difference.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

PSD is so el cheapo....one doesn't have to attend classes for the external program if one doesn't want to.

With albert's 12A1s, he would have gotten a scholarship from KDU to do A-levels. If he decides to do his LLB via the UOL external program, there are numerous non-governmental scholarships available.....so far, ATC kemayan and brickfields college offer the best qoute for tuition support.

Since law is his frote, I think UK is more suitable for him.

Elizabeth said...

If Albert is to read this, I would advice him to apply to the top colleges in USA, that also offer financial aid (and much more generous than JPA scholarships), like Yale, Harvard or Princeton. There are no law programmes, but one can be a pre-law student and major in something else.

Anonymous said...

well, if Albert hopes to return to Malaysia to practise, US is definitely out of the list. UK, Singapore, Australia and NZ are the only choices. UK being the best since you get traditional british law schools.....GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!!!!

I don't think it is easy to enter an American law school if you are a foreigner.........

Anonymous said...

While I am not such a big fan of the JPA myself, (and one who constantly finds 'amusement' in the near-annual 'fiascos' that arise during the JPA scholarship season) I wish to add a few points:

1) unlike previous years, this year JPA had a slight change in policy. They imposed an additional requirement which states that applicants for a certain degree programme need to take certain subjects at SPM. I must admit that this is a little bit unfair, to those who want to 'switch streams'. But I have the nagging feeling that this might be an attempt to 'curb' the high-scoring science students (those with >10 1As) from competing with the art stream students, who may be less academically qualified when it comes to the number of 1As

2) to my knowledge, for the past two years, JPA has stopped sending students abroad to study law. The reason for this is not clear, but perhaps it might be something to do with them not needing so much legal officers.

Based on this, it is indeed laudable that JPA granted Albert's dream to study law...by 'creating' that extra one scholarship for law that it has discontinued since two years ago.

Anonymous said...

I second elizabeth's suggestion. Albert would be a great addition to any one of the top colleges in the United States.

I am seldom convinced by ~18 year olds who say they want to be a doctor or a lawyer (or sometimes, an engineer), when there are plenty other equally interesting and potentially fulfilling career options they are yet to be aware off. If Albert is sure about his decision, fine. Otherwise, go to the US and start as an undecided freshman. Take some math, physics, econ, history, philosophy, poli sci. Chat with the faculty. Take a year or two and then decide if one is still interested in law. At which point he can continue as a pre-law and explore options of US (graduate) or UK (second bachelor) law programs.

(In case of the former, I hope Albert will have the chance to study the Americans with Disabilities Act---generally agreed to be a well-written and implemented law---and perhaps introduce elements of the law back in Malaysia.)

Anonymous said...

Just why is PSD the baddie here? It already stated in the newspaper that he initially chose to pursue his studies in economics. The thing is, he is a pure science student and therefore not eligible for that as he never took economics. Yes, because of his condition, he can't really choose those from the science field either. However, Albert should have read the criteria for each scholarship before applying. It was very clearly stated that those would study economics under the PSD sponsorship must have an A2 in SPM ekonomi. So, he is not denied of a scholarship, he made a mistake in applying. Lets say he knew this all along, perhaps he should have called PSD? Why all the hoo-haa? I'm not trying to be mean here but this what happened. Don't make this thing as if it is PSD's fault.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

JPA selection is done by computer. In the application form is stated the pre-requisite. If you do not have one of them of course the computer will reject it. Also the place where you go is dictate by JPA you only chose your course. They still sent Law student to UK. One on my friend kid just left last year.

Most of us just critized before getting the facts. Although there are loop holes but JPA is still the largest overseas scholarship available for non bumi.

To those who can't afford they are the only hope to pursue an overseas education. Although overseas uni do give some scholarship but you must first do your pre-uni course be it A-levels or other types. Bear in mind all this costs quite a lot. Not everyone can afford. Although local college do give but they are not guarantee till the degree level that include Asean scholarship.

