Some thoughts/Q regarding JPA scholarship policy

by Mary Mag

Just wanted to share some of my thoughts/questions regarding the JPA scholarships policy.

I believe it is important to recognize and reward merit and tap young potential , so it is important to continue with ‘merit scholarships’.

But the government must clearly differentiate between ‘merit scholarships’ (that must be based solely on merit criteria) and others based on ethnic or socio-economic considerations.

At the moment, there is no clear demarcation and there is still a lack of transparency regarding many aspects. As taxpayers, we have the right to know all the information.
Regarding JPA overseas scholarships for SPM high achievers, the practice now is to send them to UiTM or slelected private colleges for ‘preparatory/foundation’ courses. A few questions arise:

  1. Why send them for these courses, at the expense of taxpayers money, when the top scorers can easily get fee waiver from most local colleges to do their A-levels/Austmat/Canadian pre-U courses? After the students complete the A-levels/Austmat/Canadian pre-U, the government can select the top-scorers and then only sent them to the best universities overseas. By then, some of them will already be offered scholarships from other countries/universities and the pool of qualified candidates will be smaller.

  2. Why not get the SPM top scorers to sit for the American SAT exams immediately and then sponsor those with high scores who are able to get into the top US universities?

  3. How much is being spent on these ‘preparatory/foundation’ courses and how are these colleges selected? Is there cronyism involved? I have heard that some of the these colleges do not have competent lecturers and the top students even point out the mistakes made by these lecturers!

  4. What are the criteria for selection of students for scholarships? Why are there still racial quotas if it is supposed to be on merit?

  5. If it is a ‘merit scholarship’ why do they still consider the income of the parents?

  6. Shouldn’t it be a separate category for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, irrespective of ethnicity?

  7. How do they check the accuracy of the income -related information given by the applicants?

  8. What are the assessment criteria during the interview of candidates? Why do they have to go through an interview? How do they assess students during group interviews, as being practiced now?

  9. Many students can score straight As for SPM because of all the tuition and coaching. That does not mean they are genuine top scholars who will do well in external exams.

  10. There is still a lot of suspicion and claims of double standards/cheating/rigging of SPM exam results, not necessarily during the marking, as it can also happen at the recording/keying in stage at the Ministry. If marks can be tampered with for the CLP exams, what guarantee is there that it doesn’t happen in the SPM/STPM exams?

  11. Why doesn’t the government publicize all the information regarding scholarships given out by PETRONAS, MARA, Bank Negara, Securities Commission, and all the GLCs? This is still taxpayers money, right?

Although JPA scholarships only affect a very small percentage of the population, it always gets a lot of political mileage.

I wish politicians will pay more attention to more basic issues that affect the larger population – e.g. the quality of primary and secondary education, wage levels, inflation rate, misuse of public funds, etc…

  1. #1 by monsterball on Friday, 9 July 2010 - 5:13 pm

    You can forget about equality fraternity and freedom of speech as long as UMNO B is governing.
    Scholarship based on merits?…forget about it.

  2. #2 by Winston on Friday, 9 July 2010 - 6:22 pm

    Mary Mag, your letter contained far too many questions and they will tax the brains (if any) of our government officials!
    Why should they bother with such things when they can do anything they want, any way they want?
    It’s their way or no way!

  3. #3 by limkamput on Friday, 9 July 2010 - 8:08 pm

    Let me try to answer each of Mary’s questions:

    1. You slow lah, taxpayers’ money means it is not their money, so why bother. In fact they used to send some of these students overseas even for A level (but I am not sure this is still being practised now).

    2. You must understand, our top scorers are not really top scorers when compared internationally. Their SAT scores may be just good enough for them to gain admission to Western Michigan University, but definitely not MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford.

    3. Well, you have said it, what else is new. Very damn thing is cronyism and money making. You must see some of consultants they appoint to give in-service courses to government officers. There are real jokes and yet thousands were siphoned this way.

    4. It is based on merit officially. Let say you want to give scholarship to the top 100 scorers at SPM level. You will soon see that the top scorers are distributed according to the number of scholarship they have decided to give to each community. Always be careful of what you asked for.

    5. Simple, to introduce ambiguities into the selection criteria like income, extra-curricula activities, leadership etc, they can discriminate and you can’t argue.

    6. Shouldn’t be this and that, but I hope you are not being naïve. Do you think JPA scholarship is the only scholarship given by the government. Besides MARA there are also other scholarships pay out of state coffers but never computed in the overall quota.

    7. You want to check the income of the applicants’ households? Goodness me, even IRB also does not know and you expect JPA to know. Let me tell you this: it is better to just ask JPA to publish the names of the fathers and mothers of all JPA scholars. That will be more than sufficient for you to make your own conclusion.

    8. You are slow again. You see, to discriminate, you must also make it appear that the process is transparent. To have winners, you must have races, right? So unwittingly, some of you are just there to make up the number. Selection criteria is always based on race, what else?

