AS A parent whose children are still studying (self sponsorship) in the United Kingdom, I am very grateful and thankful to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for his titah delivered in conjunction with his 68th birthday during an Audience and Investiture Ceremony at the Istana Nurul Iman on August 14, in which His Majesty consented for the introduction of an Education Loan Facility Scheme that provide opportunities for students who are unable to meet the requirements to receive scholarship so that they could pursue their studies at local or overseas tertiary institutions.
Following this titah, potential students and parents were invited to briefings on August 20 and August 23 at the Senate Room, Chancellor Hall, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
We do appreciate the initiative of the Ministry of Education (MoE) in explaining further about the Education Loan Facility Scheme including requirements, finance, etc.
This was unlike the introduction of the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) that caught the applicants by surprise and led us to financial burden as it was immediately implemented without prior acknowledgement or any grace period given.
Unfortunately, my children were unsuccessful in their very first MMI without knowing what failed them and there was no feedback given to them as to how they can improve if they want to apply the next time round.
This MMI is very subjective, ambiguous, secretive, unauditable, biased and easily exploitable compared to public examinations where students can prepare according to syllabus and what they learnt at school and all written answers are easily auditable. I wouldn’t say that I want them to be like written examinations but the unfairness lies in the system of the MMI where students were ranked according to their marks – but the marks are gained from different phases/groups of MMI where in some phases the applicants are interviewed by different interviewers so the marks given are not consistent. They also seem to require the applicants to provide the exact answers they need as if this is a written examination where opinions are like definitions worded in the same way or sentences.
The objective of the MMI is to find someone who is willing to work for the government so they should analyse the answer of the applicants instead of searching for a particular set of words; this might need a team of qualified interviewers.
Even written examinations are double-marked to make sure the students are given properly deserved marks.
With the titah, we thought that the education loan scheme will certainly help us in relieving our financial burden to educate our children with the courses of their choices; but we were taken aback with the requirements set by the MoE which are almost similar to the scholarship’s requirements especially for the private students, who are already in the first or second year of the three-year course in United Kingdom. If they wish to apply for the education loan scheme for the following year of their study they are required to pass with at least second upper (2:1) for the current year, which is the same requirement for scholarship.
Now the question is how come the MoE is not following what has been stated in the titah, ie “The scheme is aimed at students who do not meet the criteria for scholarships but wish to pursue their tertiary education”.
When this question was asked during the briefings, the Head of Scholarship said that the requirements were set to safeguard the students and parents from ending up paying the loan if the students failed their courses as well as to make sure that the students gained quality education and qualification.
This seems to imply that the graduates currently working in the public and private sectors are not up to the quality that MoE is looking for because almost all of them are not from the top 40 universities. The MoE is also confident that those students with lower than second upper (2:1) in their first or second year will certainly fail their courses so there is no point in giving them the opportunity to apply for the education loan scheme or else they will end up paying back the loans unnecessarily.
Another factor to be considered when a student successfully secured the loan is the administrative fee of three per cent per year with reducing balance for a maximum repayment period of 30 years. If a student has to pay a total of say $200,000 for a three-year course then he has to pay a total of about $300,000 including the administrative fee with monthly repayment of about $1,000 for the first 10 years of the 30 years. Can this administrative charge of three per cent per year be considered as affordable? How much would be left from their salaries if their salaries are about $2,000 per month or even less and how about car loan, bills, marriage and so on and so forth. The administrative fee is not realistic and not in accordance with His Majesty’s titah which stated, “This scheme will provide affordable financial loan facilities to these students to cope with their standard of living and cover education costs.”
After all, these students will absolutely return to their beloved country Brunei Darussalam and will certainly contribute to the development of Brunei Darussalam to achieve Wawasan 2035.
His Majesty’s titah is very clear and really shows how caring he is to his subjects but the machinery handling his titah is still like ‘robots’ that he had mentioned during the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) meeting held in July 2009. His Majesty had said, “Some of the heads of departments work like robots without discretion, all of them only wait for instructions, if there are no instructions, then they will not do anything.”
We hope that the MoE will review the requirements for the Education Loan Facility Scheme to be in line with His Majesty’s titah and make it really helpful and affordable in real sense (comparable to the Government Housing Loan’s administrative fee).