Thursday, June 09, 2005

Top Scorers Fail to Get Scholarships (II)

A nice little predictable drama is unfolding as the furious response from the community hits the media and relevant government agencies with regards to the issue of top scorers failing to obtain scholarships from PSD as reported in the Star yesterday and blogged here.

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:

“... 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.

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:

...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,
62502 Putrajaya

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.


vincent said...

Family background is a nice way of putting things. It is actually the criteria of whether their parents can afford overseas studies. A JPA applicant has to submit a copy of both his parents' J form.

Anonymous said...

Can I just ask something?

This is more related to last year's case than this year's case, but...

Why on Earth do ALL the top scorers want to do MEDICINE?!?!

Do they honestly want to do Medicine or are they just doing it because it was expected of them?

Why not do some other subject? There are tons of things to learn in this world.

That really ticked me off when I heard about it and I never quite figured it out.

B*B, Tiara
Login not working for me o_O

Anonymous said...

Tiara, haven't you figure it out yet.. 98% of all scholarship students that come from a not so well-off family background has a family culture that reinforced to their children what are the stereotypical successful career professions to take up, make the family proud, move up on the social ladder = money (stability), repay back the family's hardship in bringing them up. Don't tell me, if your family is poor poor, if you have a choice between being a musician or to be a lawyer, you wouldn't feel the pressure in making the "right decision?" Those who are from well-off family usually have more options to choose something they really like to do, provided their family culture permits it.

Old Man

Anonymous said...

OLDMAN says - This should be an interesting read with some more details than what I have posted earlier elsewhere:

Stanford Report, June 12, 2005
After traditional Commencement antics, Jobs imparts straightforward advice


Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks—including death itself—at the university's 114th Commencement on Sunday in Stanford Stadium.

Wearing jeans and sandals under his black robe, Jobs delivered a keynote address that spanned his adoption at birth to his insights into mortality after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year ago. In plainspoken terms, his address struck a balance between the obstacles he has encountered during his notably public life and the lessons he has gleaned—from, for example, his high-profile ousting in 1985 from the computer company he helped start.

"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me," Jobs said. "It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life."

The 2005 Commencement proceeded with its familiar mix of the goofy and the formal: Graduates attached plush animals to their caps and carried body-length flotation devices onto the field for the Wacky Walk. This traditional kickoff to the ceremony was once again a flurry of wild wigs, rock-star shades, feather boas and a few Speedo swim trunks.

Also sighted was a procession of walking iPods, several balloon floats, spray-painted umbrellas and one group that unfurled a volleyball net and spontaneously started to play. Another group blitzed the field with boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and still another pranced down the track in tutus and ape masks.

But calm was restored once the graduates took their seats and the Rev. Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life, delivered the opening invocation. President John Hennessy then welcomed the estimated 23,000 people in the stadium and, after a presentation of faculty, staff and student awards by Provost John Etchemendy, returned to the podium to introduce the keynote speaker.

Hennessy said Jobs embodied the university's spirit, its "willingness to be bold and strike out in new directions." Hennessy also touched on Jobs' reputation as an innovator, a visionary and an advocate for education who developed partnerships during Apple's earliest days to get computers into schools and communities.

Jobs began by rehashing the fact that he dropped out of college, and that Sunday's ceremony was the closest he had ever gotten to a university graduation. He then launched into the first part of his address, which focused on having faith that the dots of one's life will connect down the road, even if the journey so far has not followed a clear pattern.

Jobs said his biological mother was an unwed graduate student who had planned to have him adopted. She had chosen a professional couple to be the adoptive parents, but because they wanted a girl, he was adopted by a husband and wife who didn't have college degrees, Jobs said.

They pledged to send the boy to college, and when the time came, he chose Reed College in Portland, Ore. But because all of their savings was going toward his tuition, Jobs dropped out and began taking courses that interested him instead of those that were required—such as a calligraphy course that later inspired him to design different fonts in the first Macintosh.

"Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward," Jobs said. "You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

Jobs also talked about love and loss, and how he discovered what he wanted to do in life at an early age. He was 20 years old when he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple, which in 10 years grew into a $2 billion company with 4,000 employees. After his departure from Apple, Jobs went on to found NeXT Software Inc., which was subsequently bought by Apple in 1997—returning him to the company that got him started.

"I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple," Jobs said. "I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did."

The last part of his speech was about death. When he was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, Jobs said doctors expected him to live no longer than six months. He had surgery not long after and has since recovered, but the experience nonetheless taught him another lesson.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life," Jobs said. "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."

After a standing ovation, Hennessy brought the ceremony to a close with remarks that honored Jane Stanford—this year being the centennial of her death. The graduates of each school were then asked by their deans to stand for the conferral of degrees by Hennessy.

"I just can't believe that I got here," said Farah Giga, who graduated with a bachelor's degree with honors in computer science. "This makes five all-nighters in a row totally worth it."

Kateri Jones sat among family members who came from all over California and Colorado for her daughter, Dyani Jones, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in human biology. One of the biggest achievements, her mother said, was just getting to this point.

"I just think it's a remarkable accomplishment to get through this school," she said. "Just the challenge of being here.