Top Malaysian students left in the dark over govt sponsorship

PETALING JAYA: They are the cream of the crop among Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates, scoring the highest distinction of 9A+ or above, yet are left in the dark, unsure whether their tertiary education will be sponsored by the Government.

Alyaa Adibah Idris, 18, a 9A+ scorer for SPM 2015, was ecstatic that she was eligible to apply for the Government's Bursary Graduate Programme but was soon left dejected when she found out that it was not opened yet.

"It is disappointing. I slept less than four hours every day to study hard because I wanted to pursue a medical degree overseas," said the former SMK Seri Puteri student.

Since 2012, students who received 9A+ for SPM are automatically eligible to receive the national bursary, and later a scholarship by the Public Service Department to pursue their studies overseas.

However, the Internet link to apply for the bursary, which is usually opened via the ministry's website once SPM results are announced, is still inaccessible.

Alyaa may need to seek financial support elsewhere, though she still hoped that the link would reopen soon.

Sarah Tan, 18, who scored 11A+ in last year's SPM, would check the ministry's website every night.

Her father, Peter Tan, 56, who owns a car workshop, said her daughter's anxiety kept her awake at night.

"She is a bright girl and yearns to become a doctor.

"But without a scholarship, I do not think her dream nor mine could be fulfilled.

"I wish to see her return and contribute to the country's progress," he said.

Earlier this year, 744 SPM 2013 bursary recipients who were supposed to be sent overseas to continue their studies would now have to study locally in public or private institutions of higher learning.

The top 20 SPM students, however, can still proceed with the bursary programme at leading universities abroad.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as part of his recalibrated Budget 2016.

One of the affected scholars is See Pei Woei, 20, who has to do her degree in medicine at Monash University, Malaysia.

See conceded that to get a scholarship to study for medicine, pharmacy or dentistry elsewhere was "extremely difficult", even if they got straight As, and that was why she decided to continue with the programme, instead of going overseas at her own expense.

"I'd suggest juniors from less financially capable homes to take STPM and enter public universities," she said.

Out of the 440,682 SPM candidates last year, 9,721 (2.38 per cent) scored straight As (either A+, A or A-).

However, no official figures were revealed on the number of students who scored 9A+ and above.