Wednesday, June 08, 2011


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’.

Malaysian Dr Wang Gungwu

academically renown internationally

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.

Rhodes Scholar - late Bob Hawke, former PM Australia 

Rhodes Scholar - guess who? wakakaka 

Rhodes Scholar - Zhang Chunying

journalist, LGBT activist and lawyer


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.


  1. Dear Kaytee,First schlarships should be awarded to well deserving
    students.But sometimes it has to be made an exception rather then the rule that students(certain percentage not all) from very poor families with less 1 or 2 A's be accepted too.These students although not the cream of the crop are still above average students.

    This the Education Minister must put it on his first piority must do list.These not so bright but above average students if not accorded scholarships by the government will eventually end up
    in lower paying jobs(part of the brain drain).It is because their parents cannot even afford to send them to the cheapest institute or vocational training school.If these students were accorded a college education, many of them might turn out to be
    Olivia Lum types.But to denied these students an higher education because of less 1-2 A's is a great injustice.

    Let us use our heads for arguing sake.If these students with 7-8As
    from poor families,students with 9A's from middle class families and
    students with 9A's from rich families are given the same scholarships,who will do better and
    come back and serve the country
    loyally.I am pretty sure most of the 7-8A's will,although I am not so sure about the others.We always hear about PSD scholarship holders not servicing the terms of their contract.Not that they don't servive their obigations,they don't even come back.

    Although I don't want to sound too
    discriminating,students who are from the rich and very rich families should not apply for government scholarships even if they have 12A's.The government should put a cap on this.Like students whose families incomes and worth are over a certain set limit.

    Lim Guan Eng might have a point when he referred to overseas scholarship.In the seventies and eighties,it is a prestige to be admitted to University of Malaya(MU).After the quota came into effect,the standard of education
    came down.Before MU was considered
    one of the top ranked universities in our region.Now MU's ranking has dropped considerably.I think that the Education Minister's post should be given to politicians with experience in teaching backgrounds in colleges or universities.DPM Muyidden is a career politician who knows nothing about education,lest if he even have one.Most of his predecessors don't either.Or else tell me how come our education system's standards have "GONE TO
    THE DOGS".

  2. @#$%^&* every year same complaint @#$%^&* !
    Chinese with 9 10 11 12 13 AAAAAAAs NOT given ....complain & complain !
    LOOK, any bumi complains !!??
    @#$%^&*&^%$#@ !!
    WHOSE money ???
    90% of income tax revenue comes from Chinese !!!

  3. Anon,10.34pm

    I don't know who you are but I do know that you are a dumdass who will go on your knees to have the leftover crumps thown to you by Umnoputras.Or else why get offended
    by writer's criticisms.You should
    come up and compete on a level playing field.If you can make it then talk,okay.

  4. LGE is being political here. why should the scholarship to provide for oversea studying when there's ample of twinning programs and private universities (like monash, nottingham) that are producing good graduates. take example of MNCs in Malaysia, are these local graduates perform badly compare to their oversea grad counterpart? and most of the oversea grads are lacked of perseverance anyway nowadays. yes, scholarship is meant for the best candidates, but do these candidates really deserve it, especially they are just SPM. education is expensive and could be great burden to some parents, and the government is generous to sponsor them for free tertiary education. If these candidates want more, they should set to prove to be the outstanding among the good ones. speaking of SPM top achievers, they should thank the goverment for making the standard low and allowing to get such result. the ministry of education is blamed for this mess, if only the grades quota are tighened, say only 10, 20 are allowed to get A+ for subjects, i'm sure the scholarship issue would not be problem then and ritual event.

  5. Ever, wonder how many of the non-returning PSD scholarship holders r the tongkat addict race?

  6. Not all A's students are real high achievers. Many can't even describe a simple topic properly. They only memorizes the fact from the books. Why not award those in STPM only? If they score well and able to registered in well known Universities, give them a full scholarship. Be transparent in all interviews. Marks given in interview should be published why a student is rejected from the scholarship. This will stop all complaints.

