Monday, June 02, 2008

JPA Quota Revised

This is pretty big news. I'm sure many of your readers would have read about how the JPA ethnic quota has been changed from 90% Bumi / 10% Non-Bumi to 55% Bumi and 45% Non-Bumi. It was announced by Nazri Aziz, Minister in the PM's department sometime last week. The responses have been coming in thick and fast. I'm sure that this will not be the first time we will tackle this issue on this blog. Tony would have other insights and opinions. But let me fire off the first salvo.

First of all, I'm not exactly elated or jumping for joy at this news, contrary to expectations. Why? I've said many times in this blog that I think that as long as JPA doesn't effectively bond the overseas JPA scholars to Malaysia, I would prefer to JPA overseas scholarship component to be scrapped altogether. It costs Malaysia a few hundred million ringgit a year without any guarantee of returns. Singapore, a far richer country than Malaysia, would never throw hard earned tax dollars at such a scheme which promises very low returns to investment. You can read my previous posts here and here.

So, even if the distribution of this scholarship has become more 'meritocratic' (which I think it will given the new ethnic quota), there is little reason to celebrate if one looks at how our tax dollars are spent in this regard.

That being said, I never thought that I'd see the day when there would be a policy change in such as sensitive area i.e. JPA overseas scholarships. This is a major shift in the thinking of the policy makers, even if it is in one small area of policymaking. For now, I want to avoid the political strategy behind this move (I'll save that for one of my Realpolitik podcasts and Malaysiakini writeu-ps).

If this is an indication that the government is willing to shift the way it make policy especially in the area of higher education and our public universities, then I would certain welcome it.

My underlying assumption here is that the changing of the ethnic quota parallels a move towards moving to a more meritocratic way of policymaking and of promotions and hiring practices, for example. One can argue that this may not necessarily be the case since it is possible that certain Bumis who have better results and so on might lose out to non-Bumis with poorer results. But I think history has shown that most of the time, it was largely qualified non-Bumis who were denied the JPA scholarships rather than the other way round (if not, why have a quota in the first place?).

Hence, there are good reasons to support this policy on meritocratic grounds. Since JPA overseas scholarships won't be abolished anytime soon, I think that this is the best situation one can hope for. (Of course, my preferred solution would be to abolish ethnic quotas completely and offer scholarships on a purely merit base system but this is politically infeasible)

In addition, there is a means tested component now for the JPA overseas scholarships. From what I understand, those scholars who have been shortlisted and whose parents earn less than RM1,500 a month would automatically be awarded the scholarship regardless of race. This is certainly in line with the component of the NEP which is supposed to help the poor in Malaysia, regardless of race. Again, I think that this is something positive.

But one has to recognize that there may be potential costs when one practices means testing. It's something which many people don't want to say because it is not politically correct. Which is if one shortlists top SPM scorers from low income families, the probability of these scholars getting into a top university in the UK or the US is lower than if a top scorer from a middle or upper middle income family were to have been selected.

Before you guys start throwing barbs at me, recognize that I'm stating a well known finding. I'm not saying that someone from a low income family cannot get into a top ranked US or UK university. What I'm saying that the proportion of students who get into these schools who come from middle and upper middle income families is usually higher. If you look at the top schools in the US, even some of the need blind ones and those with very generous financial aid schemes, you'll find that the middle and upper middle income kids form the largest proportion of students. There are many reasons for this - exposure, support from parents, networking effects - which I won't go into but it's something that we should recognize as one of the by products of 'means testing'. Of course, this doesn't mean that many of these kids can't get into a perfectly respectable university. It all depends on what you want the JPA to achieve and who you want it to reward.

I'm flagging this to show the complexity and consequences of different policy decisions. For example, Tony, in a much earlier post, suggested that instead of awarding JPA scholarships after SPM, we should award JPA scholarships after the students have applied to and gotten into a list of pre-approved top ranked universities. This would certainly be much more meritocratic and would award students based on a more explicitly laid out terms and conditions but again, it would be regressive in that it would probably be advantageous to those from middle or upper middle class families. Those who can afford to spend money on books to prepare a student for the SAT not to mention the expensive application process to many of these universities.

Being someone who likes more information rather than less, I think that many of these questions can be partly answered if more information were revealed to researchers, politicians, activists and the public at large. For example, I would love to see the grade distribution of those who obtained the JPA prior to this change in the quota and after the change in the quota. Did the standards for the non-Bumis fall after the quota was relaxed? Did the standards for the Bumis rise for the same reason? Did the means testing have anything to do with this?

