Monday, May 19, 2008
JPA scholarships not a right
It is not often that I would agree with the JPA in regard to its policies. But I have to agree with the recent statement by PSD Director-General Tan Sri Ismail Adam in a recent Star report. According to the DG, JPA scholarships are a privilege rather than a right and more and more competition should be expected as more and more students are taking 12 or more SPM subjects.
According to the figures given by the JPA, the number of overseas scholarships offered by the JPA has increased from 748 in 2000 to an estimated 2000 in 2008. The overall number of JPA scholarships have also increased from 4511 in 2000 to 12,000 in 2008 (including local scholarships).
I have already expressed my view that the overseas JPA scholarships give us too poor a return on investment. 2000 JPA overseas scholarships at a conservative 200,000RM a scholarship will cost us 400RM million per year. And I would guess that less than 5% of these students come back to work for the government proper (not including Petronas and the other GLCs).
In contrast, you could fund 5 local scholarships for every one overseas scholarship and these students are much more likely to stay and work in Malaysia compared to those with overseas scholarships.
I think there should be a scaling back of expectations which says that if you score 10A1s or more for your SPM, you should be guaranteed an overseas scholarship to do whatever course you want to do. It doesn't make financial sense. From a comparative perspective, it is also unprecedented. No where else in a developing country would you expect this kind of guarantee. Even in Singapore, there is no guarantee that if you score 4As and above in your A levels, you must be given an overseas scholarship by the Singapore government.
There are ample local scholarships which a student with good results can apply to including the JPA local scholarships which it guarantees will be given to students with 9As or more for their SPM as well as private colleges.
This is not to say that the process of awarding the JPA scholarships cannot be improved. While I don't agree with MIC secretary-general Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam, who is also the Human Resources Minister, that students scoring 10A1s or more in their SPM should be given a JPA overseas scholarship, I do agree with him that the process should be made more transparent including releasing information in regard to the quality of the students who receive these scholarships (as well as how many of them return back to Malaysia to work and where they work). This way, JPA can clear at least some doubts about how the scholarships are awarded. (BTW, I don't think that all JPA scholars score 13A1s and above as asserted by the JPA Director)
Some of our readers have brought up the issue of grade inflation and students being pressured to take additional SPM subjects. I think this issue should be examined as well including putting an upper limit as to how many SPM subjects a student can take.
In the meantime, we should try to contain our expectations about getting these scholarships just because we managed to score 10A1s or more in our SPM.