The Malaysian Insider reported that DAP insists on overseas scholarships for all SPM aces so as to prevent loss of talent to overseas countries, like for example, predatory Singapore.
This argument is of course different from the case of the amazing Olivia Lum, the now-famous Kampar-born Hyflux chief who won the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Award for 2011. She beat 48 international finalists to emerge as the top entrepreneur.
Lum wasn’t a brilliant SPM achiever. In fact, as TMI reported, she was adopted at birth and never knew her parents, ... brought up in an illegally constructed tin shack with no utilities in Kampar Perak where floods were common and food scarce ... she moved to Singapore at the age of 15 and supported her schooling through tutoring and sales jobs eventually graduating with an Honours degree in chemistry from the National University of Singapore NUS in 1986. The rest is history, bringing her to her current brilliant achievement and praiseworthy status.
Truly, in Chinese eyes, a blooming lotus.
Oh? Why ‘lotus’?
As I wrote in a 2005 post The Lotus Will Not Bloom For One Man:
One of the cental pillars of Chinese culture has always been ‘education’. Every Chinese, especially those from the disadvantaged social strata, aspires for his or her children to make it good via an education, to become a mandarin, to ‘rise above the muddy waters and bloom like a lotus’. That’s why many Chinese named their daughters ‘Lotus’.
Chinese folklore has many glorious tales of a poor peasant's son becoming the Emperor’s mandarin, through the young man’s arduous and brilliant studies. Those historical tales have inspired Chinese society to educate their children well.
In Malaya, legends abound of prominent surgeons, engineers and other notables of society who were children of poor hawkers or coolies, so poor that they had to study by the street lamps or flickering candles during their school days. Those young lads, hardly in their teens, were also required to work for the family’s survival that it was a wonder how they managed to combine their studies with their apprenticeships as hawkers and labourers. Some even walked umpteen miles to reach school. But they eventually attained their exalted positions.
Obviously Olivia Lum has joined these exalted ranks. Bravo Olivia!
I also wrote: That is why education is a very sensitive issue with Chinese Malaysians. That has been why the Chinese in Malaysia have virtually abandoned the national education system which they consider to have dodgy standards.
Chinese parents there have been known to mortgage their houses and worldly possessions to send their children abroad for tertiary education in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, USA, China, India etc. Many have left very comfortable positions and lives to migrate abroad for such educational reasons.
The reasons for seeking university education abroad even though the financial cost threatens their economic position are three-fold – the dodgy standards of local universities, difficulties of getting a scholarship (the subject of this post), but most significant of all, the very slim chance of even securing a place in a university study of their preference because the government’s affirmative action have marginalized many Chinese and Indians.
But back to the SPM people. Lim Guan Eng asserted that “... all SPM top scorers should get overseas Public Service Department PSD scholarships instead of 1Malaysia Development Bhd 1MDB grants if Malaysia wants to retain the country’s talent.”
I have some difficulty with Lim’s argument for “all”.
Firstly, we need to answer one question, why should the scholarship be for an overseas (presumably) university education when the achievement is only at SPM? Shouldn’t it be STPM (HSC)?
Obviously I won’t ask the question of 'why overseas’ per se, unlike my question above, because I’ve already written on it in the above extract of my 2005 post, namely, no one respects the dodgy standards of local universities. Thus I fully understand why Malaysians like Lim GE prefers an overseas university education for these young achievers rather than one locally.
So, perhaps the Education Minister, instead of making populist driven and divisive 'I'm a Malay first, then only a Malaysian' bull, should focus on rejuvenating the once respected status of our universities. Recruit a few international and national experts, where I deem internationally renowned Dr Wang Gungwu to be one of the latter. We certainly don’t need those 'half-past six' type, perhaps already worsened by BTN indoctrination bull and described by the US diplomats as ‘inept’.
Maybe when we have improved the standards of our local universities, people won’t be so obsessive with rushing overseas to study there.
Now back to 'scholarships', to my thinking, it should be awarded based on two principal factors, namely ‘need’ basis and ‘merits’.
The latter is straightforward, where students who obtain straight A’s meet the criterion.
But ‘needs’ basis is about the student’s financial ability to afford further education, whether this be at the tertiary level or a trade skill.
Consider Khairy (wakakaka), Mohandas and Kuok, who all are children of very rich or certainly comfortably-well-to-do families. Each has scored all A1’s in their SPM or STPM. Their scholarly achievements would be very praiseworthy but should they be awarded scholarships to the denial of three poor student less brilliant than them, when it’s obvious the cost of their tertiary education anywhere in the world would be sap-sap suoi (peanuts) to their respective parents?
Of course this is different from and does not do away with prestigious scholarships, where the award is more about recognition of amazing scholarly achievements rather than to finally assist the beneficiary of the award. But these are the rare prestigious awards, like, for example, the Rhodes scholarships.
But as I mentioned, I have some difficulty with Lim’s call for ALL top scorers to be so awarded. Scholarships at this level are not the prestigious types so I want to see the ‘needs’ basis considered. I’m not happy to see public money spent on funding a rich man’s son or daughter education (plus living and other expenses) overseas at a foreign university.
Only, and only when the high achievers who are needy have been awarded scholarships, may we then consider those not so needy for awards of such government scholarships.