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MCKL in the Star- Harsh reality of education in Malaysia

I was brought up with the belief that education is a powerful tool to uplift people from poverty. As education does not come cheap in Malaysia, every hopeful student endeavours hard to achieve academic excellence in order to secure scholarships or financial aid.

I am a victim of the injustice in our education system which seems to defy the global trend by awarding scholarships to students based not on academic excellence but racial agendas.

I worked hard to obtain full As in UPSR and PMR, and 8A+s, 2As and 1 A- in SPM. In the end, the result of my hard work was zero scholarship for my tertiary education. I managed to push forward regardless, thanks to a tuition fee waiver from Methodist College Kuala Lumpur.

I brushed off my disappointment and persevered, and thankfully I completed my pre-university qualification as the top student in my class. Yet again, no openings of sponsorship were available.

I applied for a place in USM despite knowing that the chance was slim given that priorities are usually accorded to matriculation and STPM students. My performance during the interview session must have been lacklustre because I did not make the cut.

People might wonder why I did not opt for matriculation or STPM in the first place. Firstly, there is a quota system in matriculation that puts non-bumiputra students like me at a distinct disadvantage. Secondly, we do not get to choose our degree of choice, as many factors besides merit are considered.

I did not wish to leave the rest of my life to fate and the whims of those people in charge who have for decades been throwing meritocracy out of the window.

Nonetheless, my amazing parents devised a solution for me to further my education. They dipped into their retirement fund (they reached retirement age at the end of my secondary education) and also borrowed a hefty sum from my uncle. Meanwhile, I applied for another loan from the National Higher Educa­tion Fund Corporation ((PTPTN).

I also applied for, and successfully secured, a half-loan half-grant scholarship from Kuok Foundation to study dentistry at the International Medical University (IMU).

Looking back now, I probably should have sought cheaper alternatives in universities, but I knew that my parents would want to provide the best for me.

Again, I worked hard at IMU and managed to graduate as top student in my graduating class. I was elated, but the joy was short-lived when I found out that despite being the best student in the class, I was not eligible for the PTPTN loan exemption due to a different assessment system and crude conversion method.

Thus, I was conclusively denied any financial sponsorship from the government throughout my education journey.

The government is encouraging Malaysians overseas to return and contribute to the country. But how can we be assured of our future if a system that belittles our hard work is in place?

I have tried different avenues at different stages of my educational journey to get my hands on any scholarship from the government on the basis of merit but to no avail.

Insanity is doing something over and over again but expecting different results. One can only hope for a silver lining in the cloud of challenges confronting Malaysian students now.