Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Colour of Scholarships – By Azira Aziz

Ed.: The following is an article we received written by a former student of law at Universiti Teknologi Mara.

When Najib proposed to open scholarship opportunities to all top scorers, particularly 9A’s and above, I saluted the move and thought nothing more of the matter. A politician buckling to popular tit-bits is nothing new and at least he’s heading in the right direction.

However, it irked me as the usual Malay-rights groups, the Perkasa-led Malay Consultative Council (MPM) responded to it with “constructive” criticisms, claiming that it should instead reflect 67% of the Malay community in Malaysia.

My response to this is this: firstly, Professor Datuk Dr Kamarudin Kachar, not all 67% are Malaysian Malays. Some of them are actually assimilated Indonesians whose parents holds red MyKads.

Many Malaysians are denied opportunities on the fallacy that they are of the wrong ethnicity and that they are less likely to be “loyal” to Malaysia. Instead, as long as you are a “Malay,” “imported” or not, you are entitled to a scholarship, and admittance to heavily subsidised boarding schools.

I am not saying that despite Malaysian-born students of Indonesian parentage are intelligent enough, they do not deserve scholarships by virtue of their parents being immigrants. Quite the contrary, hard work and diligence should always be rewarded. I know some of these kids – they’ve studied hard and they should be awarded where deserved. I am simply pointing out how our education system discriminates Malaysians.

I think it ridiculous that descendants of immigrants are awarded privileges denied to generations born and raised Malaysians by basis of race and religion. The argument that affirmative action policies are meant to help the Malays falls here. Right to education of citizens of Malaysia distributed on basis of race and religion is sanctioned by the State on no moral or ethical grounds, but on purely the in-group and out-group mentality.

Why develop descendants of immigrants while neglecting and disparaging our own purely because they are different from the acceptable “original” settlers of Malaya?

Secondly, many people view further education as the only way to break the cycle of poverty and as a means to social mobility. In short, education is the only way to help provide for your parents and your siblings.

It is the only way you can protect the rights of your family and your properties against bad people. It is that golden gateway to a better life. The cycle of poverty is not specifically restricted to the Malays in the rural areas.

There are the rural and urban poor, and despite the differences in skin colour, private religious beliefs, and dietary preferences, they are no less human than your average Muhammad. Everyone is the same; we worry about grades, food, shelter, girlfriend/boyfriend, parents, allowances, and etc.

It is our political parties that continuously indoctrinate us into thinking in terms of “Malay” and “non-Malay” as “human” and “less human,” or “us” and “them.” There is no reason whatsoever for racial quotas for scholarships to be sanctioned as we are all homo sapiens, humans who are essentially the same.

Thirdly, as I have observed before Malays as a community celebrates mediocrity. The concept of fear, self-guilt, insecurity and excessive emotional response is propagated through the most dangerous of tools: religion.

Even places of worship; such as the surau and mosques are not exempt from political intrigue. I am sick and tired of watching and listening to beautiful scriptures of the Holy Quran literally taken out of context and manipulated to suit the purposes of the elite, wealthy, and privileged to maintain their power base. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, the scripts are all written and approved by the state’s religious body, but it does make it more questionable, does it not?

It is no secret that as a collective, humans are fairly obtuse. The common sense of the pacifist few often escapes them, and therefore the masterful skill of the other few who promulgates hatred, suspicion, and utter ignorance carries more conviction as truth than the message of universal love and harmony.

How Malays love their drama enam petang. The ever present threat of imaginary enemies was created to divert blame and responsibility from themselves.

Fourthly, I do not see this as a point of conflict for anyone affected by the change of policies. The way I see it, the Malay boys and girls will instead be told that they actually deserve the grades that they acquired through their own sweat and midnight candle-burning, being told to have self-esteem and that they can do whatever they set their mind to, and being told that they do not need crutches at all to achieve their dreams and help their families.

The only people, who dramatise an otherwise positive move for all youths in this country alike, are people who feel threatened by the lack of dependence and growing confidence of the previously trodden majority, those who feels that to keep being relevant, they needed to bully and put others down in their places so that they could feel better about themselves.

Finally, I recommend several criteria as a basis of Federal Scholarships. Scholarships should only be dealt out to members of the lower-middle to poverty level students who exhibited excellent co-curicular achievements as well as reasonably good grades. A well-balanced individual is the best product that could be produced by only the best of institutions.

Students from these demographic tend to appreciate their education more, as well as the public knowledge of taxpayer monies well spent. Furthermore, the upper-middle class and above should be completely disqualified from eligibility to these scholarships, and should instead be encouraged to take up PTPTN or consider other financial options.

Most of them can afford private education, anyway. Another favourite suggestion by a friend of mine is to completely do away with overseas scholarships and force everyone to study in local universities.

