In response to the scholarship controversy, the Deputy Prime Minister — or more appropriately the Education Minister — Muhyiddin Yassin shared that there are plans to limit the number of subjects students can take “to enable a fairer selection for the Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship.”[1]

This solution should be rejected because it is a blunt approach to address a specific but nonetheless big problem. The approach should not be taken unless there is something holistic behind it. That means, if it aims to address the education system. The education system however is a different set of issues altogether and this entry is not meant to address that.

If we are to restrict our discussion to the awarding of scholarship as with the apparent intention of the Minister, what should be addressed is the awarding process, not the education system. It is utterly ridiculous to shape whole the education system to fit the awarding method in order to address the problem.

The issue here is not the education system. This is not to say that the current education is not problematic but again, the issue needing solution is the awarding system. But even if the education system was excellent, the proposal would be all the more revolting. Imagine a hypothetically perfect education system being molded to fit an imperfect scholarship awarding process.

At the same time, to restrict the maximum number of subjects in order to address the awarding method is missing the whole point.

Worse, it seeks equality of mediocrity in the name of fairness when fairness can be achieved by addressing the awarding process instead. People that are able to take up a lot of subjects should not be prevented to do so. They should not be prevented from exploring their options just because some other students are unable to do so. If that reason sounds familiar, it should be: it is the idea that has been derided as equality of poverty; it comes eerily close to one pillar of communism, if it is not communism itself.

Whether it is good to take a lot of subjects at one time is another matter which this entry does not seek to address. I have my own opinion on the matter but I will not share it here in fear of digressing too much from the issue at hand.

I have a better proposal to how to make the award of scholarship by addressing the issue straight on rather than widen the problem. I propose for the PSD to internally utilize grade point average (GPA) method in awarding the scholarship. By internal, I mean it is used to filter all applicants even when the GPA approach is not used in the education system. And how the GPA is calculated should be made public.

The GPA system is not new and is widely used in universities all around the world. To those unfamiliar with the system, it basically assigns point to a particular grade and averages all subjects taken by utilizing weight. In universities, that weight is the number of hours required per week to read a particular subject. In the case of PSD, the weight can be how important a particular subject is perceived as. A subject like economics can be weighted highly while a fluffy subject like English for science and technology or can be weighted very lowly.[2]

Observe that this address the awarding process rather than trying to mold the education system to fit the awarding process.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — PUTRAJAYA: There are plans to limit the number of subjects students take in the SPM examination to enable a fairer selection for the Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Currently residential school students are only allowed to take nine or 10 subjects while those from rural areas had to take lesser due to lack of facilities.

As there is no restriction on the number of subjects students at normal schools could take, some have taken up to 19 subjects, he said.

When students from residential or rural schools with 9As are given PSD scholarship, students from normal schools who scored more As became displeased, he said, adding that it would be unfair not to select those from residential and rural schools as they could not take more subjects even if they wanted to. [DPM: Govt plans for easier PSD scholarship selection. Dharmender Singh. The Star. May 21 2009]

[2] — For a detailed example of a GPA system which I am familiar with, see an explanation of how a school of my alma mater — the University of Michigan — does it.

3 Responses to “[1988] Of address the PSD scholarship awarding process by using grade point average”

  1. on 22 May 2009 at 06:43 Hean

    When I first read the news last night, my response was “what the he…” followed by a good laugh.

    If such proposal is the best our Education Minister can come up with, I suppose we can extrapolate and imagine how the future of our country’s education will be. And to think that he is also our Deputy Prime Minister.

    I thought of another proposal last night, that is something similar to the system that is used in Higher School Certificate (HSC) that I took a few years back. Basically, a UAI which reflects the position of a student can be used, eg: 95 UAI means the student is of the top 5%. With that, we would not have any doubt which are the students who should be in front of the line of getting the scholarship. But of course, how the marks are calculated must be open to public, this I very much agree.

    I think it is important to weigh those subjects accordingly, but for goodness sake, certain subjects should not exist in the first place. A good example would be Moral. Perhaps if they change the course structure and Critique of Pure Reason is used as a text book….

    I have to admit though, I don’t really see a point of having so many A’s. Education is about learning for the sake of interest, fun and learning, not about how many A’s one can get. That is not to say I am against people who get many A’s. If they truly enjoy all the subject, that is of course the best, but perhaps my screwed up logic dictates that it it more probable that such students would not enjoy every single subjects that they take.

  2. on 22 May 2009 at 10:02 Bobby

    It’s a loss for our country as a whole, because when these people do not get the PSD scholarships, they are not “tied down” to serve our country.
    They will also probably leave for overseas and remain there, as a another form of brain drain.

  3. on 30 May 2009 at 23:19 Freethinker

    Good point on the GPA

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