Azmi Sharom (right, making a point) and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR, 22 May 2009: A parliamentary roundtable meeting comprising opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), academics, and former Public Services Department (PSD) scholars have called for a “wholesale revamp” of the scholarship system.
Among the resolutions adopted by the roundtable was the formation of a parliamentary select committee to “drive the revamping” of the scholarship system. This would be formed in next month’s sitting of Parliament.
“This committee should comprise both sides of the political divide,” DAP parliamentarian and youth chief Anthony Loke Siew Fook told The Nut Graph.
Loke said that the select committee would study the problem, gather feedback from relevant stakeholders, and come up with the best course of action.
The problem of SPM top scorers not being selected for PSD scholarships has been ongoing for many years. Many parties, including the MCA, DAP and MIC, have called for a review of the selection criteria which are currently based on four criteria — merit (20%), race (60%), Sabah and Sarawak citizens (10%) and students from underprivileged groups (10%).
The roundtable meeting today also called for an additional sum of RM300 million for PSD scholarships, to award all 2008 SPM students with 10A1s and above with scholarships, “at least to study in local universities”. This would increase the total PSD scholarship provision to RM1 billion.
Tony Pua (left, making a point) and Anthony Loke
Besides Loke, the roundtable included DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching, Kuala Selangor MP Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, and Selangor state assemblyperson for Seri Setia Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
It also included Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom, academician Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and former JPA scholars Adlin Abdul Majid and Izad Shahadi Sallehuddin.
The roundtable was careful to note that the above measures would only address the issue for the short term. Its suggestions for long-term resolutions include:
A revamp of the PSD scholarship application procedures and candidate selection process, including a review of the interview system;
The creation of two levels of scholarships: one for the pre-university level (STPM, A-Levels, South Australian Matriculation, etc), and another for university undergraduate programmes;
The appointment of officers to track the progress and performance of scholars throughout their scholarship tenures;
More investment in local education, to make Malaysian universities more attractive destinations for top students;
And the establishment of an efficient system to attract and recruit graduated PSD scholars into the public service workforce.
“Each scholar sponsored to go overseas would cost the government RM500,000 in total. It is imperative for the government to reap from the investments that were made on each scholar,” read a statement containing the roundtable’s two-part resolution.
“We acknowledge the need to reform the award system of the PSD scholarship scheme, in order to solve once and for all the recurrent problems that the scholarship scheme has attracted over the years,” added the statement.
“We will hand over these resolutions to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri [Abd Aziz], and we will raise this issue in the next parliamentary sitting,” Loke said.
Loke styled Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement that the government would limit SPM examination-takers to 10 subjects for JPA scholarship consideration as a “short-term solution”.
“Just limiting the number of subjects doesn’t mean the problem will be solved,” Loke stressed, adding that the whole PSD scholarship mechanism needed to be studied.