Our government has announced that from 2010, a new scholarship category will be created – one that is entirely based on merit only. While some people may hail this as a solution to our annual public scholarship problems, I feel that this is just a stop-gap solution. I have been really fond of using this phrase recently: “this does not solve the problem but merely postpones the inevitable”.
I would like to categorically state that this measure does not solve the ‘lack of transparency’ problem with scholarship allocations at all. All it will do, is further complicate the problem. The problem that people had with the present system was the lack of transparency. As a result, the people only saw what they chose to see. The solution should have been to adopt more transparency. However, the government’s proposed solution does not address the problem at all.
As a temporary measure, it may placate the public for a while. Unless the greater issue of transparency is addressed, you will still hear grouses from the ground that the scholarship selection process is unfair. Let me work through a simple example.
By definition, let us say that the top 1% of our students are considered the crem de la crem of the batch. This number would easily come up to several thousand students each year, much more than there are scholarships available. And by limiting the exams to only 10 subjects only, looking at recent numbers, you can be quite sure that each and every one of these students will have A1s in all these 10 subjects.
Hence, the situation becomes a subjective one, once again. In a subjective situation, some students who were left behind, will obviously bitch and cry about the whole situation. In fact, the students will probably cry about the situation regardless, as long as they view that they have been treated unfairly. And as long as there is a screen (even a semi-opaque one) between the students and the selection process, someone will feel that they have been mis-treated.
What I don’t get is why the scholarship process has to be so opaque. Every Malaysian understands that the government needs to act within the bounds of our Constitution (Article 153 in particular). Some transparency would go a long way into buying a lot of good will. In the larger scheme of things, maybe our new PM is thinking of calling for a new mandate some time in 2010 and this is going to factor into it.
PS: I still like my web 2.0 idea of solving the problem – Why not let the kids decide among themselves, who deserves the scholarships? Set up a website where the kids can all make their scholarship applications. Then, list out some basic features, such as their results, activities and what nots. Nothing that can be made to identify an individual directly. Then, let the kids and other Malaysians vote on whom they think deserve a scholarship. The top 1000 or something, gets offered a scholarship.