National topper not awarded Fulbright scholarship

On merit ranking, a Bhutanese student from Canada bagged the slot

Education: A score of 91 percent was not enough to secure the coveted Fulbright scholarship in the USA for the whole Bhutan 2014 class XII topper, Jambay Kinley from Ugyen Academy.

He lost the slot to a student from Blyth Academy, Canada, who had scored 94.25 percent.  While Jambay Kinley had better marks in science subjects, his English mark, 72, was no match for the other student’s 92.  He needed to score 86 in English, but the highest English mark last year was not close to 80.

“I was hoping to pursue bachelor in software engineering if I was awarded the scholarship,” Jambay Kinley said.  He has now opted for BA in architecture in Bangkok, Thailand.

On a US Fulbright scholarship, the candidate could choose to study engineering in civil, mechanical, electrical, IT/software or environment.  They also have an option to study PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) or economics.

Jambay Kinley’s guardian asked if it was fair for the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) to compare academic marks of a foreign school and the local board examinations.

Chief programme officer of the Scholarship and Student Support Division, under DAHE, Baburam Sherpa, said,

“Our announcement clearly says that all 2014 class XII passed students, irrespective of whether they have studied outside or within the country, can apply for the scholarship.”

The candidate, who got selected, has his class XII results from the Blyth Academy in Canada.

“We can’t discredit their results because our students go there to study and we have to go by it,” he said.

He said, as desired by the US embassy to select from a wider pool through an open competition, the selection committee decided to make it open for those students, who scored more than 85 percent in the board examination.

On March 2 the division announced that it would conduct an open test in English, mathematics and viva on March 11 to select the candidate.

Two days later, DAHE officials informed the 18 eligible candidates, of whom eight were interested to apply, that the selection interview was cancelled, following “government’s instructions.”

The government advised DAHE to stick to their announcement, that DAHE made on February 18, and that the committee could not change their stand after the public announcement.

“As our announcement for the scholarship was already made, we had to stick to the announcement, so that at least we’re fair to all of them,” Baburam Sherpa said.

Jambay Kinley’s guardian said that, most times, the scholarship went to the topper of the board examinations.

Baburam Sherpa, however, said that, because it was based on merit, sometimes scholarships went to students who study abroad.

He said the scholarship was not awarded through a selection interview so far.

“Even in the past, all Fulbright scholarships have been awarded based on merit,” another DAHE official said.

“When it’s merit based, there’s nothing we can do. We can’t give preference to those who studied locally,” Baburam Sherpa said.  “Undergraduate scholarships, the choice of course and placement, have been all based on academic merit,” he said.

He said DAHE understands the grievances, but there was nothing they could do. “There’s nothing unfair in this case, because it’s all there in the public domain.”

By Tshering Palden

 

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