| Siti Hajar |
SINCE its introduction in August this year, the Education Loan Facilities Scheme (SBPP) has received much attention from students and their parents keen on opportunities for higher education.
The facility provides yet another opportunity for students who do not qualify for scholarship to further their studies locally and abroad. With much commendation and praise to His Majesty’s government for the effort to ensure optimum educational provision for its citizens, many see SBPP as a blessing. Such reaction reflects public’s understanding and appreciation on the importance of education in capacity building.
In many countries like Japan and the Philippines, private sources of finance are very important to further one’s education. In such countries, a majority of students pay for their own tuition fees. Education loans are not uncommon in Japan and Hong Kong where such scheme has become a main form of financial support for one to pursue their education.
Loan facilities to fund education dreams provide an extension of options to higher education. However, they are not without their own challenges. Issues pertaining to the acquisition of loan facilities, strict criteria, repayment of debts and securing the return on investment (ROI) are amongst particular concerns that stakeholders (applicants and awarding organisations) take into account.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Consumer Credit Panel (2013), delinquent student loan balances exceeded the share of delinquent credit card balances in the United States’ third quarter of 2012 and continued to rise in the fourth quarter of that year. Coupled with the US unemployment rate, student loan debt at close to USD1 trillion brought increased attention from analysts and policymakers.
Where financial implications, like loans, are involved one cannot break away from the need of an awarding organisation/government to define pre-requisites before the loan facility can be awarded. Understandably, these are set to ensure ROI and objectives to introducing the loan facility are met.
Different from profit-oriented institutions, a scheme like SBPP’s underlying goal is intangible. It aims to enhance capacity building of potential young Bruneians by providing greater opportunity for those who are short of qualifying themselves for a government scholarship to pursue their education at the degree level. This is also in tandem with the Vision 2035 aspiration towards well-educated and highly-skilled people who will in turn contribute to a dynamic and sustainable economy.
At the core of the Brunei Vision 2035 is quality – which is also echoed in SPBB. With this in mind, pre-requisites defining an applicant’s tariff points and ranking of chosen universities/higher institutions or courses (academic reputation) are critical to ensure the potential returns in terms of quality human capital can be achieved. These requirements are also set based on regional and international benchmark in the form of accredited ranking systems.
With many Asian countries experiencing economic growth and significant expanded enrolment in higher education, it is pertinent that Brunei continues its effort to stay competitive through quality manpower. It is no coincidence that higher education is both a contributor to, and caused by, economic growth. As our region develops, the demand for better-educated and highly skilled human capital expands. There is no doubt that this demand will also increase for the Sultanate not only to maintain and improve its economic stance in the region but also in realising its Vision 2035 and SPBB is yet another instrument to achieve our nation’s noble vision.