Just rewards must be colour-blind

(The Star) – KUDOS to the Prime Minister for acknowledging in real terms the enduring value of human capital in the country. This is among the more crucial ingredients of a nation’s developmental success.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced last year that the Government would provide scholarships to all Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates who scored nine or more A+, regardless of ethnicity or creed. He has fulfilled that pledge, in the pro­cess encouraging both the private and public sectors to do likewise.

There are three key points in this connection that deserve to be underlined.

Human capital is a key resource for any country, parti­cularly for a nation with a steep development curve to traverse like Malaysia today. Gone are the days of relying excessively on primary commodity exports, as the country’s fortunes increasingly turn to the services sector, industrial innovation and intellectual capital.

Those countries that had wisely invested in their human resources have duly reaped the rewards. Those that fail to do so for whatever reason remain stuck in a cycle of underdevelop­ment.

Secondly, those investing in human resources can never afford to fall victim to communalism, sectarianism or other similar division and diversion. A nation must rise with all its constituent parts together if it is to rise at all.

Make the mistake of allowing any disjointedness in national development, and social dislocation will fester and become unceasingly aggravated. That will inevitably spell the end of all development efforts and hopes.

Thirdly, the administrative wisdom that comes with a colour-blind approach to rewarding students who excel must be affirmed through the institutionalisation of the practice and official policy. It should never be ad hoc or be seen to be arbitrary in any way.

These rewards come not from the special generosity of any administration, but rather an awareness of social responsibility among government leaders. The proud parents of young Malaysians who study hard and do well at school have every right to expect such gainful recognition of their children’s labours.

In time, students will develop a keener sense of competitiveness among themselves to do even better at their studies, benefiting the nation as a whole. If ethnicity and creed do not determine students’ capabilities, why should they determine the rewards that deserving students receive?