This is due to the fact that once given an opportunity to go abroad, the precious few brainy ones upon considering the socio-political circumstances in Malaysia, choose not to return. Our education coffers shall also be saved, and can be channeled to improve dilapidated Tamil and Orang Asli primary or secondary schools or increase salaries of long-suffering teachers.

For the record, I turned down scholarships because I genuinely believe that it should go to people who really need them. I find it unfair that students who can afford original Guess, DKNY and Chanel were also awarded scholarships when they obviously need it not.

My, what a long rant in reply to one man’s few sentences. Well, I have said my two cents. In conclusion, I truly believe on Federal Scholarships for those who deserve it by merit and based on their family’s financial background. Any thoughts, anyone?

In her own words – Azira Aziz is a mongrel Malaysian who hopes to have “Malay” and “non-Malay” relegated as a relic of the past sometime in the future. A graduate from UiTM, and is currently undergoing training to become a lawyer.


Loo Han said...

I agree with you totally.. The "bully" mentality is totally outdated in this era and should be eradicated! And also I salute you for taking a stand for making a REAL change to the underprivileged Malays. Winning because someone else is losing, is not winning at all. On another note, Diligence should always be rewarded regardless of race and that is the kind of system I'd like to see in Malaysia. Maybe that is why Malaysia gov should start changing their mentality and make our quality of life better for EVERYONE instead of blaming people who dream of a better life(those who migrate out f Malaysia) all the time. Grow up! Otherwise, we'll lose whatever chances we have left of keeping the brainy people in.

Hazrul said...

I think the scholarships to foreign universities for undergraduate studies should be limited. If the students are really good, they would qualify for other scholarships anyway. Government should only sponsor students who are offered places in pre-determined list of top colleges/univ (e.g: Oxbridge, Top 30 American Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, etc etc), not based on number of As. After all, the number of As is just one of the criteria for admission offer. I don't know where does the government send students nowadays but 10 or so years ago, we used to sponsor students at lowly-ranked British polytechnics, most of which were not even as good as our own universities. Rural students may not have access to info for interviews with top foreign universities but that is the role that government can fill in. In other words, it should facilitate and let the top universities determine whether the students are good enough, then work out the financial packages. And why stop at SPM level? Our STPM exam is highly regarded and top scorers routinely get accepted into top colleges. Why not facilitate that too?

The way forward should be to sponsor more students for postgraduate studies (and again, only at top universities).

Anonymous said...

Scholarships should not be seen as a way to obtain cheap labour and low fees not seen as a way to get people to do research for academicians for free as can be deducted from an institution in the likes of UTAR. It is sad that education in the country is lacking from ethics when they preach it themselves. It usually reaches quite high up. Secondly, if you want people to do research instead of concentrating on their intended course or program you should subsidise and pay them to do so. Don't say I will cowrite with you and end of story what about the candidate's opportunity to finish their program? Are they at the mercy of such unethical academicians who think nothing but achieving their bottom line of teaching hours and number of research papers collated. Secondly, to tell students 2/3 will fail and 2/3 will be lucky enough to pass is like telling the students to drop out of the intended program no point doing that postgraduate degree. Third, to first criticise and do it by demoralisation is the worse thing our education system can do. No wonder people find it difficult to invest their hard earned savings to pursue third rate programs managed by zealots on a program.

Anonymous said...

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Syarat dan terma pertandingan adalah seperti di laman sesawang dibawah:

sila hubungi 03-26871700 untuk sebarang pertanyaan

Anonymous said...

those who obtain government scholarship and refused to return to malaysia is no-brainer at all. most of the time, the pay in Malaysia is lower than what they can get in foreign countries. i admit with no guilt.if you flying-colours SPM achievers do not return to Malaysia to help the nation, how can we achieve high-income country?

Anonymous said...

My dad'd dad is an indian, his mom is an indonesian. My mom is pure chinese. I am therefore a mixture of all three being 50% chinese and 25% indian and 25% indonesian. For some sort reason I can't understand, I am labeled as a Malay. I am not a Malay. My dad is not a Malay. Rightfully, if the govt. wants to follow the "ikut bapak" style (which is very very misleading) I should be classified as an indian.

Singapore has came up with a system for mixed-parentage children whereby two races of the children will be placed on their IDs. Malaysia as usual, will try to convert everyone into "Malays" even if they aren't. Something needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

To Hazrul D Nizam,
Out STPM used to be highly regarded, it no longer is...
Thats the sad reality of a malaysia being left behind. Even the top schools in Sg no longer take A or O levels as a major consideration

Unknown said...

Thanks for given such a nice education .I read this article .I really enjoy .I really thank to the Malaysian government to give a good education to the Malaysian children...


Anonymous said...

