Monday, March 27, 2006

Scholarships Reform

According to the Public Service Department's (PSD) corporate communications chief Hasniah Rashid, 15,388 applications had been received by the Wednesday closing date. This was reported in the Star Education Supplement yesterday.

There are however, only some 1,300 scholarships available. Hence that works out to a 8.4% chance of success. Note also that there were 945 straight As students for SPM last year, of who 448 scored straight 1As. These numbers don't include those who actually had like, 12 1As and 1 3B in their results. Or even the top student who wasn't a top student with 15 1As and 1 2A.

Hence, it will not be a surprise if there were going to be some hoo-haa sometime later when the scholarship shortlists are announced. With some 14,000 "top" students missing out, there are bound to be more than a couple of hundred who will feel aggrieved.

And with the slightly more transparent evaluation system (its still fairly opaque, but more transparent than before) where PSD has announced the key criteria being academic performance (65%), interview performance (15%), extra-curricular activities (10%) and family background (10%), be prepared for some of these 10 1As performers to fail in their quest for a scholarship.

Without going into the ability of our PSD to execute the interviews and evaluation in a fair and transparent manner by giving them the benefit of the doubt, the "aggrieved" outcome which will be experienced by many is practically and realistically unavoidable. The nature by which the scholarship awards are being carried out is a clear-cut case of recipe for public relations disaster. From this perspective, I do not envy the task which PSD or its Public Relations department has in hand.

Soon enough, as per previous years, despite being managed a tad better for the current year, journalists will seek out top scoring academics individuals who failed to land a scholarship and make their case, justified or otherwise, heard nationwide. Some will have valid reasons for being bitter, while others are just cry-babies with parents who think the world of them.

Why the hell would the government want to go through this mess every single year especially when elements of it has "inevitability" painted all over it, no matter how fair and transparent the PSD eventually becomes. And with the number of top scoring students increasing on a yearly basis at a faster rate the scholarships are available, PSD is fightly a losing battle.

I say, scrap the award of scholarships for university studies for post-SPM students. Besides the fact that it'll save the government a lot of unnecessary PR headaches, the move will have plenty of other valid reasons supporting it as well.

For one, SPM is probably too early a stage to be deciding if one is deserving of a scholarship to be sponsored for studies overseas. There are many real and practical reasons why SPM is the wrong yardstick for evaluation:

- SPM rightly or wrongly, do not yet fully test the critical thinking and analytical faculties of the students. One is able to score As because one is truly smart, or because one memorises pre-written essays. I would say that STPM is a better barometer for students' intelligence and their ability to cope with more difficult principles and concepts, which powerful memory capabilities will find it harder to compensate.

- And as per the above, that would be one of the reasons why there are just so many SPM top scorers with 448 scoring straight 1As. There are if I'm not wrong, only 20 students with straight 5As in STPM, with another 427 scoring 4As. With fewer "top scorers", scholarship outcomes will often be less controversial. For with less students' pool to evaluate, the risk of total subjectivity in the interview process will be significantly lower.

Top students for SPM should instead be offered just a 2 year pre-university scholarship at the top local schools to enhance their ability to perform further, whether for STPM, 'A' Levels or even Matriculation. These scholarships will hence cost a lot less, and more top SPM students will a cut of these scholarships. After all, I find the process of allocating the RM1 million per student for medicine courses to a SPM student a almost a pure lottery and may not be the most the best of choices.

I think the above proposal is seriously worth some serious thoughts by the various Government agencies.


Anonymous said...

all those who fail in getting a scholarship from JPA should seriously consider applying for the asean scholarship.

Anonymous said...

