13 April 2008

Grads prefer to stay on overseas

The Star

PUTRAJAYA: More and more medical students sent abroad to study on government scholarships, many costing more than a million ringgit each, are breaking their 10-year bond by refusing to return and serve in public hospitals.

“This is a sore point with us. In 2006, 21 medical students in Britain did not return. Last year, the number was 63. For those studying in Ireland, three students did not come back in 2006 while last year, 27 did not return,” said Human Capital Development division director Datin Madinah Mohamad.

She said these students cost the Government up to RM1.1mil each in funding for the five-year course.

“The number has been steadily increasing each year since 2003. The excuse these undergraduates often give is that they want to do their two-year housemanship over there and continue with sub-specialisation courses.

“But when they do so, they may then get employed and become eligible for registration in Britain. With the pay they are getting there, it’s highly unlikely they will come back and serve here,” she said in an interview here yesterday.

Since 2003, 145 students from Britain and 85 from Ireland have not come back. However, only three from Russia, two from Jordan and one from Japan failed to return.

Another reason many students chose to stay back could have been due to PSD’s perceived lenient treatment of such students in the past and a paltry penalty of RM160,000 each before 2003, she said.

“It encouraged undergraduates, who have seen many of their seniors being let off, to follow suit,” she said.

Although the department had officers in Britain and Ireland to track down errant medical students, some in the last year of studies ignored notices and others did not bother to show up when called for interviews.

She said tougher measures were needed to make them come back and serve or pay their bond.
The department was now seriously considering suggestions to make errant students repay twice or thrice the sum of their scholarships as punishment.

“We need to study this recommendation,” she said, adding the department had also handed 30 such cases since 1989 to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for legal action and had even declared one former student bankrupt.

But legal action was slow and guarantors would be taken to court only as the last resort, she said.
Since PSD’s Overseas Scholarship Programme started in 2000, RM2.15bil in scholarships had been given to 10,485 students up to the end of last year.

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