Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Lee Jia Hui (pic), 19 scored 11 1A’s in the SPM examination. The Sunday Star, April 20, reported that he had for the last six months applied for scholarship to pursue his studies oversea from various local agencies such as Public Services Department and Bank Negara. He was unsuccessful.

Interestingly and luckily, he has now obtained offers of scholarships from renowned institution such as Harvard University, Princeton, Darthmoth, Cornell, as well as Wesleyan Asian Freeman Scholarship. Imagine prestigious and renowned foreign institutions are falling over to offer scholarships and yet at home he is unable to obtain a scholarship.

Now that Lee has secured a multitude offers of scholarship, it can also be certain that Lee would be another talent lost by Malaysia. With a degree from a prestigious institution, he would surely receive offers of employment even before he finishes his studies. I just wonder what will be the motivation for him to return home. The lifestyle he would have become accustomed to, the employment opportunities, remuneration and perks may make him not to come back to Malaysia. Frankly, why would he want to.

Singapore government has for a long time offered Asean Scholarship to top students from Asean countries to study in Singapore. Now, Singapore has gone even further. It now offers scholarships even for for Primary and Secondary students. The multitudes of scholarships given are designed to lure top students from the region and particularly from Malaysia to study in Singapore. These students after having being used to the Singapore life- style and work ethics, more often than not would then stay on and work in Singapore. Many raise families and ultimately become Singapore citizens. The very least they become Singapore Permanent Residents while their children becoming Singapore citizens.

Singapore has found ways to entice and retain talent while Malaysia on the other hand seems to be indifferent to the loss of talents. After all the loss and brain drain can be replenished with Bangladeshis, Sudanese or even Myanmaris. Little wonder Singapore who once was on par with Malaysia has transformed into a first world and much of it is because of Malaysian talent who left our shores to help transform Singapore to become what it is today. Malaysia hardly made attempts to plug the brain drain or even ensure that our talents return. We just let them go and in the process lost them.

It is said that virtually all the students from the top class in Foon Yew Chinese school is headhunted by Singapore with offers of education scholarships. While the UEC examination certificate is not recognized for entry into local universities, yet it is recognized by Singapore (and many other countries) and students with good UEC results often receive offers of scholarship from Singapore. Has Petronas, Bank Negara or even Khazanah Nasional even provided a scholarship for a top student from Foon Yew Chinese School ?

The government is now considering sending a second man to space. Imagine the millions which is going to be spent when no one has a clue what benefit we have received from the first mission, apart from having the distinction of being the first Malay and Malaysian to go into space. The government even once was prepared to spend millions just to build a high performance sports centre in England. Luckily the local council rejected the application.

The point is this, the government readily finds money to spend on grandiose projects but find it difficult to provide scholarships for outstanding students. Why can’t the government, government linked agencies and companies find ways to help outstanding students with scholarship. What is even more sad, is that very often Non Malay students find it virtually impossible to obtain scholarship from government or government linked agencies and companies, yet are often receipients of scholarship from overseas universities. Importantly, it is to be noted that these scholarships are often secured on merit. I still remember how a couple of years ago government linked companies were falling over each other to provide scholarship for a British whiz kid whose only link to Malaysia was that her mother was born in Malaysia. Now the whiz kid is a 130 sterling pounds per hour whore.

Malaysia through the decades have lost thousands of outstanding students to other countries and we cannot continue to lose talent and let the brain drain go on. In a globalised world we must retain our outstanding students while at the same time source for outstanding foreign talents. We must make available scholarships for our top students and more importantly every top student irrespective of race must have an opportunity. We rely now on foreign doctors often from third rate countries and who can hardly speak the local language and some hardly look convincing nor confident as a doctor. Could we not have sent abroad on scholarship more Malaysian student of all races to study medicine. I know one Indian family whose child is studying medicine in Bandung, Indonesia. The poor parents are virtually begging from office to office for money to educate their child.

Let us be realistic, if the country treats a top student like a step-child and alienates him from opportunities, would he still be motivated to return and serve the country. This is what has happened and still happens. Many who has gone abroad still has family ties and feelings for the country but government policies and alienation of opportunities makes them not having any desire to return.

Malaysians pay tax, Petronas makes billions, government and government linked agencies and companies make money and government poor millions bailing out government linked companies. Yet, outstanding students and particularly non malay students cannot secure scholarships easily. What the government, government agencies and government linked companies must do is to provide scholarships for outstanding Malaysians and importantly irrespective of race. What has happened to Lee Jia Hui should not have happen and must never happen again.

Norman Fernandez
Vice Chairman
DAP Johor