Tony, correction on the number of straight As students, there are more than 4,400 students with straight As, out of which 945 achieved straight 1As for the 2005 SPM. Plus thousands more with more than 10 1As plus one or 2 Bs....Thus, I agree with you on the part that you do not do not envy the task which PSD or its Public Relations department has in hand.
As mentioned by you that comparatively there are less straight As in STPM, this could be due to that after SPM, most of the top scorers have pursued other pre-U courses, 1,300 students would have been awarded the PSD scholarship,some could have gone down south after receiving the ASEAN scholarship.Others could have opted for A levels, IB. ADP or SAM and so on....
Correct me if I am wrong, those who have been awarded the PSD scholarship after SPM do not go to U directly, they have to go through the usual pre-U courses, be it A levels or ADP and they have to excel and achieve good results and have to be accepted by the respective Universities for courses given.
Agree with Toru that all those who fail in getting the scholarship from PSD, there are other scholarships to go for, e.g ASEAN, Petronas, Telecom and some private U also provide scholarships.
Good luck and all the best to all high achievers..............
To those who score lesser As, this is not the end, be street smart and carry on.... Success in life does not merely count on the number of As one has but on how one lives his life. When "THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH GET GOING".

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Tony on this issue. Scholarships should be given out to people who got into prestigious universities, not post-SPM.

A few years ago a girl got into Stanford but couldnt afford it. WTF man. And we have a LARGE portion of princeoftheland PSD holders getting into 2nd tier universities like U Ohio, Indiana... and ilk. Whats the point of this? They go there and stick together, speak in their own language, remain in their culture... where is the culture assimilation and such?

Though I do not deny that a substantial amount of PSD holders have gotten into top universities too, a simple publication of statistics will reveal that most do not.

In fact, a lot of the people who scored strings of As have the normal dream of going to uk for medicine. If u ask where " err... UK laa" . How ? " scholarships le hopefully". What makes u think u will get? " i got 10A1 maaa" . What happens if u dont get? " errr.... "

Worse still are the majority of the people going to the US from INTEC. Friends from there have told me that the majority dont know anything about the USA except harvard. They dont know about SATs, TOEFL, etc. Then a lot of the princeofthelanders get terrible scores in the SATs too, and ultimately end up in 2nd tier unis.

Hence the people who didnt get the PSD scholarships who manage to get into top US universities end up working there and never returning. And then the government starts bitching about their unpatrioticness. Wonderful.

Revamp the freaking system.

As for toru, people taking the ASEAN scholarship should also have a proper plan. It might not be a wise choice if u r just an averagely smart guy, because u would ultimately end up as an average person there, and directly screwin up your chances for US unis in the percentiles placement. But it would be good in a sense that if u think "anywhere as long as not bolehland". Dont take me wrong though, a lot of people had goneto great places from the opportunity given by the ASEAN scholarship, including those running this blog. :D. But, do have a concrete plan. A friend of mine is now suffering because she isnt doing that well there despite being a top student at DU in her secondary years. And shes realising that her aims of getting into a US unis are severely affected now, and the frequent breakdowns arent helping too. :p

Then again, the grass is always greener on the other side for most people.

Anonymous said...

Being and ASEAN scholar downsouth is not as easy as ABC. I think both Tony and Kian Ming experienced it before. And i think Tony had blogged about it before as well. For those high achievers thinking of leaving bolehland, read what Tony wrote and be prepared!

Anonymous said...

It sucks to see the girl who made it into Stanford but couldn't afford to pay.........

I got an offer to read physics at Imperial and since it is a universal truth that Imperial does not come cheap, I have specifically written to Petronas and UEM and guess what?.....Petronas said it only offers scholarships to those who did their SPM in 2005, they did not even bother to say anything else besides wishing the best for my future endeavours.....UEM, a philosophical talk about them training future managers and professionals at the very beginning of the scholarship program, as such is unable to consider 'outsiders' like me.....

Thinking of approaching JPA or the Ministry of Science but by looking at how things are run, I don't think I stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

Uhh... for the uninitiated, it's pretty easy to get into the US top-tier universities (ie. Stanford, Cornell, MIT, etc.) if you're willing to pay full fees. So, for the girl who made it into Stanford but didn't have money, if she was REALLY good, she would have gotten a scholarship from Stanford. (I myself received acceptance from a top-tier university, but without any financial aid. I went to a 2nd tier university instead with a scholarship. No regrets at all.)

