KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — No public funds will be used to operate the proposed Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) pay schools for the Bumiputera elite, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government will look at using private finance initiatives (PFI) to foot its operations instead.
“We will not use allocations from the government, instead we will look at utilising PFIs and finance institutions for financing purposes.
“We need to think without the box, not just outside the box,” Zahid said during the Minister’s Question Time.
He also said that if the project is approved, it will not be built on Mara land that has been allocated for the poor.
“I will ensure that the Mara land kept for the poor will not be used for this purpose, but we will work with a few quarters through smart partnership for the purpose of building,” Zahid said.
He was responding to Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who wanted to know the process and funding sources to build the new schools under the MSRM brand that aims to take in children from well-to-do Bumiputera families as students.
Zahid added that while the condition to be enrolled in MRSM prioritised the low-income group known as B40, there are many requests from MRSM alumni who want to register their children under this education platform.
“I would like to say, there have been many requests by MRSM alumni, those who have become parents, they want their children to be enrolled into MRSM but as we have mentioned, it is due to their income bracket which made them unqualified.
“So, without compromising quality and academic qualifications, we will allow as much room as possible for MRSM alumni in the existing colleges, what more for the paid version that is to come,” he said.
Zahid also cited a previous project he deemed a success — Sekolah Menengah Imtiaz Ulul Albab that has been in operation for 11 years.
He said its first batch of students recently furthered their studies at Oxford University in the UK.
“So don’t worry, there is a success story, and schools like this is what the paid MSRM will emulate,” he said.
He said the government cannot “deprive” Bumiputera children of an MRSM education simply because their parents were in the middle income category known as M40 or even the top tier income earners known as T20.
According to Zahid, “their take home pay or net take home pay is low”.
“Their salary could be in the tens of thousands, but their net take home pay is low and they end up as B40... if they want to go to international schools the cost is high.
“So in this MRSM matter, the government will make a separation. One is fully borne by the government and one through PFI.
“The objective is the same but will not burden the government and will not use government land,” he said.
Two days ago, newly-appointed Mara chairman Datuk Seri Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki suggested that Mara Corp look into creating a school under the MRSM brand for Bumiputera elites.
In a Facebook post, he said the idea is a way for Mara to expand its investment and business opportunities.
Asyraf claimed that some parties have suggested the idea of a paid MRSM targeted at the elites and high-income earners in society.
He also said parents from this segment of society have shown interest to send their children to MRSM although they could afford to send their children to study in elite private schools abroad.