What about the kinds of universities and courses which the respective JPA scholars were admitted to? What was the geographical distribution? How many got into top notch universities? Again, what was the correlation between the means tested students and the kinds of universities they got into?

I hope that I've illustrated the complexity involved in trying to evaluate the merits and demerits of such a policy change. The thing that I dislike about certain groups coming out to protest or to support such a policy change is that they only focus on the ethnicity quota issue without delving deeper into some of the other implications such as the poor return on investment, the implications of means testing, the kinds of schools which the scholars get into and the underlying rationale for the JPA (is it to reward good scholars who can get into top schools or those who come from lower income families?). I admit that I'm sometimes guilty of looking at things strictly from a racial lens but I do try not to. And I've certainly tried to in this particular instance.


TummyBelly said...

Dear Bro Tony,

JPA Quota Revised ?!


Refer to

*** ” Racist story in the STAR ” ***

Yes ….same old stories again ! Shame on you !

Please be a bit brainy……“Otak udang” ,Ahmad Ikmal

If you do not really contribute to the country, how dare you think of or getting the profit which make by the country ?!

Don’t always have the ” take ” attitude ! Contribute more instead.

10 % , 20 % , 50 % or even more percent scholarships to be given to other qualified Malaysians won’t hurt anyone indeed.Moreover they are all Malaysians too . Importantly ,make sure everyone contribute back to the country later with their utmost and sincerity.

What makes you having such narrow and selfish thinking !?
Do you really contribute ?

Think ! Think ! Think ! Otak udang !!!!!!

Contribute first ……before you think of getting some benefits from the country.
The country won’t grow without everyone effort and contribution.
Do you really contribute !!!!????

Bear in mind you little “Otak udang” ,Ahmad Ikmal .This country won’t be getting better or richer if we are all having the same thinking like you .

Refer to the article

“….Ahmad Ikmal (the Otak Udang) said this meant that scholarships were being taken from the bumiputras to be given to the non-bumiputras …….”

For your information.
We are all bumiputras, difference is we have multi-color bumiputras .
We are all son of the soil from Malaysia.

Like quoted in the article mentioned:

“ The quota for non-bumiputras has increased from 10% to 45% but the number of total scholarships has remained at 2,000.
Ahmad Ikmal said this meant that scholarships were being taken from the bumiputras to be given to the non-bumiputras……. ”

Do you think so ?
No!!!!!!! No!!!!!!!!!!! No!!!!!!!!!!

Ask yourself, why the Public Service Department(PSD) unable to increase more scholarships ?
Is our country rich enough to increase more scholarships ?
If not ,why your country can not be rich then ?
Do you really contribute ?

Why ? ! Why ? ! Why ? ! Think ! Think ! Think !
Shame on you !

Here is the answer for Ahmad Ikmal(the Otak Udang) and those who are having the same narrow minds like him……….

***** If you want to see this country richer and stronger !
***** Please don’t always think of getting from the country !!!!!
***** Contribute ! Contribute ! Contribute !…………

RAKYAT is Bumiputra. Bumiputra is Malaysian.

Anonymous said...

To Kian Ming, kudos. Not one mention that ignites racial sentiment. This is indeed an eye opening article and I had fun reading it (Eh, fun?) Yes fun, because I learned a lot from it :)

There are some very valuable points in there, and I dont know whether you write in for any newspapers columns or any editor's letters, etc, but you should! Get your ideas out to the masses and make a difference!

On another note, I do welcome thepostive change for the increase in quota for non-bumis. Our govt waking up, slowly, but we can expect more in the future too.

Anonymous said...

Nazri Aziz can come out with any percentages, but how do we know that the figures are true???

Is it part of the BN political ploy to stir up racial sentiment to gain Sympathy???

Unless PSD come out with a detail list, we just say listen for the time firstlah....

Anonymous said...

already UMNO as come out saying that it is unfair to Malays and many will not get the scholarships. Still the easiest thing to do is to abolish all the quota. And use a merit system. No more 55/45, 30/70 and such.

Wee Loon ONG said...