    9. Well, with tuition or without tuition, with straight As or slightly straight As, the quality/standard of our exam has long been suspected. But the unfortunate thing is that when our own children/brothers/sisters score straights As, we tend to think that they are excellent too. A good test would be – how many of our straight A-students are able to get ASEAN scholarship, survive and come out top there. Yes of course, some are, but we are talking generally here, not exception.

    10. Well, if the whole country is so divided based on bumi-non bumi dichotomy, suspicion is always justified what more when almost all sensitive civil service posts are filled solely by one race. If all civil service positions are equally important, then by the law or randomness, some non Malays should be in the Home Affairs, JPA training and service Divisions, the procurement division of the Treasury or the exam division of the Education Ministry. If you find any non Malays there, please let me know and I shall buy you Starbuck.

    11. Sure, they should publish. But the problem is the trend, the pattern, and the frustration to you would be the same. So why bother. I think they are being sensitive not to make you so angry and disappointed (smile).

    I appreciate you have taken an effort to ask so many questions. I too have reminded Sdr Lim and PK before – it is time they highlight more pointed and relevant issues.

  4. #4 by habis on Friday, 9 July 2010 - 10:39 pm

    Let us be realistic and all of us know that the probability of getting a JPA
    scholarship for the Non-Malays is very very low except for the very lucky few who are there just to make up the number.You can be the most outstanding student but nothing is Fair under BN.The only way to change and seek justice is to use your Votes wisely and kick out the BN govt.

  5. #5 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 10 July 2010 - 12:09 am

    No doubt all the points raised are pertinent but the writer forgot one BIG issue: Making money! The rational approach does not generate money, create as much options as possible so that free money can be handled over! Recentlt it was reported that nearly ONE THOUSAND lessons were given out to applicants to start private higher education institutions!! They have to do it so that all the Masters and PhDs can find some kind of work to do!! Surely they must be mighty good with all the letters until you discuss issues with them!! So the main theme is always MONEY! MONEY! at any cost; by any means!! We will be celebrating our achievements soon with Zimbabwe!!

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 10 July 2010 - 12:10 am

    Licenses,,,,, not lessons

  7. #7 by k1980 on Saturday, 10 July 2010 - 3:59 pm

    perkasa and utusan malysia will soon be asking: “Did hitler give any scholarships to german jews?”

  8. #8 by kpt99 on Saturday, 10 July 2010 - 10:26 pm

    Najib says all SPM students with 9A+ and more to get JPA scholarships be it oversea or local.So those 2009 SPM with such results should be given automatically without any interviews or other selection criteria.

  9. #9 by good coolie on Sunday, 11 July 2010 - 1:35 pm

    We can solve the problem this way: give scholarships to only the 9A++ (!) students. How would some students get 9A++ and yet fail admission tests into premier universities worldwide? That’s because they get leaked-questions from special tuition classes, or get bonus marks based on race.

    Talking about the CLP, some private colleges would conduct last minute courses for the CLP examination, using leaked papers (it would be virtually impossible to pass the CLP examination otherwise, barring cheating by the authorities themselves!). This was the norm about 10 years ago. Since the Great Exposure of Skulduggery, the CLP examination now seems to have acquired more respectability.

    By all means help disadvantaged students to pursue higher education; do not however temper with examinations! Do not make unrealistic discrimination between A’s and A++.
    This reminds me of a government department where it was a custom to promote a person who obtained 98.9% in performance assessment over another with merely 98.2%, solely based on performance score. What about the poor fellow with only 98%?

  10. #10 by kpt99 on Sunday, 11 July 2010 - 2:08 pm

    Can you trust the 9A+ and over to get JPA scholarships.I would predict that next year,another new policy will come out to decide on the scholarships,There are too many flip-floppings in this government.

  11. #11 by on cheng on Monday, 12 July 2010 - 2:55 pm

    After perkasa make loud noise, policy likely to be revised!

  12. #12 by Oyico on Friday, 16 July 2010 - 9:51 pm

    kpt99 :
    Najib says all SPM students with 9A+ and more to get JPA scholarships be it oversea or local.So those 2009 SPM with such results should be given automatically without any interviews or other selection criteria.

    kpt99 :
    Can you trust the 9A+ and over to get JPA scholarships.I would predict that next year,another new policy will come out to decide on the scholarships,There are too many flip-floppings in this government.

    Hi kpt99,

    I believe in the same article you got this piece of information from, it is also stated that “(students) who have secured entry for undergraduate studies at top foreign universities such as Oxford and Cambridge may still apply for such scholarships.” I personally know somebody who just received an unconditional offer from the University of Cambridge for Medicine this year and was forced to reject the offer because she could not afford to pay for it. She applied for the Tajaan Tambahan Sponsorship (which JPA generously started in 2008 I believe) but was told, after a few months, that the sponsorship program had been suspended because they ran out of money in their allocated budget.

    So yes, I agree wholeheartedly that one simply cannot predict what the government decides to do with these JPA scholarships. While I do think that Malaysian students should not just assume part of our government’s responsibility is to provide full scholarships for all outstanding students (or supposedly outstanding, with their strings of As), our government should also think twice before making promises they do not intend, or cannot afford to keep.

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