As part of my MA in Digital Sociology this year, I’m doing a class on research methods. I’m interested in finding out the perspectives of Brunei residents on government scholarships, particularly those that send students abroad for higher education.
The exercise is divided into two parts: a survey, and a series of interviews.
Annually, students in Brunei are granted scholarships for higher education abroad by the Ministry of Education in Brunei. Students can get scholarships to do their A Levels, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or PhD from countries such as United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand. A relatively high number of scholarships are awarded each year.
In 2012 and 2013, the issue of “runaway scholars” was raised several times in Bruneian media, prompting discussions about the scholarship system and possible “brain drain”. The Ministry of Education’s total expenditure on scholars, or the “fairness” of awarding scholarships, are the angles that are often brought up; there is less information on whether the system itself has been effective in achieving the goals of the Brunei government.
I wondered about measuring the “effectiveness” of the scholarship system. You could consider the resultant workforce of scholars who had graduated, or the expenditure by the government. However, since my exercise was not a thesis or dissertation, I limited my scope to gathering perspectives on the scholarships. I am aware that it may not lead to directly answering the question of “effectiveness”.
Even so, I made some effort to get “real” data and share my findings, because even a small exercise could lead to further discussion. The topic deserves more in-depth study, to accompany basic statistics reported by the government and media, or the anecdotes shared by the public. I would love to see more “proper” studies on scholarships in the future.
For more information about rationale and research design, scroll down to Additional Research Info.
Methods and Findings
- Survey: I am hoping to get 100 responses so that I can get a reasonable dataset to be analysed. If I do not get this number, I will not use the dataset in my class, but I will however share the numbers and percentages to public. Status: Closed after 4 April 2014, having receiving over 100 responses! Thank you! (Original post: Here. Survey questions: To be posted, someday.)
- Interviews: I conducted five interviews with current and graduated scholars, hoping for richer detail on perspectives. I had also been looking for perspectives of non-scholars, but in the end all my interview subjects were scholars. Status: In the process of analysis.
Additional Research Info
As I said above, this is not a full-fledged study at all.
I tried to find out if any prior, publicly-available research had already been done. I couldn’t find anything through UBD Library’s public online catalogue, or SHBIE journal website. I did not have the time to request access to other possible resources, as this was such a short-term exercise. But if anyone knows of any, I’d be interested to know about it! (Hint: There’s a comment box below.)
There is often interest in documenting the experiences of scholars abroad, whether through interviews with newspapers or blogs, or through initiatives such as the British High Commission in Brunei’s Digital Scrapbook video competition. But I saw these as experiences of studying abroad rather than as experiences being under a scholarship. Do scholars have different mindsets, expectations or values? What does the public think about scholars? What do graduated scholars think when they look back on their experiences? These were the questions I was interested in.
Some light research brought up studies from other countries on scholarships, education policies, national capacity development, etc. Again, I was limited in what I could bring to the survey, also noting that the main point of the exercise was to produce a dataset for some number-crunching and analysis. In reality, I would have liked to ask more in-depth questions. But, as neither a student of education research or capacity development research or whatever the “parent” field of study may be, I settled for simpler, more closed questions.
The mission and goals of the Scholarship Department, Ministry of Education, may be of interest:
Mission: For the “development of highly skilled and knowledgeable human resources required by the nation” (Ministry of Education, 2008). This could be assumed to be the longer-term goal of providing scholarships in general.
Goals (Ministry of Education, 2014):
- Provide scholarship for talented and qualified students to pursue higher education.
- Ensure the effective and systematic processes of scholarship awards.
- Provide quality services and management of scholarship.