Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vacation Research Programme for Form 5 Students

We were recently alerted to the existence of a programme called The Vacation Research Programme. All Form 5 students are eligible to apply; those accepted will be placed with medical researchers at various institutions in the country. This looks like an interesting research opportunity for interested secondary school students. The website is

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taking False Pride: Are these accomplishments Malaysian?

Eds.: The following is written by Tee Sui Seng, a Cantabrigian.

The news that a Malaysian has been recognized as the top law student at the University of Cambridge initially filled me with much joy and pride and I wasted no time in letting my friends from all over the world know that we Malaysians are more than able to hold our own academically amongst the best brains in the world.However, this feeling of pride gradually gave way to a more sobering disappointment and eventually, even a little embarrassment as the facts of the story slowly sunk in.

It did not take long to find out that the young man in question has spent his pre-university days in neighbouring Singapore, taking his A-levels on a scholarship there. This then led to the discovery that our dear neighbours very quickly realised his talents and wasted no time in offering him a scholarship to the University of Cambridge. It then came as no surprise why further down the article, it was then stated that our prodigious young talent will be joining the Singapore legal service.

This disappointment was poignant, but however, upon further reflection, should have been expected. The local media can never be accused of lacking patriotism. The newspapers have always been very quick to seize upon stories of successful Malaysians all over the world and credit must definitely be given to them for sourcing them out. Unfortunately, these reporters may have sometimes been a little over-zealous by stretching the Malaysian connection a little too far. A recent example that comes to mind would be the appointment of the Malaysian-born Penny Wong as finance minister in Australia. I dare not assume to know how much the minister would take pride in her Malaysian connection, but I am assuming that becoming a minister of a nation state would definitely require taking up citizenship of that country. It then follows that since Malaysia does not allow dual-citizenships, the good minister's Malaysian connections would be distant at best.

Patriotism is a virtue if we know what to be thankful and grateful for. The accident of being born in a certain nation state is not reason enough to imbue one with a sense of pride for being a citizen - this pride needs to come from appreciating one's achievements in the context of the opportunities that are endowed with being part of that nation. If the achievements of an individual cannot be attributed to the opportunities gained by being part of the nation state, we must then be very careful in sharing the accolades that were showered upon an individual who happens to share our citizenship.

Upon further reflection, the news article was about the achievements of a young man, who did exceedingly well in Law at the University of Cambridge, who clearly impressed his very experienced tutors there and who has also shown tremendous humility when talking about his achievements. It is only mere coincidence that this young man is also Malaysian. When we as a country has shown little effort or foresight to acknowledge or reward his talents before these accolades, we should not be too quick to claim collective pride over his praise.

All is not lost - at the very least, we are heartened by the fact that the country has no lack of talented citizens, although the sceptical among us would very quickly question how long we can retain them. Much has been said about the brain drain from all layers of the society including those in power, so the severity of the problem is nothing new. Now let's hope the next news story would be how we are successful in luring these minds back onto our shores. In the mean time, it would probably be wise to be a little less excited the next time a Malaysian connection arises in the news. We can only share praise if we have invested in it, lest we be too distracted in cheering our neighbours on to mourn our own loss.