You Now Have To Pay Back Your JPA Scholarships If You Don't Want To Work In Civil Service

"Changes in policies should not be done just like that, in a rush, without any discussion or public consultations," said DAP's Anthony Loke.

Cover image via New York Times

In a sudden turn of events, the Public Service Department (JPA) has informed that they will be converting all JPA scholarships into loans starting this year, 2016

JPA's official announcement on the changes to JPA scholarship terms

Image via Pembangunan Modal Insan (eSILA)

This decision was informed through an announcement on their official site, Pembangunan Modal Insan (eSILA). According to JPA, all scholarships will be given in the form of loans, but they can be converted based on three different loan agreement mechanisms, namely;

1) The loan can be converted into a scholarship and graduates will be exempted from paying back if they agree to work in the civil service upon graduation.

2) Graduates will have to pay back 50% of the loan if they decide to work with any government linked companies (GLC).

3) If the graduates do not wish to work in the civil service or any GLCs, they would have to pay back the full amount of the loan.

Commenting on the government's sudden move to convert the scholarships to loans, Welfare, Family and Women Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, said that it could be due to the country's weak economic state

Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah

Image via The Star

Meanwhile, Welfare, Family and Women Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, when contacted, said she would not be surprised if the government made such a decision.

"It does not surprise me. Bitter pills are hard to swallow. I have been expecting something like this to happen because our economy is bad. The exchange rate of ringgit compared to other currencies is really not in our favour.

In bad times like this, the government either makes such decision or approve less JPA scholarships. And to me, the second option is even worse," said Fatimah, who has been entrusted with the watch briefing for education in Sarawak.

She hopes that when the Malaysian economy turns around, there will be a reverse in JPA’s decision.

DAP Seremban MP Anthony Loke on the other hand, is under the opinion that the conversion is "an unfair change of policy" that should have been discussed thoroughly before being implemented

DAP Seremban MP Anthony Loke

Image via The Malaysian Insider

DAP's Seremban MP Anthony Loke said concerned students and parents had contacted him about the change, prompting him to look into the matter.

"Changes in policies should not be done just like that, in a rush, without any discussion or public consultations.

This is an unfair and short-sighted change in policy as only about 20 percent of JPA graduates end up working in the civil service. This is according to statistics provided in a written parliamentary reply several years ago," Loke added.

“There are 11,000 JPA graduates every year. Are they going to absorb all 11,000 of them into the public service every year if they are unable to pay?” he asked.

This move comes after PM Najib Razak, informed last month that JPA bursaries will only be granted to students that wish to pursue their tertiary education in local institutions, either private or public.

However, top 20 SPM scores in the country will be given the privilege to study anywhere they choose to in the world.

Malaysiakini's infographics on JPA's scholarship breakdown

Image via Malaysiakini

A total of 744 bursaries will be given out for those wanting to pursue their studies locally, he said.

Najib said scholarships will also be given to 8,000 students pursuing their undergraduate degrees locally.

Only 200 students will receive scholarships to study engineering degrees in Japan, South Korea, Germany and France, he said in his speech when announcing the 2016 Budget revision in Putrajaya.

Najib said other programmes, including the MyBrain15 programme for postgraduate studies at local universities, the Skim Latihan Akademik Bumiputera and Skim Latihan Akademik IPTA, would continue.

On 21 January, the government informed that they will be suspending JPA scholarships due to the country's shrinking revenue:

The suspension affected almost 700 local students, with some even forced to reconsider their offers from prestigious international universities:

We often hear about how JPA scholars prefer to find employment overseas instead of coming back to serve in the civil service. To better understand this situation, we spoke to three young JPA scholars on how things panned out for them post graduation: