Scholarship Investees

I just read what our dearest Prime Minister said in Australia and it makes me want to laugh. So, I thought that I should mention something or other about this and put forth some of my own thoughts and experience in this scholarship matter. According to the Bernama article, “He advised Malaysians to think about contributing to the country back home after gaining much experience and exposure on best practice abroad.”

I am a former government scholar. The government paid a lot of money for my education at a top university in the world. While I was there, I made the point that returning to work in Malaysia is not a bad thing. I actually walked my talk. After serving my bond for just under 2 years, I threw in the towel and called it quits. Now, my monthly income is in the red because I would much rather lose money paying back my bond than rot years of my life away.

I think that I am qualified to say a thing or two about this. I just need to put a word of caution to our government scholars who are bonded. I agree with our PM that Malaysia definitely needs more knowledge workers. Therefore, it is quite essential that Malaysians return to Malaysia to serve.

However, it baffles me how the government could spend so much money training me in a skill that is clearly identified as highly required to help turn our country’s economy around, and then put me to work in something that does not exploit that skill at all. Instead, I got put to doing such simple work at the opposite end of the spectrum that I would often bring HongKong/Korean TV series to watch at work. Life was mind-numbingly boring.

Brain drain is not just about losing our people to work overseas, but it is also about misusing and abusing our existing skills and man-power available in the country. If mine was an isolated case, I would understand. However, I can assure you that I am not an isolated case. There were enough of us to actually form a small support group.

Now, if some of you people think that I am someone who cannot find a job overseas and returned to work in Malaysia because I cannot survive overseas, I can assure you that is not the case. Last year was a crazy year for me. I got approached by recruiters from a host of top technology companies in the world, including the one ranked as the #1 technology company to work for, by Forbes. Mind you, I did not need to apply to these companies.

So, it pained me that while people from half-way around the world could appreciate my skills and expertise and were interested to attract me over to work for them, my own government was putting me on ice, figuratively speaking. If the government did not sponsor me, it would not be such a farce to me. But the government chose to spend a lot of money on me and chose not to exploit me to the fullest. That’s just a monumental waste.

Now for those people who are not government scholars. I hope that you are not actually hoping to come home to look for a job in any high-end field. You are going to be disappointed as well. Our country just does not yet have the necessary demand for too many highly skilled workers. It is a chicken-and-egg issue. Our industries have not moved up the value curve sufficiently. So, there will be limited demand if there is any demand at all.

However, if you are interested to come home to create jobs, that is what I am trying now. Check back in a year and I will let you know how things went for me in 2011. I just did a count over dinner today. By May, I should have around 5 people doing various work for AESTE and if things go well, I might have up to 10 people by the end of the year. It’s both exceedingly exciting and superbly scary at the same time!

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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