Axe MARA and JPA scholarships for ACCA abroad

by a Malay accountant in London

Dear Uncle Lim

I am called to write to you following your post (Have MARA run out of funds…) on your blog.

First of all, I admit that the whole scholarship system is flawed and needs to be overhauled. Scholarships should be awarded on merit, and if at all, certainly not to rich students. However, asking for such a radical change from a half-past-six administration with no balls is almost futile, or as we Malays say, ‘anjing menyalak bukit’.

My letter today is to focus in prioritisation of issues within the existing framework. Today, I would like to focus on MARA and JPA scholarship for professional courses.

With all due respect, I firmly believe that these schemes are a total waste of taxpayers’ money, especially in the recession. I will outline my reasons, with focus on the ACCA programme.

ACCA is a world-recognised professional qualification in accountancy (and finance), and is the key to membership with many professional accountancy bodies worldwide (in Malaysia, MICPA). Past leaders were correct in identifying this programme for Malaysians to pursue if we ever want to move towards a knowledge-based economy, since it covers the area of accounting, finance and management.

However, in formulating the policy, I have identified many flaws that in my opinion, could have been easily identified if the officers/thinkers involved have done further research, particularly seeking a third party opinion, before coming up with the policy. A blatant example would be that many years back, JPA used to send students here for 10 years to do ACCA, without any foundation course whatsoever. Only over time they realised that the ACCA programme has got a higher pass rate if the candidates actually have a diploma or a degree! This is rather obvious because ACCA assumes that their candidates are working professionals that seeks to become qualified accountants rather than greenhorns in their wet pants!

The policy has much changed since then, although part of this policy is still being carried our by MARA/UiTM. UiTM still enroll students to do Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) qualification ( before they move on to the next level. Although this is a recognised route, UiTM is treating ACCA like an alternative to their diploma course, which in my opinion, is terribly wrong! An academic qualification is meant to test a student’s academic capability, and a university course is meant to also incorporate other elements such as soft skills into the students. A professional qualification is simply meant to test a candidate’s professional knowledge! This logic is simple yet very few seems to get it!

The good part of the policy, which rationale behind it I duly recognise, is that people with a degree can apply for financial assistance to do the ACCA programme in UiTM (previously, or at other recognised institutions). The part that I refuse to recognise even now is that both MARA and JPA are giving out scholarships for people to go and do their ACCA abroad!

Perhaps I should also explain their ‘rationale’ behind this. They claim that these programmes are critical to produce more accounting professionals because our people would otherwise will not be able to become accounting professionals. I will refute this claim as below:

1. Even after finishing all the exam course, candidates (now carrying the title ACCA) will still have to do a 3-year training contract to actually qualify as a professional accountant (carrying the title CCA). Without finishing this chapter, the said candidate is not a professional accountant. Many ACCA return to Malaysia and did not pursue this path but simply choose another career option. This is their choice, but then again, a lost opportunity, and it costs taxpayers a lot of money while the original objective was not achieved.

2. Many ‘scholars’ come here for 2 years, and could not even finish their studies. Again, this is a wasted opportunity.

3. This is a professional course, and it is mostly offered on a part-time basis. A popular choice amongst students would be to go to a 3-month ‘intensive’ course. Given that the other 3 months are not quite occupied with other programmes, students have 6 months per year off for themselves (in the 2 years of the scholarship). Assuming that they receive £900 per month (RM 4,500) for cost of living allowance (CoLA), they are getting paid higher that most of our junior civil servants! That’s RM 54,000 of free money on holiday for a year! I find this amount unjustified.

4. The ACCA programme is offered in Malaysia, and one reputable institution is Sunway College. While ACCA restricts its exam centres (due to our own misguided policy), ACCA tuition can be given by many qualified professionals, serving and retired. The same is also true for ICAEW and CIMA and other qualifications. Why waste money sending students abroad when we can pay tutors (even from the UK) to teach in Malaysia?

5. There are claims that the ACCA programme being offered in Malaysia is below par, and the pass rate is low. This is not something surprising. If our authority in higher education is more obsessed with sending students (their children) abroad (on taxpayers’ money), there is little fund for investment in local education system, isn’t it? Improvements come with enough investment over time, not by waving wands and uttering ‘hocus pocus’!

6. The money is better off spent in Malaysia on many other students, like the chap who sent the email to you.

I also recognise the fact that there are other pressing issues facing our country now. However, since the scholarship issue by MARA has been brought up, I felt that I need to put forward an area which I think is not critical to our nation’s development and can be axed immediately with a viable alternative already available in out homeland. Scholars who are studying abroad now can finish their ACCA programme at lower costs back home, or even in Singapore. This programme, in my opinion, is better abolished altogether because it causes so much strain on our financial resources, denying local students from their much-needed financing, and does not bring any benefit, let alone multiplier effect, to the local education system.

