Government’s decision to silently withdraw the overseas JPA scholarship applications for non-bursary students who managed to get into a top 50 ranked university is a betrayal of trust

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 26th of August, 2014

On the 16th of April 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin issued a press statement stating the type of scholarships available to students whose SPM results had just been released.[1] In this press statement, the DPM announced that the overseas JPA scholarship – Program Ijazah Luar Negara (PILN) – would be open for students who did not manage to score 9A+ in their SPM results (otherwise known as non-bursary students). Bursary students were those students who had managed to obtained 9A+ or more for their SPM results.

The only conditions these non-bursary students had to fulfil is to score a CGPA of at least 3.5 or its equivalent, and obtain an unconditional offer from a 10 top world ranked university for medical, dentistry and pharmacy degrees – or for other courses, an unconditional offer from a top 50 world ranked university for other degrees.

This announcement gave hope to many non-bursary students in terms of having the motivation to work hard in their pre-university programs such as STPM, A-Levels, Matriculation or the International Baccalaureate (IB) in order to apply for the PILN scholarship. Prior to this announcement, once a student failed to obtain 9A+ or more for their SPM results, the possibility of them obtaining an overseas JPA scholarship was zero. With this announcement, a window was opened to them.

The PILN scholarship for non-bursary students was supposed to have been opened to students entering university in the year 2014. For students applying to the top universities in Australia, they would have obtained their entry offers at the end of 2013. For students applying to the top universities in the UK, US, Europe and Asia, they would have obtained their entry offers starting from April 2014.

As of June 2014, there was still no news from JPA on the opening of the PILN scholarship to non-bursary students prompting some of them to write to a local newspaper to highlight their case.[2] And their worst fears were confirmed some of them went to JPA in July and was told that the PILN for non-bursary students had been cancelled because of the lack of funds.

One can imagine the disappointment of some of these students especially those who have obtained entry offers to the top 50 universities in their respective fields according to the press release issued by the Deputy Prime Minister. They were not even given a chance to apply for this scholarship much less get called up for an interview.

Did the Deputy Prime Minister mislead the students when he announced the opening up of the overseas JPA scholarships to non-bursary students only to have this cancelled two years later without any public announcement? Did the Ministry already know that the RM2.12 billion allocated for JPA local and overseas scholarship in 2012 was insufficient to include non-bursary students given that 1609 students who scored 9A+ or more were offered the bursary scholarship and were later given priority for the overseas scholarships?

The government should have a consistent policy for JPA scholarships which allows for all applicants who fulfil the criteria to at least be called up for an interview so that they have the opportunity to demonstrate that they are deserving of a JPA overseas scholarship. To promise one thing and then to take back that promise 2 years later is unacceptable and is yet another example of an unfulfilled promise or “Janji Tidak Ditepati” by the BN federal government.