M203 Diary

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Scholarship Students does the Houdini

Click on title for recent article on this issue on the star.

Since the last movie I watched was the horrendous show called death defying acts, which stars well....Harry Houdini, Thus the inspiration for the title. Haha, I know this is probably a very "sensitive" to some, and a dilemma to most, but matter of fact is it is a growing problem as the above article has shown. So JPA bashing? Nah...we shall have a high intellectual and evidence based discussion.

First, my opinion on JPA: (disclaimer: I love all my JPA friends and FAMA (father mother) scholars friends alike, despite what your future plans may be=P)

To be completely honest, I still think JPA system is extremely flawed. The intentions were good. Look at how far countries like Japan in the past, sending students abroad to further their knowledge and coming back to serve the country, becoming a major world power (and still are). This is what our government is trying to do, but unfortunately is this intention seeing the expected results? Are we getting the fruits of the seeds we sowed? Big and fat No is the answer you are looking for.

And yes i was one of those who would happilly jump into a heated arguement just to annoy JPA scholars. But as a grow and mature (ahem...no seriously)....i begin to realize that there is a bigger picture than this...One of the reason why I maintain that the JPA system is flawed is NOT because I'm stupid and didn't manage the gazillion straight A1's required, but because my opinion is that the JPA scholarships are benefiting the wrong niche of society. Let me clarify, i'm not saying JPA scholars don't deserve it based on merits, heck they all scored the minimum required marks, which to be honest, is the maximum anyone can get. So my argument is not based on merits but based on need. Yes yes i'm starting to sound like a communist or RobinHood. But hear me out, we can't deny our academic performance in a exam based country is highly dependent on a person's social-economic status. Just look at the gaping wide-as-the-sea difference between the rural and urban performance. I think i'm the most qualified of the lot to make that judgement since I probably came from the most ulu of kampung's as compared to all of you (A herritage i'm still proud of). We don't have classes where everyone is expected to score straight A1's, we don't have cikgu cermerlang's, heck, we don't even have enough cikgu's to begin with. Our school target is to get as many form 5 students to form 6 as possible, because to most, private institution is not an option. 10A1's, thats as rare as finding a goldmine in my back yard. And even within our kampung niche, guess who are the people who does better? You got it right, the people who have a better social economic background are in the "better" class and score better marks.

So my question is, is the goverment missing out on really talented individuals but are disadvantaged based on social-economic background? My answer is a big and resounding YES! Some may argue its a matter of choice of the individual, which i agree to a certain extend, it does take hell of an effort to obtain straight A1's and I applaud that. But here is the thing: there are some students who are really bright but have to give up studying time to supplement family income, taking care of gazillion siblings, plus all the social problems involved as you work your way down the economic scale, including abuse, negligence, lack of support, etc. This is compared to some of us who have the comfort of brick homes, maids, massive tuitions, endless extra-curricular development opportunities like piano-lah, ballet-lah, singing-lah, art class-lah to develop and nuture our talent and creativity, and supportive parents with good parenting skills. Mine is a description of opposite ends but you get what I mean. So who do you think will be the person who scores straight A1's? No prize for getting that right. Does that mean the disadvantaged student is any less brighter then the better off student? I think we know the answer to that one too....

So as you can see my main arguement is really 2 fold. The first wrong argument is the rich will always get the scholarships which they theoretically don't need. But I have since rejected that point of my own because I believe in all citizen's having equal rights and there should be no discrimination against race, religion and social economic status. My second arguement probably holds more water, which is the goverment education and selection criteria is massively flawed. First, equal rights for all should mean equal education opportunities for all. I'd laugh big time at that one. Look at the disparity of quality we get between rural and urban schools, the different facilities, I can testify to that, I look at all the Sekolah Bestari's in big cities with almost everything you need; My primary school is a freaking wooden building with sand dropping downstairs in between the celah of the wood everytime someone walks by! Also, look at the discrimination in schools where the weaker students get less attention then the better ones??!! Shouldn't it be the OTHER WAY AROUND? And with an education system in which that one exam: SPM, is the ultimate judgement of a person's ability, and future, couple it with my above issues=the screwed up system we get today. You can almost write the equation for that one:

low socialeconomic status+lousy class+lousy education+screwed up SPM results= low socialeconomic status+lousy class+..........................................................

