Monday, 21 April 2008

JPA Scholarship - Abolishing it is Not the Answer

Another short post. Kian Ming posted this Education in Malaysia:

Abolish JPA scholarships for undergraduates

RM500,000. That's approximately the amount of money which JPA spends to send one scholar overseas to study in the US or the UK. It probably costs a bit less to send a scholar to Australia but not by much. But the sad fact is that the % of JPA scholars who come back to Malaysia and work for the government in some capacity or another is close to 0%. Given that this is the case, JPA has two choices: (1) drastically reduce the number of JPA scholarships given out (2) implement a comprehensive system of making sure that JPA scholars come back and serve out their bonds in one capacity or another. I would go for option (1) given that (2) is very difficult to implement and carry out, at least in the short term. In other words, why waste RM500,000 on a scholar who is not likely to serve the government or even to come back to Malaysia? ...

I agree with the problem, but definitely not the solution proposed. I have always thought that despite all the shortcomings of the government, the broad priority of allocating high proportion of public expenditure on education is a right thing to do. The disbursement and how the fund is used is far from good, but I never thought once that the solution should lie in not spending on education at all.

Anyway, I wrote a short comment in response to the post:

You are artificially constraining the options available. Not to mention that your proposal is politically infeasible.

I think there are many options open that could better serve the system; we just have to think beyond the conventional I guess.

For example, there is always an option to change the manner of some of the undergraduate JPA bonds. One is to consider a bond that instead of making you work for the public sector, merely 'bond' you to the country for a number of years. There is freedom on what you want to do, but you need to be in Malaysia for an X number of years.

Since the 'bond' involves only legal and administrative work on the part of the Immigration and perhaps the National Registration departments, I would deem that it will be much easier to enforce too.

This change is good in both that it could potentially lessen the brain drain problem and at the same time, provide scholars with much greater career freedom.

This is just a random example that I could think of now. I believe many more could be devised if we put more thoughts into it. I just do not think that the solution to the problem in the system lies in obliterating it.

Much of my deeper thoughts are implicit in the comment, but I just can't get myself to elaborate on them. Hope that the essence of the message is not lost though.

El -need to work harder- anor

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