Call to review scholarship system
By Siti Hajar

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called for a review of the scholarship system in sending potential students overseas to further their education while ensuring that local institutions, particularly religious higher education establishments, also possess high calibre students.

Delivering a titah during the first convocation for graduates who have successfully completed their respective courses at Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB), His Majesty noted that as of late, Arabic Secondary Schools have considered sending their students who have been graded as 'average' to pursue their education overseas along with those who have are described as 'excellent' and 'above average'. The decisions have thus cut down the number of students within Brunei's own education system, leaving only individuals who are in the lowest tier among the four categories with the last being those who have only just passed.

"We realise that the will to pursue overseas education is indeed high, which is why many do not forgo this opportunity. The question that arises is that if we persist in sending 'excellent' and 'above average' candidates overseas, who will then be left to occupy UNISSA and KUPU SB? Of course, those who are from the lowest category," His Majesty pointed out.

"As a result, there will be a lack of quality students in UNISSA and KUPU SB, which can also stunt (UNISSA and KUPU SB's) growth," the monarch said.

His Majesty told relevant agencies to "look deeply into this matter through consultations or discussions". The monarch advised such agencies to develop a strategic framework, develop policies and create "reasonable" criteria when selecting students who are eligible to go abroad and those who should stay to aid in advancing the country's own higher education centres.

"If there are 'excellent' and 'above average' candidates who are sent overseas, why are there no (candidates) for UNISSA and KUPU SB?" asked His Majesty.

"From my own perspective, all this can be overcome when we have the criteria or policies that are in line with the country's long-term priority," he said and stressed: "Ponder upon this."

His Majesty then reminded the stakeholders to act maturely and added that the pursuance of achievement should not result in neglecting others who also wish to excel.

His Majesty congratulated and offered his best wishes to the graduates and expressed his hope that they will be able to contribute to the development of education and to the development of Islam as a whole.

His Majesty also expressed his gratitude to the chairperson and members of the university-college committee, the Ra'es, officers and academic staff and the institution's personnel for their contribution and dedicated service. - Borneo Bulletin (19th Octopber 2011)