I read with disgust the proclamation by UMNO youth education bureau that PSD scholarships for bumiputra were ‘robbed’ by non-bumi with the increase in quota for non-bumi without increasing the actual number of scholarship. Personally, I reckon ‘quota’ system should not be there in the first place, but well, we just have to live with this ‘quota system’ in this country for many years to come. Anyway, that’s not what I would like to bring up here.

I am just wondering – everyone seems to be discussing so much about PSD scholarship, but there’s also the ‘more prestigious’ MARA scholarship (for bumiputera) which has never been brought up in the public/ the press (probably due to racial sensitivity). My query is that, do we actually know the number of MARA scholarship awarded each year? There seems to be no data available on that. But from personal understanding (through mingling around with quite a number of MARA scholars), MARA scholarship ways exceeds the number of PSD scholarships. And also, is there any increase in the amount of MARA scholarship awarded over the past few years? And if so, are they parallel with the increase in PSD scholarship? Let’s say, if there’s an exponential increase in number of MARA scholarship and only a linear increase in PSD scholarship, bumiputera students still gets more and more government (i.e. tax-payers) scholarships even after the increase in quota for non-bumi for PSD scholarship. And that will be just another indirect means of misleading the public that the government scholarship is becoming more ‘meritocratic’ when there’s no transparency regarding statistics on MARA scholarships.

Another auxiliary issues is that, aren’t MARA scholarships also paid by tax-payers’ money? And if indeed it is, then why isn’t there anyone who complains about MARA scholars’ not-coming back to serve the country upon graduation. Well, we are all well-aware of the heated discussion of PSD scholar not coming back issues, but from my encounter with the many MARA scholars overseas, I was told that their contracts do not require them to do so (and of course we can’t blame the students as they are not contracted to return). I think it might actually shock the public (tax-payer) if they actually know the amount spent on MARA scholars, who are not obliged to serve the country upon graduation.

I know it might be ‘sensitive’ to question ‘Malay supremacy’ regarding their ‘privilege’ to be awarded MARA scholarships (which outnumber the amount of PSD scholarship in addition to the scholars not contracted to return and serve the country when they are also using the tax-payers money), but if Tony or Kian Ming could provide some official data for comparison of PSD and MARA scholarship (thus actual ratio of bumi vs non-bumi government scholar), that will be good.


Anonymous said...

kian ming, thanks for raising some issues i hadn't thought of before. personally, i suspect that this raised percentage for non-bumi (assuming it's for real - very skeptical of its application, or how long it will remain) might actually be better than not having any quota. reason: without a quota, all the little napoleans would probably make sure 99% go to malays.

Anonymous said...

The new quota is a political ploy by UMNO to show that they are bending over backwards of course which back and how is it bending is a subject of contention. Secondly, they just want votes from the non-Bumis whom they know are seething with anger with brandishing of real and unreal racial undertones that Malay politicians with the likes of Dr M are so famous for. The flip flop policies of the UMNO government would only make us wonder for how long can they stomach this kind of policy and then bring it back to a discriminatory one for good measure. After all Bumis have never been known to be in a sharing mood and those politicians have made sure that this is exagerated for political votes, leverage and fervour. Already Dr M will be championing Malay rights when people are emmigrating to Mars and Jupiter and can't be bothered about some small peninsular on mother earth. Further, he will champion Malay rights to aliens too and say to them you must assimilate or end up locked up in the gallows. I wonder whether aliens would take kindly to it. Hopefully he doesn't confront one from Ripley's Alien with all the dripping saliva.

Anonymous said...

well of course it's a political ploy. but that's beside the point isn't it. political parties will always have their own agenda, whatever that agenda is. the rakyat's job is don't let them get comfortable. keep forcing them to resort to this sort of political ploy.

Anonymous said...

I think Kian Ming's article has hit the nail on the head - let's not politicise education, especially the awarding of one of the premiere scholarship schemes in the country.

Unfortunately, the barrage of comments that followed the article just reaffirms the government's stand that - as long as they keep as many different people from the different races happy, the scholarship programme is sound.

We need to realise that scholarships ARE NOT POLITICAL TOOLS.

But this dream will only come true when the rakyat stop using words like 'quota' and 'BN' and 'bumiputera' when discussing scholarships but replace these with words like 'achivements' and 'top student' and 'coming back home to serve'.

As Kian Ming rightly pointed out, while we are bickering over percentages, our scholars overseas are feeling the outcome of all this bickering - namely, they are NOT appreciated as the top students in the country, but just as political pawns and therefore feel no need to serve their bonds.

