How to ensure poor get their share of scholarships

– Koon Yew Yin
The Malaysian Insider
May 11, 2014

Since my retirement, I have been concerned with how we can solve the problem of the poor through educational mobility.

This has involved putting my money where my mouth is in a programme which helps needy families send their children to university through financing their first year.

Although Forbes, the media organisation has given recognition to me in its annual selection of Asian philanthropic heroes in 2011, I am the first to realise that my efforts at providing scholarships to the needy are modest and a drop in the ocean of need.

After much reflection, I would like to provide a practical and easy solution to the problem of too many deserving poor children having to chase and compete for too few scholarships.

My solution is a two-pronged one.

The first relates to government scholarships. These scholarships are, in fact, provided for by taxpayers so that taxpayers like me and other citizens have the right to ensure that the funds are not abused or misused and are fairly distributed.

My proposal applies not only to federal and state educational scholarships but also to scholarships provided by the government-linked companies, such as Petronas, Tenaga Nasional, Telekom and Bank Negara.

Targeting scholarship awards more equitably

Today, we have an upper class of Malaysians who have benefited from the New Economic Policy during the past half century through access to government scholarships.

These recipients of previous NEP scholarships (Malays and non-Malays) should now be disqualified from having their children apply for government scholarships except for the small proportion of scholarships awarded purely on a merit basis.

Instead, the greater proportion of government scholarships should be made available to the children of those families who have never received such scholarships in the past.

This will ensure that the children of poor and lower middle-class Malays as well as poor non-Malays, who cannot compete with the children of richer families, will compete among themselves for scholarships.

A small quantum of the number of government scholarships though can be based solely on merit and set aside for brilliant and outstanding students for which the disqualifying clause will not be applicable.

The following are some of the positive effects of my proposal:

It will create a more level playing field for all young Malaysians in the area of government and GLC scholarships.

It will make the children of Malays as well as non-Malays who have previously benefitted from the NEP more competitive and self-reliant.

It will also boost racial harmony.

It is an easy affirmative action programme to operate as all that is needed is the identification details of earlier education scholarships holders for vetting purposes as well as a simple question in the application form: has your father of mother been recipient of a government scholarship award previously?

Any affirmative action programme should have a beginning and an end. It must also justify its target beneficiaries and remove them from the queue once they have been provided with the opportunity and benefits.

Others formerly excluded or left out should now be put into the queue if they are in need.

Private sector participation

The other part of my strategy applies to the private sector. One reader in response to an article I wrote on the Chinese poor had provided the following comment:

“The super rich Chinese can do more by funding more educational organisation for the needy ones. As we know non-Bumi have minimum opportunity to study in full government-funded tertiary or vocational education. The capable and well networked Chinese should organise schools like early days when the Chinese merchants self-funded the Chinese schools. But nowadays the super rich Chinese are only interested in creating international school for their own profit. God will help those who help themselves. Let us help ourselves while waiting for the change in government.”

It is clear that the very rich and even rich – of whatever race – can and should do much more in providing educational access to the poor as well as middle class.

These private sector scholarships can have a higher proportion based on merit to balance the pro-poor one awarded by the government.

If this two-pronged strategy is adopted, we will have a greater measure of national unity and harmony, and quicker progress towards a more equitable and fair society. – May 11, 2014.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 8:14 am

    I believe scholarship should be provided to the needy but the fact of the matter is scholarships are about fufilling talent that can be national assets, its not about uplifting the mass of poor and lower income.

    The only way to really uplift the mass of poor and lower income is the education system itself. It must offer quality and choices. Its a tough challenge even those who have done well on mass education have failed.

