Every year, the award of JPA scholarship is marked by controversy. We hear the same old story of children with 12As, 13As and 14As who failed to get any scholarship.
To begin with, we see that there are more and more non-Malays are awarded with JPA scholarship. This started from the year 2000. However, it cannot be denied we have more and more students with excellent academic results who failed to get any awards. The following points are worth pondering:
1) No government in the world can give scholarship to every student with excellent results.
2) Not all students with excellent results can get admitted to the medical course (I understand most of them who are rejected are those applying for medicine). In a lot of countries, for example Singapore, excellent results do not guarantee admittance into the medical faculty. Often, they have an interview to evaluate the communication skills and the attitude of the students. I have a lot of friends’ children whose got all As in HSC A level but failed to get into the medical course.
3) We are one of the few countries that award scholarship at the SPM level, “O level” to pursue university education. Most countries is based on the A level exam.
4) A lot of students with excellent results are a disaster when it comes to the interview. I used to be a board member of the Johor Education Foundation and every year, I go around to all local universities to interview students for scholarship or loan with other officials under the Johor Education Foundation. I did this for more than 13 years. I must admit that I am appalled by the lack of common knowledge and interest by a lot of our students in universities with excellent result. We have a lot of bookworms. I don’t ask names of VIPs during the interview. Simple questions like ‘why are you pursuing your chosen course’ often elicit no response. If you are poor, how do you support yourself in the last few months in the university? The response can be unbelievable.
JPA should do a better job of sharing with the public the criteria for the selection of students. If students are rejected, give them reasons for rejection. Of course there will always be suspicion of racial discrimination and lack of transparency breeds more controversy and suspicion. I had the opportunity of a short interaction with the Prime Minister in his office yesterday and he told me that he is personally looking into the matter so that every deserving student should be awarded a scholarship although there are monetary constraints.
While it is true that more and more non-bumiputras are getting scholarship to go overseas or within the country, there is also a corresponding increase in bumiputra scholarship. The end result is that in the last 4 years, non-bumiputra students that were awarded scholarship by JPA accounted for 25.4% on average per year. For those who were awarded JPA to study in the country, the percentage of non-bumiputras is about 10%. The government should increase the number of scholarship for the non-bumiputras. While helping the bumiputras, the government should not deny the deserving non-bumiputra students of their opportunities to further their studies through the JPA scholarship. The brain drain problem will continue to haunt us until we put our act together. That act is to act like what the PM said 1Malaysia where there is fairness to everyone, irrespective of race, at the same time, the government do not neglect the bumiputras.