If there is a programme that must go in the recession for the benefit of more Malaysians, particularly bumiputras if MARA is concerned, this can be one.

In the long run, however, we should ponder a more serious effort to shore up our professional qualification standards. 50 years after merdeka, we still send out students to do ACCA, RIBA and whatnot abroad! I remember it was only last year that our government unveiled a bill to found a professional body for geologists! This is very late indeed for a country that wants to build a knowledge-based economy.

I believe that you can bring forward this issue and seek for a resolution sooner rather than later.

1. On the loans/scholarship to do professional qualifications abroad: This programme can at least be frozen for now. For programmes that are available locally (eg: ACCA), it can be abolished and the money can be invested to improve education standards in Malaysia.

2. For programmes that are not available locally, efforts must be made to establish the respective professional body so that our professionals can be trained locally. This includes architecture (in the UK: RIBA), geology, public administration, secretaries and administrators, etc.

3. Existing professional qualifications (eg: CLP) must be made accessible to many, including those without a degree but with the relevant work experience. If the Bar Council, Law Society and ACCA can do this, for example, why can’t we do the same? Datuk Zaid Ibrahim was correct to have proposed reform measures for the CLP but sadly he left early. If such qualifications are hard to obtain, then Bar-at-Law and other foreign qualification will still gain popularity amongst aspiring Malaysians. I certainly do not blame them.

Thank you for listening. I will try my best to help if you need any on this issue.

  1. #1 by m2molo on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 3:08 am

    Totally agree!

    My friend who studies in a UK university told me that the number of Malaysian students in his university ranks #2 in the foreign student list, where the top spot is China. He told me that most of the Malaysian students are sponsored by Malaysian government. Well, it looks to me that Malaysia is a rich country. Or, our local universities standard is so poor that the government also has no trust on them and has to spend millions every year to send students studying in oversea.

    I think the business management courses, law courses, accountancy courses, etc. in Malaysia are very good already, and therefore, government should not sponsor students to do Bachelor degree in oversea. However, it is still worth to sponsor student to do courses like engineering, medical, pharmacy, etc.

  2. #2 by mrx on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 4:58 am

    An related topic …

    English for Unity, Knowledge & Prosperity

  3. #3 by Joshua on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 6:19 am

    Malaysia has been a rotten system for 52/46 years, and after I did the right whistle blower in Sabah over Tun Mustapha and Syed Kecik and many other illegal leaders over corruption and abuses of power with ill gotten gain, and M’sia continues with profligacy of RM30 trillions and more, I went to the UK on my own finance and I made it to be FCCA.

    I only spent something like RM5,000 for the tuition/courses fee of the complete ACCA courses in 1974-1979.

    Now how much do each student need?

    What kind of product do we have? How many years do some of them complete the course?

    This the what i call Selfish Hideous Illegal Trap SHIT for the public fund as wasted. Some even call this SMART which is Sure Make All Rotten Through as the expense of the poor people in Malaysia.

  4. #4 by sotong on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 7:23 am

    We have lost the education battle….there is no quick fix.

    This is the direct result of decades of bad leadeship and gross mismanagement of our country…..we tended to the weak and dependable but gave no support to the strong and independent to get stronger.

  5. #5 by chengho on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 8:23 am

    why u play with the skin color , u don’t have to mentioned malay accountant or chinese accountant , indian accountant or any other tribal name just address the letter by a concern Malaysian accountant living in London ( sure ? )

  6. #6 by ALLAN THAM on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 8:29 am

    I do agreed with the writer that there is no need to send scholar to pursue ACCA in London, however what MARA should consider it let those interested in pursuing ACCA do the first few parts of the examination locally and may be only the final part in London.
    However, as the writer has correctly pointed up if the authority has the insight they can invest money on improving the standard of ACCA education by employing overseas tutors to come over here to teach and like wise send the local tutor overseas to train and then come back to teach.
    ACCA has a very high standard and it is upgrading every year. Many overseas scholars simply could not finished even the preliminary examination, therefore by sending them over to do the full course is very high risk as many come back with out completing the course.
    The system in Malaysia also did not encourage Malay student to pursue ACCA simply they can qualify as an accountant by taking local university accountancy course and which is relatively easy compare with ACCA. The only reason I believe that some student take up ACCA was simply they have the opportunity to go overseas and have the chance to live and overseas life and experience. After the study period they might just come back and do another local accountancy course to qualify.
    This was totally difference from those taking ACCA course locally like those in TARC, all those students have no choice and ACCA is their only road to qualify as an accountant as they have no place in local university. These students have high success rate as they are singled minded and put in extra efforts to do well. One person who has been successful through this road was no other than Lee Hwa Beng, the man in the recent PKFZ fiasco.

  7. #7 by DAP man on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 8:44 am

    I remember Kit called this ‘educational wastage’ some three decades ago.
    Its about unqualified students being sent to universities but fasil to perform.
    I know of JPA scholars being released from their bonds after they have spend about half a million ringgit. These students have settled down in USA/UK and enjoy good life. No nee to return and no need to pay back their scholarships.

