Scholarship misdistribution will not stop unless the selection process is conducted transparently

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Clear example of how people with high positions and, power , have stolen the opportunities of citizens and are still secretly stealing from them is shown by the data of people who illegally studied abroad with loans and grants from the Education Credit Fund. The purpose and direction of this special fund is to implement the government’s policy to finance higher education and provide equal opportunities to citizen Foreign scholarships, which have been awarded since 1997, aim to provide Mongolians with the conditions to obtain excellent and high-quality education abroad, and train specialized specialists internationally. Since the main source of the education loan fund consists of state budget funds or tax revenue, the services and support provided there must provide equal opportunities to every citizen. This is also reflected in the law. Unfortunately, this valuable opportunity has been used mostly by influential political and officials, famous people, their children, and relatives. From the current Speaker of the Parliament to the Deputy Prime Minister, quite a few members of the Parliament, took advantage of this opportunity. There are many well-known people who have found their place in society and are role models for the youth, who have studied abroad with government funding in this way. 

Citizens and the public understand that every child who gets the highest score in the General Entrance Exam from their district or committee can study abroad with a scholarship named after the President. However, even the children who were selected here and participated in the preparatory program for one year must pass the difficult test of the selection team again. In the end, it means that they will be judged and decided by representatives of people with high positions and power. Scholarship misdistribution will not stop unless the selection process is made open and transparent.

 Some citizens ask, “If the scholarship is open to everyone, why can’t the children of politicians, businessmen, and celebrities get it?”. Of course, they can. It is possible if the student has knowledge and meets the requirements and criteria set by the school and relevant institutions. But then why are the children of people in power and positions mostly getting it? How many people around you have studied with government scholarships? Has information about foreign scholarship selection been transparent and open in the past? Have you heard about it? The answers to these questions may tell you one something. There are factual evidence  that the selection of foreign scholarships of the Education Loan Fund is unfair.

According to the complaints and information submitted by the citizens, the Independent Authority Against Corruption conducted an inspection of the fund, discovered violations that may have been made by a public official in conflict with personal interests, and repeatedly sent letters to the Ministry of Education and Science to ensure the implementation of the related laws.ations. In 2020, the Authority sent a letter to the Ministry in connection with the case of E’s son the head of the Ministry’s Inspection and Internal Audit Department, receiving a scholarship to study at the University of Washington. In addition, there are cases where young people who received invitations and scholarships from the best foreign schools failed to pass the ‘high threshold’ of the Ministry of Education and Science and had stolen opportunities from others. The Deputy Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry O.Batnairamdal spoke about how he got accepted at the Harvard University Business School in 2013 and received a 40 percent scholarship, but failed in the ministry’s selection process. In fact, a person who has passed the main course of the best university in the ranking of the year and successfully passed the language test should be eligible for a government scholarship with a green light. That’s why he was 100 percent sure that he would pass. Surprisingly, the working group of the ministry did not pass him. Even though he was accepted at Harvard,he could not pass  the criteria of the Ministry of Education and Science. He said, “Children of the working class cannot get scholarships from the Education Loan Fund.” This is very serious fact.

Minister of Education and Science L.Enkh-Amgalan said, “The influence of people in power is small because the Education Loan Fund provides a certain percentage of payment  after the country has selected the youth to study throughintergovernmental scholarships.” To follow on the former statement, Head of the Education Loan Fund D.Gardi said, “The biggest criterion for scholarship is receiving an invitation from one of the best universities in the world. To get it, you must pass certain criteria. It is impossible to influence or participate in the selection process on behalf of someone,” denying the statement of the deputy minister. A woman who once worked as an expert in the foreign loan and scholarship department of the fund expressed her opinion saying that “The information of the education loan fund is not available to ordinary people, only government officials use it, and  has a limited scope.”When a former employee of the fund, especially the unit in charge of foreign scholarships, is speaking like this, it is clear where our government’s policy to support higher education is heading and who receives the scholarships.

Recently, Minister L.Enkh-Amgalan also said, “There are 421 students who studied  at the best foreign universities on loan and 1,950 students who attended master’s and doctorate courses, and of whom 230 people did not fulfill their obligations under the contract and disappeared. They are being ,turned to the law enforcement  to be investigated. Because of these, the Education Loan Fund has a loss equaequivalent of upl to 10 billion MNT.” After that he revealed the names of 210,000 students who received scholarships to study in domestic and foreign universities. He appeared on a television program and said that the country has suffered 27 billion MNT in losses since more than one million people in duplicate have studied with the funds of the Education Loan Fund and have not fulfilled their contractual obligations. On the official website of the Education Credit Fund, the Government wrote that between 1995 and 2022, the Government granted and gave loans of 936.8 billion MNT to 1.3 million students in duplicate, and only 4,972  of them were educated abroad for 185.7 billion MNT. This shows how much money circulates around the fund, and the Ministry of Education and Science and the Education Loan Fund do not have a common understanding and information about this issue.. The fund provides funding through a variety of different programs, including soft development loans, grants, scholarships, foreign loans, and intergovernmental grants. People focus on  and grants because of the bigger opportunities and the huge amount of money involved. If we examine all of this individually and calculate the cost of lost opportunities, 10 billion is a small number.

This type of theft will continue unless a necessary adjustments are made based on comprehensive analysis and research done on  scholarships by the Education Loan Fund. In the past, when granting foreign loans and scholarships, two main criteria have been set: being invited to the world’s best universities and meeting the foreign language requirements. If you get accepted to one of top 20 universities, you get a loan and from universities placed from 21 to 100 you can get a loan in priority majors set by the government. The working group established by  the Cabinet decides whether people who meet these conditions will receive a scholarship. In other words, the selection committee or relevant officials of the ministry make the main decisions.It looks like, officials like E, the head of the Ministry’s Inspection and Internal Audit Department, has a power to interfere in the decision of  the working group, put their children and relatives in front of others, and take away the opportunities of others. Even the Minister of Education and Science said, “We will focus on making scholarship selection independent and under public control. People say that your ministry is the cause of everything. Internationally, artificial intelligence and technology-based solutions are used more to keep the selection process free from influence.” If so, It should be implemented immediately.

Last year, the government approved new rules for providing financial support to students in higher education institutions. Regarding this, the terms for scholarship repayments were changed. Previously, students who studied abroad with scholarship had to work for five years in government organization or three years in a local community afterwards, deemed to have fulfilled their contractual obligations and were exempted from the loan. According to the new procedure, those who have worked productively in their profession for more than five years will be eligible for loan discounts and exemptions. Also, the world’s 100 best universities rank, which was  previously set, was cut down to 50. 

According to the regulation, “The activity of awarding grants shall be transparent, open, fair, and free from conflicts of interest,” and the selection process will be managed and coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Science. The working group for the selection of scholarships named after the President will be formed by the Minister of Education and Science with 11 members, which will includerepresentatives of the Office of the President, relevant ministries, agencies, citizens, non-governmental and public organizations. On the other hand, the selection commission for the Prime Minister’s scholarship will be formed with a nine-member committee, including representatives of the Cabinet Secretariat , and will be organized transparently in cooperation with media organizations. Other scholarships, such as inter-governmental ones, will be selected according to the old regulations. So, there is no guarantee that the previous theft and fraud will not be repeated. Citizens and the public understand that every child who gets the highest score in the General Entrance Exam from their district or committee has the opportunity to study abroad with a scholarship named after the President.But, in the end, it means that they will still be judged and decided by people of high position and power. The theft will continue  unless the selection becomes transparent and open.

Amarjargal Munkhbat

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