  2. #2 by winstony on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 11:29 am

    In the early days of our Independence, scholarships were provided mainly to the kids from poor families; the super rich or rich kids were ineligible.
    But later on, kids from every strata of society were eligible.
    And this included the super rich ones.
    So, taxpayers were funding even these kids.
    Which is grossly unfair because the rich dads are more often than not more influential in getting scholarships for their kids than those who weren’t!!
    So much for “fairness” under the BN government!!
    Yes, giving government scholarships mainly to the poor is the way to go.
    As for the second part of your suggestion, private scholarships, the super rich and the rich of whatever race, can band together to work out a plan to provide such scholarships.
    But whatever method is used, whether governmental or private scholarships, these must be monitored and audited by reputable people otherwise we all know how things will end up in Boleh Land!!!

    • #3 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 9:52 pm

      Back those days, scholarships were for those bright students. The issue of whether one is rich like crazy or poor did not appear. It was to motivate one to go on to further education and good jobs. While the super rich can do anything they want in life, it is unfair to think that just because they can afford it, it means they can afford all means to get good grades. Getting good grades is up to the individual like does she want to get good grades ?

  3. #4 by Bamboo on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 11:44 am

    Winstony, exactly my sentiment too. Scholarships shouldnt be given to children of from high income families. They should eb able to support their children for their studies. Academic results shouldnt be the sole criteria for the award of scholarships. It should be a balance based on family income and academic results. Scholarhips awarded based on academic results alone in unfair. The rich can spend money for tuition to coach their children to score multiple As, but children of poorer families who study with their own effort are disadvantaged and likely score lesser number of A’s. They would be squeeze out of getting sholarships.

    • #5 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 9:55 pm

      Not necessary. Intelligence is not whether you are rich or poor. But when you look at the poor, they look like they are not interested in education. Because without money, they have no food on the table. Between food and education, the former would be more important because without education, one stills survives. Therefore you who is influential should help the poor to realize their full potential.

  4. #6 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 1:05 pm

    Rich dad, poor dad
    Make sure U R conceived in d RIGHT womb, then no need 2 worry abt scholarships

    Look at our teapot kaki, although dressed up like another race with a NEWly created name n talks more extreme than d adopted race while walloping, insulting his ORIGINAL race, d fact remains his DNA is STILL dat of d original race dat he so desperately wants 2 dissociate with (忘本, 数典忘祖)
    How he WISHed he was conceived in d womb of a KETUANAN

    • #7 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 9:59 pm

      You cannot choose to be borned in any one particular womb. But the womb holder can decide on whether the baby is a boy or a girl. Just because you marry some rich girl or boy, can you be guaranteed that life is so good ? That you will have intelligent kids ? That nothing will ever happen ?

  5. #8 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 5:20 pm

    Everything is $crewed up under this umno-led govt.

  6. #9 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 5:40 pm

    Now, another ting, ting, ting (‘ting ngah yi’) 忘本 gal crawled out fr some hole 2 condemn her own DNA, amazing

    Sure can easily get a scholarship meant 4 Bumiputra 1

    • #10 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 10:02 pm

      You don’t crawl out. In fact, you did not decide when you want to come out. It is in built in your mother’s system that it is time for her womb to contract to expel you into this world. It is not you telling your mom that you want to crawl out. If you can do that, you will save her from the pain that she has to undergo to expel you from her body into this world. How many hours of pain ? 4 hours ? 8 hours ? 16 hours ? Many days pain ?

  7. #11 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 5:42 pm
    ‘I am Chinese, and I ……….’

  8. #12 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 - 10:09 pm

    Apart from getting scholarship, the status of public universities should be based on at least 30% merit with any race bias and the balance the Gomen can “tingle” with it. Otherwise our Universities will grind to the bottom of the pit. Unless their quality is good enough for Malaysian to compete internationally any form of scholarship is useless. 30 years ago we loved to laugh at our Asean neighbors because we found their university graduates undertaking all kinds of jobs because of their liberal way of issuing degrees: today we are doing the same thing! Like what India used to do! Thousands of universities but to what purpose? [Of course they have a couple solid institutions where only their 2% can hope to enter] Today, we have 50/60 ‘higher’ institutions; many are just to make profits; nothing more!

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