Having said that i totally disagree with people who blame the scholars. They are either sour-grapes or people who are plain ignorant of what is the real issue. The real problem lies with the government and their screwed up education system and selection criteria. So how can you blame those who are chosen? Shouldn't we be blaming the chooser rather than the choosee? (ok i know thats lame=P) I honestly do not know the answer how to rectify this. Examinable merits is still the best way to judge a person's ability, but I know our goverment have got to do something about our education system, instead of weilding a keris around (yes that was a deliberate pun=P)

Ok i think i digress from the main topic, but I jst wanted to get it off my chest=P Ok now, the Houdini scholars...which is the second reason why the JPA system is flawed, but first....Categories of scholars: From my experience of JPA scholars there are generally 4 types:

a) Those who plan to head back right away to serve the 10 years...I call them the patriotic lawful ( ). The ( ) is for you to fill up the blank, choices...heroes, servant, etc. The ideal student which i take my hats off...enough said

b) Those who plan to stay on to finish their internship/fellowship before heading back and serving the goverment for 10 years....I call them the smart, semi-unlawful, ambitious patriot. These are people which have a greater good in their mind, both for themselves and for the country. Hey u can serve better when you are more senior kan?So they are "bending" the law for the greater good, which i say BAGUS

c) Those who plan to repay the bond....I call them the smart unpatriotic economist, this is because currently the amount is less than what the gov invest, moreover, the money they can use to invest and earn more money....smart financial plan....although its ripping off tax payers money but hey...they ain't breaking the law...."applause"....

d) those who disguise under option (b) but in actually fact plans to do the houdini....I call them.........ohhh there are many words, just none that i think would be appropriate for a community blog.............

Again I disagree tottally with all the non-JPA scholars who get into heated arguements with JPA scholars say "you ungrateful ( ), our government pay so much money to send you overseas to study, the least you can do is come back and serve", or the classic "my parents pay taxes so that you ( ) can go overseas and enjoy and then never come back." All very "intellectual" and technically correct arguements i must say, BUT fundimentally flawed because of ONE thing. If they (including me) had the scholarship, we would probably be thinking THE EXACT SAME THING! So how can you judge another when you yourself would do the same thing??!! And spare us the high and mighty declaration of "oh I will definately take the (a) option"...yeah right...most of the FAMA scholars are probably going to be staying back for a good few years or even forever, so don't come preaching about how patriotic you are.

So where is the problem? Why are more and more of our scholars running away? OVERWORKEDjaisjqpamUNDERPAIDqnajxiaTREATEDLIKESHITqpauejDISCRIMINATION suqiaozWAITABILLIONYEARSFORFELLOWSHIPPROGRAMqyerifyd.......Yes, there are million and one reasons, which is a whole other topic by itself. But these are reasons common to both JPA and FAMA scholarship students. The real reason why JPA scholars are not coming back is simple: screwed up government policy. Good intentions but poor follow up and implementations of their policy. The whole idea is to improve our workforce with highly skilled graduates, they are producing highly skilled graduates, which is the first part of the objective, but they are not coming back. Question is, why have a policy which doesn't ensure your graduates come back to serve?

To be honest I have no idea what the government is actually thinking when they drafted the contract to the students, why write something when you don't enforce it? WHY GIVE HOPE OF BEING ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH IT??!!

Their contract probably reads (pardon my lousy BM):

"Anda dikehendaki pulang serta-merta selepas tamat pengajian untuk serve goverement selama 10 tahun"

I read it as...

"So what if I don't?"

The answer is....

"Jika anda hendak break bond, anda dikehendaki memulang sejumlah RM160,000 (i think it is changed now, this is the contract our batchmates got)"

I read it as.....

Get out of jail free.

