The PSD public relations machinery kicked into action with a statement from Pn Hasniah Rashid as published in the Star today. "Concerned" political leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional component parties make their appeal to the PSD.
I was initially quite impressed with the statement released by PSD. It was fairly well constructed and well thought out:
These are all potentially valid reasons. After all, there are more good students than there are scholarships. But then as I read more carefully, I saw an apparently innocuous statement in the release. Pn Hasniah mentioned that:
“... due to fierce competition, particularly for medicine, there will be those who won’t be awarded the scholarships,” she said in an interview here yesterday.
“Our main constraint, when awarding these scholarships, is the limited number of awards that we give out each year,” said Hasniah.
“We called 4,580 candidates for interviews and offered scholarships to 1,265 who were the best among those academically excellent students,” she said, adding that for medicine 1,189 candidates had named it as their first choice while only 322 places were allotted for the course.
...applicants were allotted points according to their academic achievement in the SPM as well as their extra-curricular activities, family background and performance during interviews with the department.Errr... Pn Hasniah, may I ask what has "family background" got to do with whether a person receives a scholarship or not? What exactly is the criteria used for "family background"? Is it the family's wealth, connections, race, occupation, political contributions, social status, political affiliations or even for that matter, the number of siblings? What weightage is accorded to "family background" when awarding their evaluation points; is it 5% or is it 50%, or it's discretionary - up to the interviewers? Pn Hasniah revealed that:
Even a half-point matters when students apply for the prestigious Public Services Department scholarships, especially in competitive courses like medicine.Did the "half-point" that mattered stem from "family background"?
The Penang state government has made their position known that they are making the appeal on behalf of the Penangites. Bernama reports:
The Penang government will appeal to the PublicServices Department (PSD) to reconsider its rejection of applications forscholarships by three students in the state who scored 13A1s in the SijilPelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination last year.
So now, every state is going to make an appeal for all their "top" students who fail to secure their PSD scholarships? According to Jeff Ooi's Screenshots:
Two other national top scorers in SPM, namely Khaw Chok Tong (12 1As) from Pahang and Chew Ying Dee (13 1As) from Perlis, were also rejected by the JPA scholarship committee. Similarly, Ang Nooi Huay (12 1As) from SMJK Keat Hwa, Kedah, was another failure in the hands of the JPA. Reasons unknown.
And from yesterday's Star report:
... other top students who were rejected included Pahang’s top student Khaw Chok
Tong (who scored 12 1As)
Of course, as it scripted, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) jumps into the fray right on cue. In Sin Chew Jit Poh today, our first deputy Minister of Education, YB Dato' Hon Choon Kim offered to communicate the top students' appeals to JPA and requested the students to write in to:
Pejabat Timbalan Menteri Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia,
Aras 9,Blok E8,Parcel E, Presint 1,
Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan,
Phone：(03) 88846040 Fax：(03) 88894755
Similarly, the President of MCA as well as our Minister of Housing & Local Government, YB Dato' Seri Ong Ka Ting offered his office's assistance as well.
Everyone now wants to be a hero. If only all the relevant authorities have taken greater concerns to reform the system earlier, without having to wait for the "crisis" to strike before rushing to the forefront to help.
Guess what? All these students will probably receive their scholarships after the appeals. The pressure place by our Fourth Estate (the media) today is overwhelming. PSD will award the scholarships upon appeal by the various parties to avoid further controversy and embarassment. The authorities will then proclaim that they have performed their duties for the rakyat. But watch this space, same time next year - the story will just repeat itself all over again. Sigh.