For myself, I believe that your undergraduate degree doesn't necessitate a degree from a fantastic institution. If you can get into MIT/Caltech/Stanford/whatever for your undergrad with a full scholarship, go for it! However, paying full fees at these institutions for 4 years is not cost effective (if you take a loan to go to these institutions, you will rarely make so much more out of them to make it worth it).

Most people would do their undergrad at a 2nd tier institution, then do their graduate studies at a premier university. It's easier to get funding at the graduate level, since there are assistantships available, and graduate study gives you more interaction with your professors, which is why you're paying so much money in the first place :)

Elizabeth said...

Uhhh... for the uninitiated (eg Andrew), Stanford isn't need blind for international students. Neither is Cornell. True, other universities are (Yale, Harvard, etc), but not Stanford.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (who had problems w/ uem-petronas).

Well, if you can find loan/funding for the degree - forget about the scholarships (those w/ bond). The pays around London & international cities are high enough that you can pay back your education from the savings of a competitive salary within 2 years. Provided if you are competitive enough to get those places though.

Compare this with 6-10 years bond from those companies...

Anonymous said...


MIT is need blind for internationals.

might think about doesn't matter if one gets bonded to A* star for 6 years.........

Anonymous said...

Dear lyl..

People like to make generalization..but I believe those who posted their opinions in here should at least argue with some well documented/relevant facts.

I studied at INTEC (previously known as PPP) for my AAD program and I am pleased to inform that we do know about US etc.

Anonymous said...

dear anon @ Tue Mar 28, 05:10:14 PM,

I've met a lot of ppl from INTEC who often complain "If I had known earlier laaaa " etc ilk about resources. While I do know that there of course exists people like you who do know, I'm just saying a large amount of them do not... or at least most of the people I met from there. :p

sorry if you felt offended... im just pissed at a wrong system.

Chen Chow said...

I would say that in terms of INTEC, it would not be fair to say that the program is not giving out good information.

Over the past few years, there are INTEC students at almost all, if not all of the top tier universities: Caltech, MIT, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell (at least 15 from INTEC have made it to Cornell in the past few years) etc

Anonymous said...

Total agreement with what is said.

SPM is for babies, at least after some grinding in STPM or A Levels, one is sure of the path one is to take.

Just imagine if one has a dream to be a doctor. What exposure does SPM give? Just a few chapters on the heart and cardiovascular system does not give much indication of what medicine truely is.

Anonymous said...

Scholarships, should only be awarded after a student has successfully been taken up by a world reknown university.

And world reknown universities should be the likes of Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, MIT. Nothing less.

This would safe the government a lot of TAX PAYERS money. THe money could be invested in the local universities. Better research, better human resources, and hopefully better rankings.

If we had the likes of Cambridge in Malaysia, why do we still need to send our students overseas?

chew said...

i would like to ask bout oversea scholarship by jpa for student after stpm/a-level.
does jpa offer tis?

compare to stpm students,will cambridge a-level student easier to get d scholarship?wats d criteria to get d scholarship?

i wish to study pharmacy course n confusing wat pre-u course to study.(i dun hv a financial problem to study both)

pls hlp me~~~thanks!

Catriona said...

Can anyone tell me the total number of scholarships handed out annually by the Malaysian government via all the different avenues? I am doing a PhD looking at the link between increased international student mobility and skilled migration. Malaysia is one of case studies. Thank you.

james said...

My suggestion to the JPA is as followed:

1. Award Pre-University / Post-Secondary scholarship based on SPM or equivalent results

Students who have done well in their pre-university course can then apply for Undergraduate Scholarshipby JPA.

Just by looking at a student's SPM results, how can one predict accurately his performancein 2-5 years' time?

At least, students who are actually not that good will fare poorly in their pre-university course, and hence do not deserve to get an undergraduate scholarship.

Some students who have done well in their pre-university course by other funding can also join in to be JPA scholar for undergraduate course.

This system would be much better.

I shall not comment about the racial issue.