I have friend kid who get Asean scholarship to study Form 1 in Singapore but regret now. At this young age we still do not know the child capability. If he/she cannot perform it will be kick out. And where can you go now. Only private school. How if you can't afford?

We are in Malaysia what can we do? JPA scholarship is still the only hope for the poor Malaysian.

From An Old Man

Tony P said...

The bit where I was upset most about in this particular episode (which incidentally was highlighted by a disabled student), and the bit which I made reference to "nincompoops" at PSD is exactly what Anon 11:39:28 AM and An Old Man referred to - that is an A2 requirement at SPM level to pursue a degree in Economics.

Why is there such a policy? Does it even make sense?

Tony P

Anonymous said...

nus law school is a possibility. Fees are S$ 6 k and the banks there will lend you up to 80 % of your fees.

Anonymous said...

while i do feel sorry for these outstanding students >10As, i feel their immaturity and naivety really shows when they cry afoul when JPA doesn't give them scholarships. the fact is that there are thousands of >10A students these days, and we all know JPA is heavly skewed to help the bumis. it's even written in the constitution of malaysia!

there are many many opportunities outside of JPA. as many have highlighted, top US schools have great financial packages. and in all honesty, i'd prefer to aim for these schools instead of taking a JPA/Petronas ticket to popular UK universities (Manchester, Liv, Sheff, etc.) where yu'll pretty much see large malaysian groups or communities.

besides, i feel JPA should in fact abolish giving scholarships at SPM level. at the most, maybe sponsorships to do pre-U (A-level, STPM, etc.). undergrad scholarships should only be assessed after getting a place at prestigious schools. if they hand these students a silver plate at a young age, and though bright they may be, in the long-run they'll become lazy as they know they'll receive an overseas education regardless.

johnleemk said...

I'm a friend of Albert's, so perhaps I can help clear up some issues on his behalf. First of all, the A Level Economics syllabus doesn't expect any prior knowledge of economics, although it helps. The first thing our economics lecturer told us was that SPM Economics doesn't really matter. So the PSD's excuse for not granting Albert the scholarship is rather disingenuous, and as Tony has said, it should be reviewed. What holds true for the natural sciences does not necessarily hold true for the social sciences. Incidentally (this just being my opinion), I also think it's a bit unfair that Albert got a scholarship for his law degree while other law students are denied. There are at least 30 Pre-Law students in Albert's intake at our college alone, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them might actually have a chance at the scholarship (assuming *cough* the PSD isn't *cough* discriminating). Alas, the PSD does not offer any such scholarships -- unless you're disabled, and manage to raise a fuss about your application for an economics scholarship being rejected. (This is not anything personal about Albert; I just feel that it's not right.)

Oh, and Albert isn't exactly naive about the PSD and possible racism. But can you blame him for doing what he did? After all, didn't he just get the scholarship?

Anonymous said...

To all future hopeful JPA scholar,

whatever policy JPA had, weather it make sense or not we can't do anything. If you want to apply you have to do some homework. Let me relate a case 3 years back. There is a boy who ambition is to become an economists. Because his family is poor, the only way for him to pursue an overseas education is eyeing the JPA scholarship. He is from Science and do not have the pre-requisite subject. His dad does not want him to go to arts because in this country those in arts are usually the not so brilliant and fearing it might pull him down. He has no other alternative but to take extra subject. Finally he got 13A's and was awarded the JPA scholarship.

He apply for UK to read economics(US was not in the list that year because of 911) but was given Australia. He was a bit lucky, as JPA sent him to Taylors for his A-levels. He did very well and obtain 5As. That year you are allow to choose your uni (now you are not, JPA dictate) and he is now in ANU.

He study very hard and score distinction in every exam he took and was invited to the Golden Key International Honour Society. There are at least 2 undergrad. there who had this results. Do you're think they are not qualified for those ivy's in US or Cambridge/Oxford in UK? The reason why there are so few Malaysian there is because they are not given a chance. Actually most non-bumi JPA scholar did very well. I do not agree that Singaporean is smarter than Malaysian just because there are more Singaporean in those ivy as Tony P. had said in one of his earlier post.

