KUALA LUMPUR (March 23): The proposal to establish Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) pay schools for well-to-do groups will not involve any government allocations, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Zahid, who is also the rural and regional development minister, said this "futuristic plan" by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) would use the private financing initiative and funding through collaboration with financial institutions.
Zahid also gave an assurance that the fee-paying MRSMs would not be built on land reserved for projects meant to benefit the poor.
“We will cooperate with several parties using smart partnerships for the construction,” he said during the minister’s question time in the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday (March 23).
He was replying to a supplementary question from Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Pakatan Harapan-Muar) on whether the government would utilise Mara land reserved for poor people and the bottom 40% household income group (B40) to cater for the schooling of T20 and M40 children.
According to him, the fee-paying MRSMs can be implemented based on the model of Sekolah Menengah Imtiaz Ulul Albab Melaka.
“Based on my personal experience, I have set up Sekolah Menengah Imtiaz Ulul Albab, without a single sen of allocation from the government. I have done it, and the school has been operating for 11 years,” he added.
Zahid said the proposal to set up MRSM pay schools was in response to overwhelming demand for entry into MRSMs, which received applications numbering 300% of the capacity.
“We have conducted a feasibility study, and found that many students are eligible to enter MRSMs based on academic qualifications, but do not qualify in terms of their parents’ income brackets, especially those in the T20 and M40.
“One condition [for MRSM admission] is giving priority to the B40 group,” he said, adding that there were also too many requests from MRSM alumni, who wanted to enrol their children.
He said Mara would provide the widest opportunity possible for children of these groups to enter MRSMs, but without compromising on the quality and the academic requirements.
On complaints raised by Syed Saddiq regarding hidden costs of MRSMs, such as for purchase of clothing for certain programmes, Zahid said he would meet with MRSM parent-teacher association chairmen to find ways to free B40 children from this burden.
For more Parliament stories, click here.