Scholarships for All Classes

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Deserving young scholars in Penang are being offered an amazing opportunity. The deadline is June 18, 2017, so hurry!

The Penang Future Foundation (PFF) initiative kicked off by the Penang state government offers scholarships to deserving scholars to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), as well as Accountancy and Finance. With a substantial donation from the Penang Turf Club and aided by contributions from the private sector, the PFF money chest began with a pledged sum of RM40mil to support the state’s efforts to nurture Penang as a talent hub and reduce brain drain.

When the PFF scholarship programme was launched in April 2015, it was open to all Malaysians below the age of 25 with a minimum cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.0 and a household income below RM15,000 per month. For every RM20,000 in tuition fees awarded, scholars were bonded for a year, with a commitment to work in Penang for a minimum period of one year. Over the past two years, 192 scholarships have been awarded.

In 2017 the scheme was revised to offer two categories of scholarships: “PFF Penang Scholar” is open to students with a CGPA of 3.67 and above who have a household income of not more than RM15,000 a month. The scholarship covers up to RM100,000 for tuition fees and a monthly living allowance of RM1,000.

“PFF Mutiara Scholar” is for applicants whose CGPA is between 3.00 and 3.66 and whose household income is not more than RM5,000 a month. Scholars are bonded a year for every RM20,000 in tuition fees and allowance awarded. The scholarship covers up to RM60,000 for tuition fees and a monthly living allowance of RM600.

Loo Lee Lian, general manager of InvestPenang and a PFF Selection Committee member, explains the two scholarship categories: “When we interviewed candidates, we found deserving candidates who did not quite meet the score. So we created a two-category scholarship programme to include them. Now PFF can cater to very poor students who may not be academically as strong as the top scholars. We want to give them a fair chance – when you are very poor, there is no such thing as an equal footing.”

Datuk Seri Nazir Ariff, chairman of Aspen Group and also a PFF Selection Committee member, adds: “What touched me during my interviews was the level of poverty we have.” He highlights that “we benchmark against the American Field Service (AFS) scholarships, the Shell Scholarships, etc. We want to take the creme de la creme. We want scholars to come back to Penang to create this elite class of clever people with clever ideas to transform Penang in the years to come.”

Character Counts

What does the interview panel look for in candidates?

Nazir seeks “initiative and leadership. Family values are very important; successful candidates have integrity.”

“For me, it’s not about administering. I’m on the panel to also provide mentoring,” Loo says. “We look at character in interviews. If we are not very sure about a candidate, we’ll ask another panel to interview them. When we ask, ‘Why do you deserve this scholarship?’ they say, I’ve got this score, high mark here, there. I hardly see anyone who says, ‘I would like to get this scholarship to help my family and contribute more to society’. The students seem to have a sense of entitlement: I’ve got so many A’s; therefore I deserve this scholarship.

“The PFF scholarship does not just have an academic focus. What I would like to do is to try and build a leadership/ character development component into the programme. Last year, we started a one-day leadership session for the scholars. I got industry people to talk to them for half a day. These are Penang’s future leaders, and as scholars, they should know about industry development and how they fit in.

“The industry leaders shared their own stories. One was the CEO of Vitrox; another was the CEO of the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA). They talked about what it was like to work in the private and the public sectors. Scholars learned about financial planning and management: how to save, invest and build teams. The session ended with lunch with the chief minister where he shared his vision with them.”

Loo plans to expand this programme to two days in 2017: “Half a day was not even enough to ice-break!” To help scholars get more exposure, she hopes to create internship programmes: “Some factories in both the public and private sectors are asking for the resumes of the scholars.”

Nazir, in turn, hopes that the scholarship will be the premier Penang scholarship. “The chief minister and we want an educated population that is adaptable. I hope that PFF will be branded properly.”

The Scholars Speak

Ahmad Juwaidi.

Ahmad Juwaidi

Forensic science student at USM’s Health Campus at Kubang Kerian, Kelantan; awarded a three-year PFF scholarship

Ambition: Forensic investigator with the Royal Malaysia Police

Juwaidi was in his second year when he was awarded the PFF scholarship in 2016. A former science student at SMJK Heng Ee, Juwaidi’s family lives in Jelutong. He speaks Tamil, Mandarin, Malay and English. “The hardest part about the scholarship application was waiting four hours for my interview. I was the last candidate to be interviewed. I was interviewed in early August 2016 and notified in September 2016.”

Juwaidi had actually been offered a JPA scholarship in Kelantan: it would have given him RM4,000 for one semester but he would have needed to pay the fees himself. “The PFF scholarship gives me RM1,000 a month – paid quarterly – for three years and covers my university fees. The total amount is approximately RM40,000.”

He plans to further his studies and get a PhD in criminology (direct, fast-track USM) in two years. “What got me interested in forensic science were crime stories in the media. Criminals seemed intelligent, so I thought the police force needed to be more intelligent to control them.

“My USM course is a four-year course. Now I am studying chemistry so as to conduct experiments to identify and test evidence. In my fourth year, I will spend four months attached to the Royal Malaysia Police College in Cheras. I am interested in organised crime and forensic documentation. Crime is organised when it is premeditated. In criminology, the most interesting thing is the forensic psychology of the crime itself – the study of the criminal’s behaviour.

“We need young people in forensics. Forensic instruments may be less developed in Malaysia, so we need to improve the technology and instrumentation. As forensic scientists, we need to speak and deliver well in court when presenting evidence to break an alibi. We need to explain evidence and give details so the judge understands.”

