Mara officers under probe for unfair scholarship interview
by Geryl Ogilvy Ruekeith, firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on May 3, 2014, Saturday
KUCHING: Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) is conducting a probe on claims that its officers had posed Islamic-based questions to non-Muslim candidates during a recent scholarship interview here.
State Mara deputy director Mariam Mohtar said the concerned officers, from its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, are currently being investigated.
The probe would also look into how the interview with straight-As student Nigel Unchat Jeremaiah was carried out.
She clarified that Mara had a module on the questions as well as “strict guidelines” on how the interview should be conducted.
Non-Muslim students who attended Mara’s scholarship interview should not have been quizzed on Islamic matters.
Mariam herself took part in the interview held on Saturday, April 26, at the Maktab Rendah Sains Mara at Semariang near here. However, she was interviewing another group.
“Yes, there are questions on Islam but they are strictly to be directed at Muslims. As for non-Muslims, they would be asked ‘civic questions’.
These are basically general knowledge questions, like their opinion on the breakdown in a family.
“These questions are basically to assess their general knowledge and level of thinking. This is a group interview and we know who are Muslims and who are non-Muslims. If the student is a Muslim, he could probably get a question on his religion,” she told the media when contacted Wednesday.
According to Nigel, candidates were asked to name the prophets of Islam, precepts of Islamic prayers (rukun solat), their understanding on the ‘adat menziarah jenazah’ (visiting graves) and opinions on the Hudud law among others.
He claimed that the interviewer threw the questions to the whole group, with it being an “open question-and-answer” session. The former SMK Batu Lintang student was applying for the Indigenous People’s Trust Council (Mara) scholarship to pursue a Mechanical Engineering programme at Kolej Mara Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.
About 30 students went for the interview that Saturday and 10 were non-Muslims. Successful candidates in obtaining a Mara scholarship would know their results on May 8.
Meanwhile, Mara headquarters in Kuala Lumpur has assured non-Muslim candidates that their overall evaluation would not be affected if they were unable or did not answer Islamic-based questions.
For its 2014 Mara’s Excellent Student Scheme selection, candidates are evaluated based on merit and performance through two main components, namely psychometric tests and open group interviews which will evaluate the personality and IQ, capacity, capability and character of the individual.
The group open question-and-answer component also involved sessions such as Case Study, Business Game and 360 degree assessment.
“Throughout this values assessment process, candidates would be tested on various topics including current issues, social, economics, religious and moral.
“Religious and moral-based questions are in general form where Muslim candidates would be tested on their Islamic knowledge while the non-Muslims would be asked on civic-related matters, ethics, patriotism and good values,” Mara said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Each year, some 13,000 applications were received and screened through a specified selection module.