I REFER to the letter “Harsh reality of education in Malaysia” (The Star, June 13).
Much like the writer, I was a high-performing student across all national exams. Despite achieving 9A+ and 1A in the SPM, I was also not offered any government scholarships. At that point in time, I was also inclined to blame “racial agendas” and call myself “a victim of injustice”. However, that was almost 10 years ago, and I would like to share what this past decade has taught me.
1. Scholarships need not be based on academic excellence. There are various scholarships offered by foundations, corporate organisations and so on, which reward high performers in community service, sports and performing arts, to name a few. The writer would know that his (and indeed my) alma mater also offers a “Student Leader” scholarship as well as a needs-based scholarship.
2. Both my parents served in the civil service for over three decades. They paid every single sen of income tax which was required of them. Although I am a non-bumiputra, I felt equally wronged that my parents’ “loyalty” was not rewarded. I have since accepted that the government does not “owe” anyone a scholarship. The recent cases of PTPTN loan defaulters comes to mind. We need to eradicate our own sense of entitlement.
3. Employers citing language requirements also made the news recently. There are also complaints about room rental advertisements being limited to certain races. We need to accept that such requirements, including quotas, are an unavoidable part of life. As the writer pointed out, “many factors besides merit are considered”. For the above-mentioned examples, the reasons are practical. For scholarships, they could be political; we need to bear in mind that a political reason does not equate to an incorrect or unacceptable reason.
What experience gives me the right to say all of these? I am fortunate to have graduated, thanks to being an only child. My parents spent their entire retirement fund and we had further support from extended family members.
Although they have not expected anything from me, I personally feel the responsibility of providing a “return on their investment”.
In my current role, my organisation delivers educational transformation programmes in developing countries, including Malaysia. We have travelled by longboat to reach schools.
We have helped to comb lice off students’ heads. We have provided educators with teaching resources made from cereal boxes because they do not have Internet access nor technological equipment. These are the true challenges confronting Malaysian students even today.
I found my degree course immensely challenging and graduated as a “Grade C” student. I have been working for the past five years in a completely different field to my qualification.
I applied for 238 jobs (yet retained my sanity), was invited for only 12 interviews, and eventually found my calling. Would I have “made it” if I had received a scholarship? Most probably yes.
Did I fail in life without a scholarship? Definitely not; yet I am proud of my country and look forward to contributing towards its development every single day!
NO LONGER DISGRUNTLED