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Knotted up over scholarships

“One of the most common questions is why some who scored, say 14As, were given the scholarships but some who got 19As, were not. The view is that the ministry should streamline the number of subjects…Why should you take up to 20 subjects?”

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin when he proposed to limit the number of subjects a student can take in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination to solve the long-standing Public Services Department (PSD) scholarship controversy. (Source: SPM subject limits to end scholarship controversy, The New Straits Times, 21 May 2009)

This year, 15,084 candidates applied for PSD overseas scholarships and 8,363 were selected to be interviewed. However, only 2,000 overseas scholarships are available.

“The reason the Education Ministry is limiting the number of subjects a student can take in SPM is because some of the candidates are sitting for similar papers.”

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said on 23 May 2009 that the proposal to limit the number of subjects a student could take and the PSD scholarship issue were two separate matters.

The MCA Youth chief said the subject limit was to prevent students from sitting for redundant papers. He quoted an example where a student taking Physics, Biology and Chemistry need not sign up for the Science paper just to score an additional A.

He also said media reports mixing the two issues together have confused the public. Additionally, he reiterated the need for the PSD scholarship selection process to be fair and transparent. (Source: Wee: SPM subjects not the only selection criteria for scholarships, Kwong Wah Yit Poh, 23 May 2009)

“The same issue (selection of PSD scholarship recipients) was also brought up at the cabinet meeting. The prime minister has agreed to review the criteria.”

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, who is also the Transport Minister, said that the government would review the selection criteria for PSD scholarships during a 14 May meeting. The meeting was supposed to be attended by Barisan Nasional (BN) component party leaders, PSD director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan.

Ong also said the selection was based on four criteria — merit (20%), race (60%), Sabah and Sarawak citizens (10%), and students from underprivileged groups (10%).  (Source: PSD scholarship review, The Star, 14 May 2009)

“I think he may have confused it with the distribution of scholarships. We practise a meritocracy system with the criteria: academic (75%), co-curricular activities (10%), family background (10%) and interview (5%).”

PSD director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam rebutted Ong’s claims on the current PSD scholarship selection criteria on 15 May. He also said he did not receive any directive to review the selection criteria, nor did he attend any 14 May meeting with BN component party leaders and the chief secretary to the government. (Source: No review of PSD scholarship selection criteria, The New Straits Times, 15 May 2009)

On 28 May, Muhyiddin announced that from 2010, students taking the SPM would only be allowed to sit for a maximum of 10 subjects. He also said the grading system for the SPM would be enhanced to better reflect academic achievement.

The education minister said doing this would ease the awarding of scholarships.Favicon

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5 Responses to “Knotted up over scholarships”

  1. Hwa Shi-Hsia says:

    When I took the SPM in 2000, taking 12 or 13 subjects was a big deal. How on earth has it gotten so inflated that taking 14 is normal and you have to take 19 to stand out?

    All this means is, not that Malaysians have gotten smarter or that education has improved, but that the SPM as a standard has deteriorated so far that any reasonably bright and hardworking student can get straight As in a dozen subjects. It renders the concept of an A (which originally meant an outstanding mark) meaningless if the cut-off mark is so low that the market is saturated with straight A scorers.

    (My crusty old Add Maths teacher commented that in his day, if you got 9 As you were a bona fide genius.)

  2. victor tan says:

    Please abolish the 2,000 PSD overseas scholarships altogether and use the same money to increase the number of PSD scholarships at local universities.

  3. Patrick Chang says:

    All overseas scholarship should only be considered for 2nd degrees or for degrees that are not available in local universities. The cost of an overseas scholarship can probably finance a few scholarships for a local degree. Doing so will get the candidates better exposure.

  4. Sebastian Ng says:

    No, they should simply make the SPM harder. Back in my day (not that long ago), we were laughing about how the Add Maths passing grade had fallen into single digits.

    I’m pretty sure it’s gotten worse since then.

  5. I disagree with Victor’s idea. Please abolish all scholarships to UiTM and fund more students overseas.


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