  8. #8 by Godfather on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 8:45 am

    “…a total waste of taxpayers’ money.”

    Helloooooo….this has been going on for 30 years under the corrupt BN government, and will continue to be the motto until this government is toppled at the polls.

  9. #9 by lee wee tak_ on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 9:10 am

    We must differentiate scholarship and study aid

    (a) For social restructuring (bluntly put, less bright students that qualifies due to racial reasons) can have access to loans and aids. this is meant for social re-engineering. Period.

    (b) Then allocate scholarships for the best and brightest, base on meritocracy where race or family income level is not a criteria. these scholarship holders can then be identified to serve a bond after graduation to ensure tax payers’ money can have its return in place.

    We surely have more than enough funds for this. if we can afford to burn our money like in PKFTZ almightiest scandal, then surely we can buy 1 submarine less also to finance the deserving Malaysians and lessen the burden.

    Malaysians have daft policies that arrest the opportunities and potential of the best and brightest on the pretext of social re-engineering. The policy makers and implementers lack sufficient grey matter to have both objectives being satisfied simultaneously while complicating simple things. Perhaps too much of divide and rule clouded their capacity to arrive at optimum allocation decisions.

  10. #10 by YK Leong on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 11:36 am

    An unrelated topic. Brother Kit, I am very anxious to read the written judgement on the Perak crisis by the Court of Appeals. Where can I get the written judgement? It is more than 10 days already. If I am not mistaken, I heard the written judgment would be out within one week. Is it another delay? Can Nizar appeal to the Federal Court without studying the written judgement? Is the dateline of 14 days to appeal stayed?

  11. #11 by raven77 on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 11:53 am

    Games up…Education Ministry….for every student sent overseas when we have the facilities here… better give an explanation….it’s going to be bye bye BN GE13……times up…..the day you tried to fool all the people all the time is gone….LONG LIVE THE INTERNET……

  12. #12 by ekans on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 1:00 pm

    On 3rd June 2009 at 08:23.16, chengho said:
    why u play with the skin color , u don’t have to mentioned malay accountant or chinese accountant , indian accountant or any other tribal name just address the letter by a concern Malaysian accountant living in London ( sure ? )

    Even if the ethnic origin of the individual who wrote this letter was concealed, the last sentence in the second paragraph of this letter will still reveal it…

  13. #13 by tsn on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 1:30 pm

    No need to burn your money stupidly. Umpteen years ago TARC had offered these professional courses at dirt cheap fee. As usual overseas breeds always carry better weight. Let says 2 ACCA graduates, one from TARC, one from London Emile Wolf, bosses will give priority to the one from UK either in the aspect of employment and salary. Why? plainly stupid and encourages perpetuity of stupidity.

  14. #14 by Onlooker Politics on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 9:41 pm

    MARA will have much more numbers of study loans to offer to additional numbers of Bumiputera students if MARA set a criterion for screening the loan applicants:

    Applicant who studies in a local college or a local university of acceptable academic standards such as Inti College, Taylor’s College, Sunway College, Southern College, New Era College, TARC or UTAR shall be given priority to student who studies in a foreign country in the selection of study loan winner.

  15. #15 by TomThumb on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 9:48 pm

    “Existing professional qualifications (eg: CLP) must be made accessible to many, including those without a degree but with the relevant work experience.”

    who else could make a suggestion such as this except a malay student studying on tax payer money?

  16. #16 by mohrafael on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 11:09 pm

    My frens used to tell me, such scholarships were awarded to rich and influential (ahh or powerful people), being part of those numbers. you can read between lines … i sometime felt, why rich people do this at the expense of the poor, ‘A’ students.

  17. #17 by kerishamuddinitis on Thursday, 4 June 2009 - 12:34 am

    it is quite obvious that our porcine imbecile, chengho, has not registered the writer’s own phrase in para 2, line 5 – ‘…or as we Malays say, ‘anjing menyalak bukit’…

    it is also lost on this posterior orifice that maybe the writer wants to proudly qualify himself as not just a Malay but one who succeeded on his own in the way he has taken pains to point out the flaws in the system…and distinguish himself from all those other Malays who are simply abusing the system for their own selfish gains.

    it is quite unlikely that the writer would bite the hand that fed him if he himself had benefited from the system.

    chengho wallows in the mud of confusion that he swishes around with his little curly tail…just enough to stir up the faeces he lies in

  18. #18 by m2molo on Thursday, 4 June 2009 - 6:42 am

    We’ve so many PhD holders in local universities. Most of them earned their PhD in oversea. They must be good, if not very good. But I don’t understand why the standard of our universities is still low until government is willing to spend huge amount of $$$ to sponsor students studying not very ‘critical’ subjects in oversea.

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