Juwaidi ends by saying: “I want to tell more people about the PFF scholarship: What could be better?”

Teoh Kim Siang.

Teoh Kim Siang

Accountancy undergraduate at Management & Science University (MSU), Penang; awarded a four-year PFF scholarship

Ambition: Entrepreneur

Teoh had his first encounter with accounting in Form 4 but it wasn’t until he was in Form 6 that he became truly interested: “The teacher was very tough – on the first day of class, he gave a practical test for two hours straight away. It was challenging, but accounting came naturally to me.” He is prepared for this path: “I was a trainee at an accounting firm for 10 months before starting university. It was a small firm so I could learn many things including auditing, taxation and company secretaryship. This was beneficial for my university studies.

“With my results, I could enter public universities but I rejected the offer; they gave me international finance, a subject I did not want, and in Sabah – so far away! If I chose this course, how would I apply what I had learnt? I had already prepared for accounting, already interned during the holidays.”

Teoh’s dream is to invest and organise companies with his skills. “Working does not mean closing yourself off in a small room and doing your job your entire life. Accounting teaches us to know laws and systems, to know how to manage. When I change my career, I will not be wasting my accounting knowledge.”

“I have to intern in my fourth year for six months before graduation. I hope to do this at one of the Big Four accounting firms (KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers) to brand my resume. What I know is that business firms focus only on one type of job. I would prefer to work in a small firm first to learn more things.”

He acknowledges that the most valuable lesson he learned before entering MSU was to have the right attitude. “In the firm, I am a small worker, just a trainee. I have to do lots of things, listen to orders. Leaders might scold us; we must be calm though sometimes we get upset. There are many points of view if you stand on the other side. We have to try to explain, discuss and be polite, especially to our creditors.”

The PFF interview made Teoh change his mind about interviews: “The perception is that it’s strict, serious and we have to sit there facing many people. When USM offered me accounting, the interview was more serious than the PFF interview, which focused on my lifestyle and current conditions. The PFF panel members talked to me in a normal way: they wanted to see personality, ambition and mindset. I felt quite relaxed when I was talking with them.”

Tan Kean Tiong's graduation photo, with his parents and brother who is now on a PFF scholarship as well.

Tan Kean Tiong

Bachelor of Architecture from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in Johor Bahru in 2016; currently working as an assistant architect in Penang

Ambition: Set up an architecture firm with a focus on sustainable/green buildings

Tan received a one-year PFF scholarship in his final year at UTM in 2015 and started working in July 2016. He has recently been offered a place at Tsinghua University in Beijing for his Master in Architecture studies over two years, starting August 2017. He is currently applying for a Tsinghua University scholarship and a Beijing government scholarship. Tsinghua University has been his dream for over 10 years.

He hopes to be a success like Malaysian architect and Penang boy Ken Yeang, who designed notable green buildings such as Singapore’s National Library Board and Solaris at Fusionopolis. The most impressive piece of architecture Tan has seen is Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, which is what he hopes Gurney Wharf will be like: a space designed for, and used by, the community.

“My role model is Zaha Hadid. She was able to shine in an industry dominated by men. Her design approach is brave and extraordinary – it captured my eye and inspired me to take up architecture.

“The PFF scholarship had a big impact on me – it alleviated my financial burden. I was previously on a PTPTN (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional or National Higher Education Fund Corporation) loan, and then PFF fully sponsored my tuition fees and gave me RM1,000 in living allowance per month.”

Tan was a busy undergraduate. During his third year, with the allowance from his PFF scholarship, he represented the UTM Global Outreach Programme at the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan. “I had to create a design in virtual reality, wearing an oculus to present my project. Everything was on software. In my second year (before getting the PFF Scholarship), I represented UTM in Cambodia to do measured drawings and document heritage buildings.”

Tan has a younger brother studying civil engineering at UTM who received a PFF scholarship last year, covering his three years of study.

Why the PFF Scholarship?

Apart from being a boon to students from lower income families, the scholarship offers other benefits: “I told my friends to apply for this instead of the PTPTN loan, which is a central government loan for students in university or college; it pays 75% of our tuition fees and we have to pay it back after graduation. However, if a student gets first class in exams, they do not need to pay the loan. PTPTN recently scrapped this privilege; now, you have to pay back the loan. I encourage my friends to apply for scholarships that will not see them burdened in the future,” says Teoh.

“With PFF, you get an allowance and if you don’t use it you can save the money to do other things such as in entrepreneurship,” adds Teoh. He believes that candidates must not only have good academic results but also be socially active, show leadership, entrepreneurship, independence and an ability to organise and manage.

For Tan, “The PFF Scholarship made my resume more interesting and gave me a boost of confidence. I believe it made me shine above the crowd and led to me to being selected for the job.”

He advises candidates to be hardworking and develop a holistic character, not only score well in academic endeavours but also be involved in activities outside the classroom, extra-curricular activities and community service. “For my PFF interview, I brought along my portfolio and discussed how I contributed to society using my architectural knowledge. I designed a musical school for the visually handicapped as a project. I had to understand their needs to be relevant. One panel member who was associated with the visually impaired community was surprised by my knowledge.”

And there is an added factor as well. According to Tan, “The nice thing about the PFF scholarship is that it is very generous and I can come back to work in Penang. My family is in Penang. There is no place like home.”

Application for 2017 closes on June 18, 2017. For further details, visit www.penangfuturefoundation.my.

Elizabeth Su is a Mason Fellow from Harvard. She believes that one of the best ways to learn is to ask the right questions.



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