Honestly, I think that our government has its priorities wrong when it comes to allocating funds. While I do think that our annual scholarship award saga is quite banal, I do not think that the solution is to take away the scholarships like one of our ministers suggests. According to the online paper, The Malaysian Insider:
We have to tell the truth. We just cannot afford it. Just like how a parent cannot afford to send their children abroad to further their studies, the government cannot afford it. We do not have the financial capacity that permits us to send every good student abroad.
We do not have money to invest in our children’s education. We are considering the removal of education subsidies for primary and secondary schools as well as reducing the number of scholarships or dropping them off altogether. However, we are also thinking of building a new parliament building in Putrajaya at the cost of RM800++ million.
Now, I understand where the government will be getting its funds for the new building. It costs several hundred thousand to fund a student overseas. So, dropping about 1,500-2,000 scholarships will help generate the necessary funds to build our new parliament building! Yeay!
While I do think that the scholarship saga is unnecessary, I blame the problem on the selection process. So, this is where I think that our government has at least got one thing right:
Nazri said more students would be placed in local universities, while only those applying for postgraduate studies or who obtained a place in an Ivy League institution in a critical field would be sent overseas. The intention is, firstly, to reduce expenditure in sending students overseas. Secondly, we must ensure that local universities have bright students. Why are we doubting the quality of local universities?
Our government will be out-sourcing the selection process of students to the overseas institutions. Only undergrads who have obtained a place in a good university will be given a scholarship. This, I can totally agree with. Our government wastes too much money sending students to just regular foreign universities that are no better than our local ones. So, I think that this is fair as long as students who obtain places in top universities are guaranteed a scholarship – based entirely on merit and not the colour of their skin.
Then, there will be emphasis placed on sending people overseas for further studies. I would recommend that the government only consider sending people overseas for PhDs. The primary reason is because our local universities may not have the necessary facilities nor faculties to provide research opportunities in all areas. We have some things we are good at and many other things that we are not.
In summary, I do agree that the scholarship system needs to be fixed and that some of the ideas are good. However, I doubt the reasons behind the government fixing it. I get the sense that this is the lazy man’s way out. There are other ways of fixing it – by introducing more transparency into the system and the students will not complain.
Most students complain when they know that someone far inferior to them get a scholarship when they don’t. They feel victimised for no apparent reason. I don’t know if the government can ever fix this. I would hazard to predict that not every student who gets into a top university will be able to obtain a scholarship. Some will just be rejected without any apparent reason as they are now.
So, this means that there will probably be more business for our local private colleges preparing students for pre-university courses. Students who cannot afford private education would be able to go to form six and take the STPM examinations instead. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Unless of course, the government intends to game the system by allowing students from certain schools to take the IB examinations instead of the SPM:
Students of Malay College Kuala Kangsar and Tunku Kurshiah College may soon choose if they want to sit for the International Baccalaureate (IB) or the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. The IB diploma programme can be used for entry into major universities around the world. Education Minister Datuk Seri Hisham?muddin Tun Hussein announced that both schools would be offering the IB from 2011.
Somehow, I just doubt that the government has my best interest in mind.