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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Award scholarships based on overall merit

I REFER to the report “Govt offering scholarships worth RM1.24b to 1,500 top SPM students” (The Star, April 6).

The Government’s decision may be laudable but spending such a hefty sum on a relatively small number of students to undertake their first degree programmes abroad is unwise.

High performers must be rewarded appropriately but the money spent must be prudent to benefit as many as possible.

Why can’t our top scorers be sent to do their pre-university courses and basic degrees in local institutions?

By sending the best to local universities, which cost much less, not only more students can be sponsored but at the same time also help improve the standards in our local universities, which are on the decline.

How can we elevate our universities to world status when we keep sending our best overseas?

This will only boost the foreign universities at our own expense.

It must be noted that high-achieving students make up far less than 10% of students.

The vast majority are average performers who should also be catered for adequately.

There are many who do badly or even fail their examinations and it is equally important to cater for the special needs of these students as well.

Spending all we have on a few top students and neglecting the majority will be detrimental to the nation as they will form the bulk of our workforce in the future.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the students are assessed according to their academic performance (85%), co-curricular activities (10%) and Public Service Department interview (5%).

This clearly indicates the over-emphasis on academic excellence while other important factors like financial status, extra-curricular excellence and aptitude seem to carry little weight.

Not all top scorers have the aptitude and not all with aptitude are top scorers.

Academic performance is a very important factor but it would be unfair to base the assessment on just a single public examination.

It would be better if it is based on continuous assessment by the respective teachers, who would know the students best.

In the past, emphasis used to be placed on testimonials from teachers with regards to character, attitude, aptitude, behaviour and academic performance and students with excellent testimonials are given priority for scholarships and other awards.

Students will then strive hard to excel in all areas, not just academic, so as to get a good testimonial.

Unfortunately, today, testimonials are rarely sought as they have limited value, particularly for top scorers.

All that matters is a string of A’s and nothing else.

Students spend so much time and money to obtain those A’s, often at the expense of all other equally useful activities essential to make one an all-rounder.

It is time to seriously consider a fairer and more comprehensive method of awarding scholarships.

Awards should be granted to all who are eligible based on overall merit without discrimination whatsoever in keeping with the 1Malaysia policy.

DR CHRIS ANTHONY,

Butterworth.

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