Friday, June 10, 2005

Pak Lah Promises Scholarship for Top Students

As scripted, the nice little soap opera blogged here and here of our top students denied Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships is coming to an end. In all likelihood, the "attempts" by some bloggers to promote scholarships from our neighbour down south by providing the convenient application URL is foiled. As reported in the Star today:
Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) top scorers denied scholarships by the Public Services Department (PSD) can heave a sigh of relief, as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has intervened.
Of course, our civil service "yang mengikut perintah" will now obediently offer all the fortunate candidates whose names have been published in the various local newspapers over the past couple of days their scholarships for, in all probability, any course they wish. Our Minister of Education, Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein also pledged to do his part:
Hishammuddin also showed his determination when he said: "You can tell them that I am fighting for them. You can tell them that their names are embedded in my mind. I have asked (Deputy Education Minister) Datuk Hon Choon Kim to get all their particulars."
So, the upset students will get their scholarships, the politicians will bask in glory and the media will be proud of the role they played in the entire episode. A Malaysian fairy tale comes to a "happy ever after" ending... or not?

Some serious questions need to be asked, and the implications of the above (oft repeated exercise) needs to be raised:
  1. Why does it take our Prime Minister to discharge his "powers" before the "right" things are done for simple and fairly routine exercise of awarding scholarships to our most promising students? Is our system so screwed up that everything needs to go to our Prime Minister to right the wrongs? It's no wonder Pak Lah has little time for some of the more important issues facing the country.

  2. This is the question which everyone will be asking - will the same soap opera routine be repeated in subsequent years as it has in previous? Will the lesson be learnt? Do we have to set up a Royal Commission to Reform our PSD? The actions of PSD, whether intended or otherwise, seriously damages the efforts of our leaders to enhance national integration - undoing the millions spent for example, on National Service.

  3. More importantly, what about the negative implication of our Prime Minister's intervention? While I expect most top students to receive scholarships, it's not necessary that all top students receive them. I would never award scholarships to candidates who are too big-headed, who demonstrates anti-social behaviours or opinions such as being a racist, or candidates who intend to obtain the scholarship to study overseas and subsequently have zero intentions on returning home. However, with the Prime Minister's intervention, which civil servant "yang mengikut perintah" would dare to risk his career by persisting in not awarding the scholarship to aw "top student"? In fact, a potential negative development to avoid controversy, the "bosses" of PSD may decide that "all" top students will be awarded scholarships irregardless rendering the interview exercise all but a formality, with the sole objective of avoiding controversy.

  4. Finally, every protective parent worth his salt will start cultivate relationships with every press and media person in order to have the necessary connections to raise a ruckus, just in case that his son or daughter is "unjustly" treated by scholarship authorities. Why is that not necessarily a good thing? For one, it then becomes the media who decides the fate of whether a candidate obtains a scholarship, and not rightfully, the PSD.
Ok, that's enough "ranting" for a slow-moving Friday afternoon. The Prime Minister's office really needs to look at how our education policies and system can be reformed to meet so many of the objectives that are stated by Pak Lah's administration. Without adequate reform, many of the various piecemeal measures such as National Service, teaching Maths & Science in English, teaching of mother tongue in national-type schools (all of which I support) will not be effective.


YT Kuah said...

Beneath all this is the very question of the definition of a "top student". It would seem that having all A1s would assure scholarships will fall your way. What I would like to point out is that scholarships should be allocated based on whether the applicant is able to succeed at university and further in their professional career(as well). At the SPM stage, how would you be able to distinguish between a person with perfect grades and one with slightly less quality grades? How can we be sure if we can pick the one who can better in their proffesion of choice?

We should STOP this obsession with As! Sure it is an important deteminer but it is not the catch-all. And yeah, there are way more other careers in life other then doctors and accountants. Choose your passion (including medical and accountancy)!

Anonymous said...

There are few conclusions that one can make out of all these yearly scholarship fiasco -

1. The scholarship award system is prejudiced, based on race. Have you heard of Malays having multiple A's not getting scholarship? Meritocracy is definately not one of the criteria.
I think everyone knows this very well.

2. Scholarship award is based on connection. As with all things involving government (even private sector) who you know is more important than what you know. This again is well known fact.

3. The person in PSD handling it or the system need to be overhauled.

Is there a political will to change the PSD scholarship ward system? I doubt it. So the yearly circus will continue till change in government.


narrowband said...

Kuah has a point. Some with really good SPM results end up doing not-so-well in university.

Interesting, healthy discussion you've got here.

Anonymous said...

Old man Posting:Mercury News, Mon, Jun. 13, 2005

Apple CEO challenges Stanford graduates

By Lisa M. Krieger

Mercury News

One of the world's most famous college dropouts spoke to Stanford graduates on Sunday, telling tales of lessons learned far outside classroom walls.

Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple Computer at age 21 while his former classmates at Reed College were dutifully typing term papers, urged the roughly 5,000 students at Stanford Stadium to seek a path less traveled.

``Your time is limited. Don't waste it living someone else's life,'' Jobs said in his commencement speech to the crowd. ``Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.''

The CEO of Apple Computer, which he co-founded in 1976, described his personal crises: quitting school, getting fired from Apple and being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, when he was only 49.

Each failure led to a later success, he said.

``You can't connect the dots, looking forward. . . . You have to trust that the dots will all connect in the future,'' said Jobs, who wore sandals and jeans under his robe.

He has since been successfully treated for cancer. His company Pixar Animation Studios, which he co-founded in 1986 when he was forced out of Apple, has earned two Academy Awards. And he's back at Apple, where stock is surging on the popularity of its iPod digital music player.

It was a happy theme for a day that celebrated accomplishment. Giddy with excitement, graduates danced and strutted across the green field in the bright morning sun.

Some, dressed in little more than swimsuits, sunscreen and caps -- sans gowns -- tossed Frisbees. Others donned iPod mini costumes over their robes and shouted, ``Steve, hire me!''

Waving in the bleachers were hordes of cardinal-colored fans -- families, friends and alumni, from the very old in wheelchairs to the very young in strollers.

There was old money, the linen-clad mothers and fathers in faded khakis and blazers.

There was new money, with expensive electronics dangling around their necks. And there was the great in-between, representing the vast diversity of the Class of '05 -- half the graduates are members of minority groups, representing 42 countries and all 50 states.

Some families came to celebrate continuity.

``My daughter was accepted at Harvard, but she knew in her heart that Stanford was the right place for her, and she was right. It's been a phenomenal education,'' said Medora Douden Mayne -- Class of 1970. Her husband graduated from Stanford Law School in 1972, and her daughter Elizabeth was awarded a degree in biology.

Others celebrated attainment.

Arriving in Palo Alto from Ghana, the large extended family of graduates Taiwo and Kehinde Ajayi came to share the day. The women, who are twins, follow in the footsteps of their elder sister Toyin Ajayi, an '02 alumna.

``I'm so proud of them,'' said mother Jumoke, originally from Nigeria. One sister is traveling back to Africa on a Fulbright scholarship; the other has a job offer with a major consulting firm.

Surveying the crowd, Jobs said, ``This is the closest I've ever gotten to college graduation.''

``Sometimes life will hit you like a brick,'' he cautioned. ``You've got to find what you love. Do what you believe is great work.

``If you haven't found it, keep looking,'' he said. ``Don't settle.''