Wong Chee Mun writes about education in Malaysia today. In being grateful for the Government’s move to award scholarships to high-achieving students based purely on meritocracy, we must also ponder – is education a privilege or is it a right?
FIRST OFF, I WOULD LIKE TO COMMEND THE GOVERNMENT for awarding every student who received 8As and above a scholarship regardless of their race and gender. It shows that we as a nation are moving a step forward in opening opportunities as opposed to the previous system in which students had no guarantees of any kind.
Moreover, the government has also guaranteed these kids an opportunity to pursue higher education, whether local or overseas. Higher education is a privilege and not something that everyone has access to.
You always hear stories from your parents about how they had to work from the ground up or how they had to work and study at the same time. Our grandparents consistently tell us that they had to drop out of secondary school just to support their family.
Those times were obviously different. Having a college degree was not a necessity then. Yet, access to higher education is just as difficult today due to cost and many other reasons. To make matters worse, most jobs now require having some form of college qualification which makes it almost a necessity.
I still remember many of my friends and acquaintances who took on heavy workloads during SPM. Some took the basic 10 subjects and I even knew of some who took on 14 some subjects. Undoubtedly, most of them took it with the confidence that they would score a good number of As if not all of them.
But most of them also took that amount of workload because they felt it would help them in applying for scholarships such as the ever so popular Public Service Department (PSD) Scholarship.
Of course, we were all under the impression that we also had to be “well-balanced” students as well as “book smart”. So many of these people also participated in extra-curricular activities such as sports and clubs and societies, in school.
And when the time came for them to reap the benefits, some celebrated in glory while the rest were shocked by their rejection letters. There were a few who did not really mind the rejection but their parents on the other hand did not take it so lightly. They appealed and even wrote letters to the media to express their disappointment.
With the price tag on education continuously increasing year after year, it is no surprise that parents are the ones who are more concerned than the kids as they are the ones who have to bear the financial consequences.
I am thankful for my parents being hardworking middle-class citizens who are able to fund my education.
So, our Government’s new “colour-blind” approach will hopefully mean we no longer hear complaints that the allocation of the scholarship was influenced by race related issues. This will truly embody the 1 Malaysia spirit that the government has been trying to promote.
That said, I hope all future SPM candidates from now on take this opportunity to get good grades as this represents an opportunity those in the generations before ours had. You do not want to end up being a graduate with hefty student loans and no job-security. It is not something any prospective graduate student looks forward to.
I also hope that this is not a one-off or short-term initiative by the government this year. As I understand it, they also did the same thing last year by awarding top students scholarships but it is my greatest hope that the Government continue with this approach for many years to come.
Wong Chee Mun was never the smartest kid in class but understands the importance of knowledge and is grateful for his education.