TL;DR – We should be stringent about who we give scholarships to.
There is an article going round about NTU rejecting the scholarship application of a Singaporean lady, Ms Hayma Malini. That article claims that Ms Hayma had “top” scores and extensive experience in the media industry. As a result, Ms Hayma had to seek opportunities outside of Singapore.
That article was based on a Ms Hayma’s Facebook post here:
Not really top scorer though…
Ms Hayma got an MDIS scholarship and did her Bachelor of Liberal Arts. For that, she got a GPA of 3.92 out of a maximum of 4. As a result, she got a silver medal. As far as I know, silver isn’t the best medal you can get. There’s still the gold medal. So that alone means that Ms Hayma isn’t really a top scorer.
But that’s not all. Ms Hayma then got a scholarship from the Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET) to pursue her masters degree with Nanyang Technological University (NTU). There, she got a GPA of 4.45 out of a possible maximum of 5. From what I understand, that’s not really a top grade. From NTU’s website, an A- get’s you a grade point of 4.5. That means Ms Hayma was hardly a straight A’s student. Not exactly a top scorer then.
What it takes to get a scholarship for NTU School of Comms
So, with those grades, it’s not entirely surprising that Ms Hayma didn’t get the scholarship for her PhD. A friend of mine was offered the scholarship. She was the top scorer of her batch of students in NTU’s School of Comms and a gold medallist in 2001. She also published an original study in an Oxford publication that I believe is still compulsory reading for Bachelors and Masters courses. What’s more, my friend already had a very successful and varied career in the mass-comm and PR industry.
So, as my friend pointed out, the criteria for getting a scholarship are stringent, and rightfully so.
The policy is for scholarships to be offered to those that have scope, depth and varied experience to contribute to the academic world – to be thinkers, front runners and pace setters.
That’s what it takes to be offered a scholarship.
Usual anti-foreigner sentiments
That article went on to talk about the usual issue of whether we should be offering scholarships to foreigners. That’s a completely separate issue.
We should maintain stringent criteria for offering scholarships at the PhD level, regardless whether they are Singaporeans or foreigners. There is a case to be made that we ought to be more stringent for foreigners. But it doesn’t change the fact that we need to be stringent when offering scholarships to Singaporeans too.
So if we are to be as stringent as we should be, then it’s not surprising that Ms Hayma, who isn’t exactly a top scorer, wasn’t offered a scholarship for PhD.
But we admire Ms Hayma’s spirit of constantly upgrading herself
The terribly-written article aside, we do admire Ms Hayma’s spirit of constantly upgrading herself. She started her career without a degree. Then went on to get a bachelor and masters degree after working for some time. Throughout that journey, she was supported by various scholarships given by Singaporean organisations. Now she’s pursuing her PhD in the Auckland University of Technology.
That is the sort of spirit of always learning, always upgrading that all Singaporeans should have.