| Siti Hajar |
YEAR in, year out, scholarship has always been of particular interest to students and their parents all over the world. From Fullbright and Chevening right through to world organisations like UNESCO offer scholarships based on certain objectives. Apart from classical scholarships, countries all over the world offer grants, studentships, fellowships and many other scholarship packages based on specific criteria to finance selected students to further their studies. According to an international study choice portal, in Europe alone there is almost 16 billion Euro worth of scholarships available each year. These often have varying pre-requisites according to the objectives and needs of respective sponsoring organisations and countries. Some scholarships places importance on a candidate’s GPA (Grade Point Average) while others require applicants to meet alternative criteria like nationality, special needs, and college specific.
When speaking about scholarships, one can note the varying criteria and provisions set in the offered schemes. Some offer full funding for the duration of the study programme while others cover only partial of the costs. Many scholarship programmes of international standing not only award scholarships which cover tuition fees but also provide various one-off allowances.
Scholarship grants are not new in Brunei Darussalam. The Sultanate began granting scholarships to its citizens as early as the 1950s. Although a small country, Brunei Darussalam is blessed with the availability of a number of scholarship schemes to which the Scholarship Division at the Ministry of Education (MoE) is entrusted to coordinate. Public announcement for scholarship applications is often awaited particularly by those who have recently completed their Brunei-Cambridge GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, International Baccalaureate (IB) as well as other prospective equivalent qualifications. The ministry records hundreds of applications from the public applying for government scholarship to study overseas every year.
According to the Scholarship Division at the MoE, scholarship schemes available to suitable applicants include ‘Skim Biasiswa Biasa Kerajaan Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam’ under the Ministry of Education, ‘Skim Biasiswa Khas Dana Sumber Manusia (DANA)’ under the Department of Economic Planning and Development, Prime Minister’s Office and, ‘Skim Biasiswa Khas Pentadbiran Brunei (BAS)’ allotted under the Public Service Commission.
In addition to these are a number of scholarship schemes offered to young Bruneians by the private sector firms like Brunei Shell Petroleum and Royal Brunei (RB) Airlines. Haji Abd Rahman, a civil servant and a father to one child, noted how Bruneians should feel fortunate to have such opportunities in the country. However, he felt the necessity for scholarships not to be seen and treated as just a way for one to spend time in desired destinations abroad. “Scholarships look for the best applicant with the right aptitude for a particular programme. It is therefore an onus to the scholarship recipient to prove to the awarding authority, in this case His Majesty’s Government, that s/he is worthy and that the scholarship investment is worth it.”
While experiencing the opportunity to study abroad may be beneficial to our young people, one should not overlook the quality of programmes that local higher institutions offer. Opportunities to study in local universities offer greater appreciation and understanding of local context which prepares undergrads for working adult life. Nur Liyana, a Diploma student from Kuala Belait who aspires to study in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), believes that studying in Brunei has its own niche. “UBD has now achieved a good standing in the QS ranking. That (kind of ranking) is the sort of quality we should be looking for. Plus, under the GenNext programme, we get to experience a good deal of time abroad following a well-organised programme at another institution.” Nur Liyana adds, “So I get the best of both world! Understanding local context better while I study here and also understanding the global environment within a well-directed programme. This in mind, it really boosts my motivation to reach higher education.”
Apart from UBD, there are also courses in Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB) which offer study abroad programmes and internship in Malaysia, Singapore and the United States. At the same time, Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) is also another local university actively involved in their Study Abroad Programme (SAP) in which their best students are given the opportunity to study abroad under this programme.
UNISSA’s SAP is intended for high performing third year students. They send students to Egypt, Jordan, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. As students and young people pursue their dreams to further their higher education, one must reflect on his/her actual career aspirations as well as inclinations. At the end of the day, one must understand that the basis scholarships were introduced was to seek the most suitable among the best. As something that needs to be sought, a scholarship award should be seen as a grant that needs to be earned rather than a right.
It is therefore student’s responsibility to prove their worth and strive to give their best to fulfil what is required. At the end of the day, one may perhaps not qualify for the award but when a student has attempted her/his best, s/he has actually not lost.