Thursday, May 26, 2011
Year after year, there have been SPM top scorers who complained about the unfair award of scholarships by JPA.
So much so that the annual phenomenon has been described as the annual “complaints and appeal season’.
This year is no different.
In fact, deputy Education Minister Datuk Wee Ka Siong even described the situation – where qualified students were unsuccessful in their scholarship applications – was the worst this year in all the years when he handled appeals.
The Minister in charge of JPA scholarships Datuk Nazri Aziz has come out to strongly defend the JPA.
But his explanations have not been convincing.
Datuk Nazri said that the government had allocated 1,500 overseas scholarships to top students but stressed that of the total; only 300 were given based entirely on merit to students scoring straight 9A+.
He explained that currently over 360 students fell within the merit category which offers only 300 awards, resulting in over 60 failing to obtain the overseas scholarships.
He also said -“This means they may or may not qualify for remaining 1,200 grants. It depends on how they fare in the interviews”.
Heamanthaa Padmanaban from Seremban is one of the many students who have failed to be given the overseas scholarship they have applied for.
Did she do so badly in the interview that she was not qualified for an overseas scholarship or even not entitled to be awarded a local scholarship to do medicine?
I have taken the position that for merit category, the award of scholarships should be based solely on academic result.
But even going by JPA‘s current evaluation method for the merit category, it is difficult to believe that Heamanthaa could have failed to qualify for an overseas scholarship.
It has been reported that for merit category, the criteria JPA uses are:-
1. Academic result (85%)
2. Co curriculum activities (10 %)
3. Interview performance (5%)
Heamanthaa scored 9 A+ and 1 A in her SPM and was very active in co curricular activities.
She was quoted in the media as follows:-"I qualified for cross-country runs and played hockey at state level, and was a schools champion in chess and badminton.In April last year I was among those chosen to participate in the Malaysia-America Soccer Exchange programme with 12 other women”.
Is JPA going to give the excuse that she has fared badly in her interview?
Heamanthaa's father Padmanaban has said that it is unlikely for his daughter to fail her JPA interview, as she had received good remarks from the US Embassy visa approval officer when she attended an interview last year.
No explanation by JPA can be convincing unless it is prepared to be totally transparent.
It should, firstly, publish how scores are awarded for all the factors, viz academic result, co curriculum activates, interview performance and economic background.
Secondly, it should publish the names of all successful scholarship recipients, with details like results and scores obtained by them, type and place of academic programmes approved by JPA to them.
Most importantly, the Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib must intervene to ensure that Heamanthaa and all deserving SPM top scorers are given the overseas scholarships.