There's a saying

"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"

In Malaysia, it would be
"Malay ultranationalism is the last refuge of the UMNO scoundrel"

Phua Kai Lit

Passionate About Blogging said...

I am intrigued by the fate of Anonymous who is labelled as 'Malay' when he should be 'Indian'? Where is he labelled as such - in his Birth Cert or just by the public in the street (due to his looks)? If in his Birth Cert or IC, then it must be by his parents. If merely by his looks, it's a blessing and it happens to almost every mixed-marriage children. I know of a guy whose father is an Indian & mother a Chinese but is declared a 'Native' of Sabah. That label was purposely sought by his parents. Somehow, identity is a personal thing. I think being a 'Malaysian' is a good enough label for everyone, as long as everyone honestly loves the label & loves Malaysia. When we insist on having different identities, we should also respect others' identities & differences. Fairness & Equality is definitely worth figuring out. Abba sang 'It's a Rich Man's World', I wish 'It's a Good Man's World', instead.

Anonymous said...

not really related to this post, but have you ever noticed most Malays when online if they write in their own language they can't (or rather, won't) even spell their words properly?
i remember prof. ungku aziz saying something like this: "anak melayu sendiri pun tak erti guna bahasa melayu"
how can others be expected to learn the "bahasa kebangsaan" when even the "bumiputras" don't use it properly?

Anonymous said...

Quote "the upper-middle class and above should be completely disqualified from eligibility to these scholarships"

Definition of meritocracy: Selection based purely on ability and not social status or wealth.

So does the writer disapprove of meritocracy?

Anonymous said...

Scholarships should be given out based on meritocracy but with an exception. It is certainly not fair to give scholarships to children of rich parents.

What about those from poorer families who are already facing difficulties funding their children even in local public universities.

Why does the rich has to deprive the poor from a decent education when the rich can easily afford one?

I have seen my neighbour who got a PSD scholarship and her parents immediately bought a new double storey house and moved there after she was sent to the US. Is this fair?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe we should differentiate between scholarship and study loan because they serve 2 different purposes with the former given purely on merit and the later to poor student of sufficiently good result.

Anyone in leadership position recognizes the importance of recognition as a form of reward for excellence by itself. Beside financial, scholarship also serves the purpose of recognition. Otherwise, it could be a great de-motivating force for student of rich background to go for excellence and a great waste of talent for the country. Furthermore, I have seen cases of rich man with very old fashion mentality that refuses to finance girl offspring because they are considered a waste of money when they married. So IMO, scholarship should be given purely on merit with total disregard for wealth and social standing, i.e. true meritocracy in the truest sense.

On the other hand, poor student with sufficiently good result should have access to study loan. If they are truly excellent, of course give them scholarship and not study loan.

With globalization and intense competition amongst countries, no country can afford to waste her talent, rich or poor. Neither can Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Here are my questions:
Student with rich parent got AAA. And student with poor parent got BBB. So you saying the one with BBB should get the scholarship?

And what difference if we substitute the word "rich" with "Chinese" and the word "poor" with "Bumi"? I see no difference so why call for change in the way scholarship is now being awarded?

For student of whatever background, scholarship is one of the most potent forms of recognition for being excellent. It is a great motivational force to strive for excellence. So student with rich person does not deserve to be motivated as well as the poor? And if does well, no recognition be given?

Some old fashioned parent does not believe in investing money on girls. What if the girl is truly excellent but no scholarship?

I thought true meritocracy is supposed to prevent all that and that is why reward should be given without reference to social standing or race or wealth.

Anonymous said...

As for poor student with good but not truly excellent result and wanting to further study, they should have access to study loan.

And scholarship should not be confused with study loan. They serve two different purpose, one as recognition and reward for true excellent and the other for the poor who are not quite excellent. I thought people should be clear on that.

aizzura said...

actually i am part 5 student from uitm. im working on my academic writing focus on how JPA disseminate info to its clients and how transparent they are. (focus on the student). i want to ask for your kindness to answer my questionnaire. can you?


Anonymous said...

i hv hd known many but i can cnfm 1 std doing ausmat and went to sydney u and his father is filthy rich on mara scholar...

Tehseen hasan bajwa said...

I agree with you totally.. The "bully" mentality is totally outdated in this era and should be eradicated! And also I salute you for taking a stand for making a REAL change to the underprivileged Malays.Watch World TV Online
Winning because someone else is losing, is not winning at all. On another note, Diligence should always be rewarded regardless of race and that is the kind of system I'd like to see in Malaysia. Maybe that is why Malaysia gov should start changing their mentality and make our quality of life better for EVERYONE instead of blaming people who dream of a better life(those who migrate out f Malaysia) all the time. Grow up! Otherwise, we'll lose whatever chances we have left of keeping the brainy people in.