Sunday, February 12, 2012

JPA Epic Fail

This should have been obvious a long time ago:
While the reports of civil servants not following a Cabinet directive to grant JPA scholarships to those scoring eight A+ and above in the SPM are worrying, the bigger question which we as taxpayers and voters should be asking our politicians is whether the returns we are getting from our expenditure on these scholarships can be justified. 
If the answer to this question is negative, then even if the JPA somehow manages to “perfect” the application process, these scholarships will still be a waste of taxpayers’ funds. Rather than getting worked up over the JPA scholarship allocation process, we should take a step back and ask two fundamental questions. 
First, do our top SPM scorers have an inalienable right to pursue an overseas education at the taxpayers’ expense? Second, do these JPA scholars “pay back” sufficient “returns” to justify the billions of ringgit spent on them? My response would be a resounding “No” to both these questions. 
Even if one can make the case that the country as a whole can benefit from the experience and expertise these JPA scholars will have as a result of their overseas education, the fact is that many JPA scholars do not return to Malaysia to work upon completion of their studies and most of those who do return never get the opportunity to pay back their scholarship bonds by working in the civil service. 
Ask any JPA overseas scholar who did not pursue a medical degree and the story will go something like this. They will report back to the JPA on completion of their studies and sit around for a few months waiting for the JPA to contact them. Many of them would seek employment, mostly in the private sector, during this waiting period. Upon the expiry of this waiting period, the JPA would either “lose” their file or send a letter to them stating that a suitable place of employment could not be found, thereby releasing these scholars from their bond. It would not surprise me to find that fewer than 5% of JPA overseas scholars actually fulfil the terms of their bond by working for the civil service.
In fact, I know a fair number who have skipped out on their bonds. What a sham.

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