Malaysian especially non-bumi can also perform if given a chance. If we want to stay here, there is no alternative but just to follow and do our homework before acting.

From an old man

Anonymous said...

To john leemk, i suppose you are right. In fact i felt the same way as well but what can i say, that(requiring at least A2 in SPM ekonomi for the sponsorship on econs)is the criteria. Yes, it is unfair but what can i say, the media nowadays are so powerful and sometimes distorting. Albert is not denied of any kind of scholarhip, his application does not meet up with the criteria and thus resulting in him not shortlisted for the interview. To tell the truth, i was quite bitter when i read that Albert receive the JPA scholarship. Pardon me if i;m being obnoxious and mean.

Karl said...

Got a point there in lambasting the JPA about the requirements for doing art subject. I guess this means the policy is off next year, well ,what do they except, another thing to repeat next year? But I digress. I do guess it may be Albert's fault a first by not reading the manuals in the JPA website properly before applying. Well, I did, and I can't apply for an Arts course. Next, he did say (from what I read in The Star) that if he succeeds in his application for an Economics scholarship, he wants to change it to Law. I don't know what this implies to you all, but it does tell me he's kind of ignorant. So he's deprived of a scholarship because of his, well, his ignorant I suppose, seems fair to me. And all that media hoo-haa, and he got a law scholarship. Unfair to others, I reckon so. I tell you what, I wanted to apply for International Relations, because I'll only get to study that if JPA grants me that scholarship. Imagine what my oldman will say if I want him to fund me to study that! There's an option called STPM, but I'm not so keen on that. Because of that A2 in Geography requirement, as a science stream student, I can't apply for that. You see, there is a lot of *ahem* SPM scholars like me who is deprive off that scholarship. For JPA to grant that law scholarship, unfair..... As someone would say, why don't you grant scholarships to STPM scholars instead, that'll be easier. There is, but it's local, not overseas. It may not seem pratical. Imagine taking STPM to apply for US Universities. (NO offence to STPM, it's great, but you know)

(Do you realise my comment has no main point? *laughs*)

Then again, that's how life is, have to get use to it....

Elizabeth said...

"Imagine taking STPM to apply for US Universities."
What's wrong with this?

Anyway, johnleemk, do encourage Albert to try his luck at applying to US universities. I believe you are applying for next year's intake too right?

Anonymous said...

To Karl & Elizabeth,

You mention that you are from science stream but how come you take Geography, if you were to take extra subject that means you also did not do your homework. Don't blame others it's your fault. It's always those who can't get make all the hoo-haa. Albert is exceptional because he is handicap, give him a chance.

Also to those in US uni please don't be so proud. There are thousands of Malaysian who are better than you're but only that they don't have the chance. It's only that you're are born with a golden spoon.

Anonymous said...

Albert is exceptional? Does that mean JPA should award him the scholarship that he applied before even when he does not fulfill the criteria? When he decided to take this to the media, the public knew that sooner or later, there will be something for him. There are lots of students out there hoping to get the JPA scholarship, imagine what they feel about this.

Karl said...

My mistake, Elizabeth. What I actually meant to say was UK universities. For instance, if you want to apply for next year's admission, you'll need to apply by this year. IIRC, it's around Sept/Oct. Correct me if I am wrong. Let just say overseas scholarship to UK is granted. Normally STPM results come out around March. The interview this year was april and the results come out around May. UK universities starts around September, while Australians would be January etc etc. Do you all see the problem here. I know there might be another solution, but I'm just listing some I thought might be the barriers to implement the system. By the way, why are you so keen on encouraging people who want to study law to go to the US and take up other subjects?

To anonymous, no I did not take Geography in SPM. And because I didn't, I was automatically disqualified from applying for International Relations. I suppose Albert should be given a chance to study something that JPA didn't offer but was 'offered upon request' by the public (I reckon this is the case)

Mind you, JPA did encourage SPM scholars to not concentrate on applying for Medicine. It did encourage people to apply for Economics or other subjects. Well, I wanted to, Albert did, some others did, some other wanted to, but I reckon all of us (except Mr Alert Wong) didn't get it.