WTF?!What kind of investment is that?Don't they realize that amount is nothing to those who are getting most of the scholarships?The poor farmers 8th son? NO...the disabled pensioners daughter?NO....most of the people getting the scholarships have parents who can pay off 1 million at a hoot, what more 160k? When you insert a clause like that the first think that comes to my mind is to PAY AND RUN! LOGICALLY....when you have any human capital investment you expect returns either in terms of monetary interest or work...nothing is free except your parents love (that might be debated) and the air you breathe. So, If they decide not to serve shouldn't they at least be made to pay the full amount....wait JPA scholars...i know u will argue that the government is asking for more now...but what i mean is full amount...plus interest for all the years, AND for wasting their time when they can fund another scholar who is willing to be the patriotic lawful ( ).

In my humble anecdotal opinion if they wanted to make sure all their scholars came back, the contract should be ammended as such:

"Anda dikehendaki pulang serta-merta selepas anda tamat pengajian dan serve government selama sepuluh tahun, Jika anda refuse untuk pulang, kita akan laksanakan ops tangkap houdini untuk cari anda, dan, jika tidak dapat mencari anda, kita akan tangkap seluruh keluarga anda, termasuk extended family, tanpa warran atau sebab, under ISA laws, dan masuk mereka ke dalam lokap sehingga anda pulang dan report for duty...sekian terima kasih"

Simple and effective, I'm sure every single one of them will take the first flight out of whichever country they are in and zip back home immedietly. And if they wanted to have a clause to let scholars pay back, at least lah untung sikit:

"Jika anda hendak break bond, anda dikehendaki memulang sejumlah RM 10 juta serta merta, jumlah ini hendaklah dibayar pada hari anda declare anda tidak mahu pulang, kalau tidak, anda, atau keluarga anda akan ditangkap seperti tertera di atas, sehigga anda settle wang outstanding. Anda ada option untuk bayar installment tetapi interest rate adalah 10% per bulan..sekian terima kasih"

Ok 10 million is a bit much, but hey it is an investment so you would want a good return, so the least is as i said, what the government spent plus interest and time spent. So my point is, the government brought this upon themselves by coming up with stupid contracts and poor enforcement of the law, giving graduates "options" to explore, and then they blame the students. Hello, you are the ones who breed the culture by allowing one or two to get away with it, if you nipped it at the bud, you think other students will do it? Of course not! The solution is painfully simple yet they are unwilling to do it. I wouldn't forbid scholars from furthering their studies abroad, why do that? U get pissed off interns who give poor health care=more needless deaths=less taxes. What they should do is say no matter what, by hook or crook, u have to serve 10 years and enforce it strictly, (like my ISA tangkap keluarga law or something....hahaha) when you come back is your problem, but must be within 10 working years of ur life. Nice and simple. Graduate happy get to some money, further their education, come back serve goverment better and den off to private practice when their pennence is done. Government happy they get highly skilled consultants coming back for good solid 10 years. Painfully simple, never gonna happen, and we all know why... we will be in direct competition with local MMed's....and you would think competition breeds excellence in everyone but unfortunately our country doesn't work that way....not yet anyway....

As much as I love my country, There are many problems such as this which lies ahead of us. We have a government of very good intentions, but the implementations get so askew-ed that it get's exploited and becomes a burden rather than a plus. Unfortunately our government seem to be oblivious of the problems. I wonder if the problems lie between the people who come up with the policy and the people who actually implement it? Is there a break down in communication in terms of how successful a particular program is? Because losing millions in investment is a shitty investment by any standards. To my dear scholarship friends, I can't say I understand your dilemma because i'm not in that situation, but i can imagine this news isn't gonna put a big smile on your faces. But hey, as long as you don't plan to take option (d), we're good=P And given the snail pace changes are made, It would be a good few years before anything is being done anyway...so hopefully you guys still have the "options". As for non-JPA people, don't blame our friends, blame the system which gave our JPA friends the options....and we can together-gether try and make a difference, who knows, one of us might become a health minister or something...and can make the call for the greater good.