  7. Interviews present a subjective and potential barrier (of bias), and could/would be open to abuses. In the old days, there were no interview. This consideration is even more important today when most government officials are perceived as biased.

    Then, only academic achievements plus the economic status of the applicant were considered. This should be so today.

    Secondly, it's not correct to allude to A-students as not real achievers. Provided the exams are properly and fairly scored, and independently audited, the outcomes are the only objective means to assess achievements.

  8. If we have a panel of interviewers of various races and at the end of each interview, a common score is given agreed by the panels, it will not be open to abuses. Economic status could be considered as one of the factors in the selection but at what level. Parents where both are teachers iwth3 children to support, earning a total of RM10,000.00, do their son eligible or not if they are staying in KL.

  9. 11.10pm anon : ME a dumdass !?
    my piece is beyond your comprehension , SIGHS !

  10. kt,

    may be you should ask him to straighten the history first. hey, ketuanan melayu comes first. hell to everything else for this man.

  11. Anon 10.42pm,11.15pm.

    It's people like your types that give Malaysians a bad reputation.No wonder when Malaysians travelled abroad,going through immigration they have to go through a special imigration counter specially created for Malaysians only.You are a disgrace to your kind.Good for handouts only.The potong type.

  12. Dear Kaytee,Maybe you should tutor
    Anon 10.42 and 11.15 not to be always looking backwards.Teach them to always look forward for a better future.Always looking back to history and he would still be living on treetops.With his mentality that he is always ALWAYS
    deserving of handouts,Malaysia will forever be under Umnoputras.

  13. let's cut out the bigoted remarks

  14. Every year the number of A's students in SPM seem to increase. The figure at first seems to be about 230. But today, it reaches to about 8,000 plus. Are our students really that good or the SPM is...... If all SPM A's student are so good, let them go through STPM before scholarship are awarded especially to those who are able to enrol in Renounce Universities. Abolished Matriculation.

  15. I think we should let all our students go through STPM in Malaysia instead of sending them overseas after SPM. These would save the Government a lot of money and the money saved could then finance all high achievers through overseas or local universities on courses of their choice.

    All high achievers with the same results should be send for overseas education on merit whether their parents are rich or poor. We cannot deny scholarships to the rich simply because they also earn it through merits. Its somesort of a reward for being brilliant and hardworking in their studies.

    Other than the above, scholarships should also be given to those who have lesser results but are from poor families to local universities. The Government can then further sponsor them for post-graduate studies in overseas if they qualify.

  16. petition to government to have grades quota. only then, the best of the best will stand out. the rest will just have to sit through STPM to prove their worth. wait, STPM does not have BM, sejarah....

  17. Scholarship should never be completely merit-based. What I mean is that we have a minimum academic requirement but ultimately whether a student gets a scholarship or not depends on needs. Remember that the government does not have infinite resources and can't grant every qualified students scholarships. Since the rich can send their children to university, why should we deny the same opportunity to the poorer students to do the same?

    I can't see any difference in intelligence between a student who gets 10 As and another with 3As and 7 Bs in SPM. The result only shows that the one with 10As is a better exam taker. I don't see SPM (or even STPM for that matter) as a reliable indicator on how well a student will perform in university. An informal survey I have performed among university students in an engineering program in a local public university shows very weak correlation between pre-university performance and grades they obtain in university. Actually the top students in the program tend to have STPM results in the bottom quartile.

  18. Olivia Lum is a Super-Bit*h with a capital B; just ask anybody who has worked for her....but I won't begrudge her the entrepreneurial success.
    I suppose its a sad commentary on state of Singapore society that she had to be like that to succeed...

  19. Anon 10.42pm June 12,2011

    Anon,why not print your name so maybe Olivia Lum can refute your claim.Not fair because than Olivia or any of her colleques who saw your comment cannot come out to defend her name against an anon.No point arguing with someone who technically does not exist.