It is time we focus on the REAL issues - and to those who feel aggrieved that they have not received a JPA scholarship, let's not resort to racist name-calling - it serves no purpose whatsoever.

If you believe you truly deserve financial help, look for alternatives.

Because you ARE good enough.

Anonymous said...

The return of investment on these top of the top students are of paramount importance, or else we are losing them to the benefits of the advanced countries.

Here are some quick thought to ensure the return of these bright brains:
a) If JPA can't provide a position as they return to Malaysia, at least make conditions that they should work for Malaysian companies for certain numbers of years.
b) The government should consider long term plans to grooming these brains to PhD and give them the priority to be adsorb into the highier learning institutes as lecturers, researchers. This would ensure only top brains in our education systems that would ensure the quality and output of our universities.
c) Plans to establish integrated links between JPA and industrial has to boost up e.g join sponsor of the students. Maybe gornvernment 70%, industrial 30% etc.

Anonymous said...

system said...
b) The government should consider long term plans to grooming these brains to PhD and give them the priority to be adsorb into the highier learning institutes as lecturers, researchers.

This won't happen as the deadwood Deans and Heads of department of public highier learning institutes will reject the bright scholars and take in only the 'stupid' ones, else these the bright scholars will make the deadwoods looks like an idiot!

Anonymous said...

I think the statement made by Mr Ikmal is not representative of "UMNO" as a whole. He might be speaking on his own behalf over here, it might not what the majority want. As far as I can see, I dont see other normal Malay folks having an uproar about the quota increase. We welcome it with open arms :)

It's great that slowly the govt are understanding the need to be more flexible when it comes to this. Of course I understand it is not the best thing that would make evryone happy as of yet, but I see it as a good start in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

The recent Korean government undergraduate scholarship given to about seven students intending to pursue studies in Korea showed that even Malays can qualify in open competition with non Malays for scholarship

Time to pull of the crutches....There are Malays that can get scholarship on merit

Revert back to STPM!
Bring back real meaning of meritocracy

Anonymous said...

Why is our govt keep sending people to overseas? These people are the cream of the crop, some more!! Why not offer them scholarships to study locally...? Bring back the high standards of our local universities!! Why cant a good policy maker realize that??

Anonymous said...

It is also time to ask those on JPA scholarships who did not get their degrees to pay back to the government. It costs at least RM500,000 (half a million) to send one person for his/her PhD in UK. Sadly, if you check our local universities, there are many who did not make it. They come back and still able to continue working as lecturers in the universities. In the first place, these people are not fit to be lecturers let alone given the scholarship to go overseas to enjoy themselves.

Tony and Kian Meng, please bring this up in the next Parliament session and ask JPA to make a new ruling that people who do not get their degrees should pay back the government. In this way, only those who truly want to work hard and capable will do justice to the scholarship.

Also, those who are on loans, they should also be given incentives to do well. If they get first class or distinction, they should be exempted from paying back their loans.

Anonymous said...

Why is our govt keep sending people to overseas? These people are the cream of the crop, some more!! Why not offer them scholarships to study locally...? Bring back the high standards of our local universities!! Why cant a good policy maker realize that??

To: Anonymous (6/05/2008 09:52:00 AM),

That's no different than a close-door policy. How can anyone truly progress without having a reality of the 'outside world'? That individual's idea would be stagnant. Poor cream.

Jerng said...

You thought you'd never see the day? :) Folks like you are always so pessimistic... but I guess that's what drives you to do what you do as activists.

Anonymous said...

"JPA Quota Revised". Thank to share this news with us. This is quite important new for some peoples.

Anonymous said...

kian ming and tony, does this increasing of quota any effective?

can we take a market survey to see our people take up the scholarship or they still "escape" to better universities like NUS, Cambridge, Harvard on their own?

Anonymous said...

Need to be careful, it could be just a 'spin' by UMNO minister. Do we have to swallow everything they say? We know from past experiences , we do it at our our folly.

Quota or no quota , who cares. Just give it to the one that deserves, if we are sincere about developing our country. Did you guys wondered , why not seen any Bumi candidate with straight A1 crying foul? Semua dapat, if not JPA, then MARA, Petronas, Khazanah, Sime Darby.

Did you also know that only 34 Indians out of the 2000 places were given PSD initially. Surprised yah , i bet. To verify please visit the following blog by Deputy Minister of Federal Territory, YB M Saravanan