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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scholarship row: Extra spaces may be given

The Cabinet will discuss the possibility of providing extra spaces for overseas scholarships.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will deliberate tomorrow on proposals that extra spaces for Public Service Department (PSD) overseas scholarships be given to 86 students with 9A+ grades for this year.

The proposal was among the four categories of appeals made by leaders from Barisan Nasional’s (BN) component parties following allegations of unfairness in the scholarship awarding system, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said today.

He added that the proposals would be raised in tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.

Approval to expand the overseas scholarships quota for the 86 students could set a precedent with wider implications for future distribution of grants which was limited to 1,500 spaces.

The move could be seen as a political stragety as BN geared up for a snap polls. It is likely that future qualified students left out from the quota would use this year’s leniency as basis for appeal. .

This was indirectly admitted by Nazri when he said that “expectations” for scholarships this year were high due to the issue being highly politicised.

“We go year by year,” he told reporters when queried on the possible repercussions.

Earlier, Nazri chaired a meeting with BN leaders including MCA deputy president Liow Tiong Lai and MIC vice-president SK Devamany.

Nazri also announced that from next year the PSD would hold annual press briefings to explain the mechanism behind the distribution of the scholarships to avoid future confusion.

“The media must cooperate and help us explain this to the public,” he said.

Nazri added that the scholarship controversy was largely caused by misunderstanding between BN leaders and confusion created by the media.

“Today, we have resolved everything,” he added.

Technical glitches

The government will also consider appeals that students with 9A+ grades – 67 of them for now – who qualified for scholarships in local diploma programmes be offered to do matriculation courses to shorten the time period for entry into degree courses.

PSD scholarships for local programmes are capped at 2,500.

Other appeals made for the Cabinet to consider are transferring qualified 8A+ students from diploma programmes to matriculation courses and rectifying technical glitches which saw scholarship being awarded for matriculation courses without the subject being specified.

The scholarship row was triggered when Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong revealed that 363 straight A+ students failed to get scholarships this year despite the promise made by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that all students scoring 8A+ and above will receive PSD scholarships.

The promise was made following a similar allegation of unfair scholarship distribution last year.
Wee also claimed that there are “little Napoleans” in the PSD who were directly acting against the Cabinet directive.

Nazri, who is in charge of PSD, denied the allegation.

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