Sunday, March 22, 2009

Not all 9 1As will land scholarships

Not all 9 1As will land scholarships
Mar 22, 2009
The New Straits Times

By : Sonia Ramachandran

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: There will be no automatic scholarships for those who score nine 1As and above in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination this year.

Public Service Department (PSD) director-general Tan Sri Ismail Adam said the scholarships were only a benefit for last year.

Last year, students who got nine 1As in the 2007 SPM examination were automatically eligible for scholarships from PSD for Form Six until the first degree locally.

"Last year, if they had nine 1As and they got into Form Six, we offered them scholarships. If they did well and entered local universities, the scholarships continued.

"This year, there has been no announcement. There is no decision yet," Ismail told the New Sunday Times.
What remains this year, he said, were the 2,000 overseas and 10,000 local scholarships.

"Within the overseas allocation, we also reserve scholarships for those who get into elite schools. It can be Ivy League schools, the top school in England or the Group of Eight universities in Australia.

"For that kind of scholarship, you have to get a place there. So it doesn't matter even if you study on your own. Once you get a place in Harvard, we offer you a scholarship.

"But it must be in the field that the government wants. If you take classical dancing, then of course there will be no scholarship."

Last year, said Ismail, 87 students received this type of scholarship and this year, it will be offered as part of the 2,000 overseas scholarships.

Aside from these, there are also scholarships for foreign universities that have a local campus -- Nottingham, Monash, Curtin and Swinburne -- as well as the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology University.

If a student gets nine 1As in the 2007 SPM examination, enters A-Levels and then gets a place in Monash University, would he still be eligible?

"Yes, he can still be considered. He can apply, but it is not automatically given. He becomes like any other applicant."

Ismail said there would be no reduction in the number of scholarships offered by PSD as a result of the current economic conditions.

"So far, the government has said it will maintain the number of overseas scholarships at 2,000 places and local scholarships at 10,000 places.

"This year, we have 1,676 students with straight 1As and 6,277 who obtained all As. There are only 2,000 overseas scholarships.

"The problem now is that all the bright students want to do medicine in England. That is not possible.

"It is not that they don't qualify. It is because medical schools overseas now have an international quota and we have to compete with the rest of the world as they are very selective."

Ismail said the department was also working with the Higher Education Ministry this year to retain some of the top students for local research universities as part of efforts to improve the universities' rankings.

"We will probably give them extras to retain them, and they may possibly be able to spend one semester or so overseas. I will have to work this out with the universities and the ministry."

The selection criteria for overseas scholarships has also been changed.

"Last year, it was 70, 10, 10, 10. This year, it is 75 points for academic excellence, 10 points for curriculum, 10 points for family economic background and five points for the interview.

He said there was the interview process for overseas scholarships, but not for the local ones, which require 80 points for academic excellence and 20 for economic background.

"We still have the interview process for overseas scholarships because we are sending these students away for five or six years. We want to see if they are prepared mentally. We've had cases where students started feeling lonely in their second year.

"This is a big investment. When you go to medical school, we have to spend over a million ringgit. That is why the interview is important and it is the tipping point."

For this year, the government has allocated more than RM832 million ($346.53 million) for overseas scholarships and more than RM413 million for local scholarships.

"Students wanting scholarships must keep in mind that the competition is getting tougher, because there are a lot more brilliant students than there are scholarships the government can offer." -NST

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