Anonymous said...

JPA scholarship is not that difficult. If you have all A1, chances is above 90% (except medicine). If you follow all the instructions and have all the pre-requisite and don't make mistake in keying your data (online application now)you stand a very good chance. Because selection is by computer a single mistake it will be rejected and don't expect the officer to go through the rejected applicant.

Those who make hoo-haa never admit their mistake. They try to catch people attention and blow up the issue hoping someone will pity them but cover up their mistakes. Either they do not have all A1 or does not have the pre-requisite and start blamming this and that does not make sense. Please don't just believe what you read in the media. They are also some who apply those course that JPA do not offer. Also please do not expect JPA to give you if your parent J form is above 100K.

If you have all these your chances is very good if not MCA will help you.

Anonymous said...

To Karl,

JPA did offer Law to UK. Please ask Mr. Thou Kok Cheng, A-levels programme director of Taylors, how many JPA scholar went to UK last year. Get your facts right first.

Because Albert is handicap and I don't think he can get a visa, JPA only send him to do an external programme locally. Of course it is also Albert mistake by not doing his home work.

Anonymous said...

UK is not that bad, as internationals, we can submit our applications slightly later than home/EU students(except for Oxbridge and medicine). If one is aiming for popular courses at popular schools, eg economics at LSE, engineering at Imperial, one should submit the application before 15 of January of every year.

I wouldn't encourage anyone who really wants to do law to apply to the States. What if one fails to get into law school? what if the person wants to come home and all? The american Law degree is not recognised in Malaysia.

JPA does not offer law every year, one should check their advertisement.

Karl said...

I was refering to this year's JPA scholarship, not last year. There's no law scholarship this year. And by the way, in case you didn't know, anyone accepted for the scholarship will have to take their Pre-U in INTEC UiTM. The ones taking Pre-U programmes in private colleges will have to cancel it.

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily at INTEC, JPA can put you anywhere, from INTEC to Taylor's to KMB.

Anonymous said...

To Karl,

Some1 doing STPM actually got into Cambridge and Cornell this year you know?

Anonymous said...

I think Karl was relating to the JPA-STPM implementation.

Albert's Family Friend said...

To johnleemk, I would say that what your comment that other people failing to get scholarship to take law from JPA as unfair unlike Albert is a mistake . The true reason JPA was effectively forced by the PM to give him the law scholarship is because there are not many choices for effectively paralysed people like him to study. Sciences are totally out of the question. Furthermore, people like him can only take jobs that require extremely basic psychomotor movements. We also need a 24 hour caretaker. They should be given scholarships for whatever study field they choose if they obtain excellent results. Give them a break for goodness sake, they go through a lot of adversity. Expecting them compete on a level playing field despite being severely disadvantaged is just adding insult to injury. It is not right to complain that JPA only gives Albert a law scholarships just because he is disabled. Gives them at least more chances to achieve their dreams because their chances in this world is already truly limited. Maybe I suggest everyone should more about disabled rights. All of you should also note that the article in The Star was meant to highlight
discrimination against the disabled instead of forcing JPA to give Albert a scholarship but things turned out differently for the sake of damage control. The good thing is these set of events have set a precedent for future excellent disabled pupils.

Anonymous said...

Sciences out of the picture?

How about Stephen Hawking?

Anonymous said...

Many students with 12 1A in SPM 2005 were not call for interview by JPA. Many apply for non critical course like Accounting and they took accounting in SPM with 1A.

Some were offered ASEAN scholarship but not call for JPA interview.
Some good students reject by JPA but now studing CAT and ACCA and won world prize in CAT and ACCA and Malaysia prize. Can JPA accounting score world first prize in ACCA or even Malaysia first prize in CAT/ACCA.
Do JPA take in good and capable students for their scholarships and does meritocracy ...works...??