Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Perennial Scholarship Controversy

PSD scholarships – to scrap or not to scrap
SAT, 26 JUN 2010 06:11

By Ken Vin Lek

KUALA LUMPUR: Every year around the months of May and June, hundreds of “straight A” SPM students receive the news of not being offered the “illustrious” Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship.

Thousands of complaints are made by various parties, the issue becomes politicised and many people start crying out about the injustice and inequality existing in the system of allocating scholarships.

Recently, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced that PSD scholarships would be phased out over time, and he was promptly supported by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Nazri Aziz, who said that the move is an effort to “reduce brain drain” and that the government “lacked capacity” to fund students.

FMT has made an indepth study into the arguments surrounding the PSD scholarship issue, and we leave it to the public to make up their mind on what’s right and what’s wrong.

Many parties have questioned the suitability of using the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) as a benchmark for PSD scholarships.

PJ Utara MP, Tony Pua, questioned the process of awarding scholarship at SPM level and instead suggested that students be picked based on their pre-university qualifications.

“The problem now is, we have too many top scorers for only 1,500 scholarships on offer. We should use pre-university qualifications as the benchmark as it is of a higher threshold and students would have then gained admission into top-class universities.”

“What we are doing now is, we are pre-determining whether one is suitable for courses like Medicine and Law based on the SPM results without the students receiving any offers from universities to pursue these subjects,” he added.

Pua also criticised Nazri for linking the phasing-out of scholarships to an effort to reduce the brain drain.

“It is nonsense to say that phasing out scholarships can actually reduce the brain drain. We all know foreign institutions are capable of developing talented leaders in their various fields,” he said.

For full article with in-depth analysis, click here.


Xenotzu said...

Interesting topic. Maybe this article which is an outsider's view of Malaysian education and who is making money from Malaysians. Excerpt from The Time Higher Education Supplement ( dated 30 July 2009.

"In 2000, the country had 16 universities and 15 polytechnics. By 2008, it had 35 universities, 37 polytechnics and 24 university colleges. Over the same period, student numbers rose from 664,000 to 873,000.

However, the report adds that Malaysia's public universities face problems. Positive-discrimination policies instituted in the early 1970s to support the native ethnic-Malay majority have led to race-based admissions quotas in public universities. This has meant that "universities have had to accept some Malay students even if technically they are not of the required standard", the report says.

In addition, "a sense of entitlement has bred complacency among Malay students", affecting their employability - there were 60,000 unemployed public university graduates in 2007.

The report adds that "Malaysia's public university system has been crippled by space constraints, a lack of financing and poor quality".

These problems have encouraged students to seek university courses outside the public sector - either abroad or among the growing ranks of private institutions at home.

The report says: "The UK is ... considered the most prestigious destination for Malaysian students. Much of this is owing to a cherished colonial legacy.

"The UK university 'brands' are more highly regarded than Australia's or even most of those of the US."

Anonymous said...

Malaysia needs more economists turned bankers and corporate lawyers to enforce law and order. More scholarship funding should be allocated to these two critical fields.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad the way our education system is going and that the dilution of standards are to bring up the masses to a certain level. It is like saying we can bring every one up to Form 5 by setting the bar lower to Form 3 thus making everyone Form 5 material. Rather much like what polys and colleges did in the UK and US. In the end it is the nation that suffers the ripple effect of not producing outstanding candidates to champion causes for the country and to bring it into the 21st Century. Too often the blame game comes into the picture, if you aren't from a place like Duke or Oxford you are not a player.

puella said...

Slashing PSD scholarships isn't going to help the brain drain. Singapore already gives out scholarships to Malaysian students to go to polytechs and universities, and most stay on and do not return unless it's for a holiday. You are treated better, and earn more money abroad.

People will just leave to where they're able to get the education they want.

As for myself, I wasn't able to obtain a scholarship, thanks to the 100% regurgitation system practiced by the country.

I'm grateful that my family were able to send me abroad, and I did graduate with a degree in Classics and English Literature (try applying for a PSD scholarship in that in Malaysia!), and am continuing with a postgrad in Classics thanks to a student loan in NZ.

I'd be more than happy to stay back in Malaysia but it seems that the country isn't interested in what I'm doing so ... goodbye!

Anonymous said...

Remembered that a post was done about UTAR sometime back. Well to update their lecturers who are will willing to supervise PhDs do it more for jointly collaborating writing journal articles than actually aiding the candidate with the PhD. So this explains why the price is so low but the catch is you have to write tonnes of papers without semblance of graduating.

Anonymous said...

Coming back to the PhD comment at UTAR what is really more hilarious is that the facilitators are so reliant on their notes that they scribble tiny ineligible notes on the white board so that you would think you are studying rocket science. After saying one candidate has passed his assignment the next week will be met by consternation that the candidate hasn't passed his. Further, to ask for a date with the supervisors is like asking for a date with an emperor as his or her highness is always busy as they have to teach day and nights.Further one facilitator mentioned that 1/3 will pass and 2/3 will fail their PhD which means it might be a waste of time pursuing such a program even if it means RM3,500 for the whole program so long as it is within a certain number of years. Otherwise, the duration might take longer and more installments which makes it sound like protection monies.

Anonymous said...

The stipulation by MOHE that facilitators and professors must write papers now has jeopardized the welfare of postgraduate candidates unless the supervisor is kind and empathetic. Otherwise, the candidate is just seen first as a vessel to do the professor's work, two extra income if there is hanky panky, three discouraged from pursuing his or her topic and asked to do something wayward from what the candidate intended to do just because the professor has no clue what he is talking about. Usually, most professors here are quantitative and dislike qualitative work for fear of being challenged later or revealed that knowledge in that area is sparse.

Another excuse of our supervisors is it is the candidates own work so don't expect the supervisor to help out in supervising the work. Well it is just like saying insure your car with me but don't expect it to be covered if it breaks down. What a joke. Talk about passing the buck and non-professionalism of supervisors in the nation who is trying to create world class universities.

Education jobs said...

I just hope that the government of Malaysia will make a wise decision on this matter.

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