KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — The Pakatan Harapan federal government’s historic inclusion of Chinese independent secondary schools in its maiden budget has been lauded by the ethnic Chinese community.
United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) president Tan Tai Kim reportedly said it was encouraging to see the federal government managing to include Chinese independent schools in its budget despite trying economic times for the country, local daily Sin Chew Daily reported.
Tan told the paper that the annual operating costs for the 61 Chinese independent schools nationwide comes up to over RM4 billion, with the gap between school fees and such costs at around RM40 million.
He expressed hope that the government would continue to pay more attention to Chinese independent schools, adding that Dong Zong hoped the government would give equal treatment to Chinese independent schools by also according tax exemption status for donations for the upgrading and maintenance of these schools.
Chinese independent secondary schools are private schools that are highly reliant on donations and financial support from the ethnic Chinese community, but have a historic legacy with some of their students also taking exams under the national syllabus.
In yesterday’s budget speech, the federal government announced RM652 million in allocation for its annual fund of upgrading works for a whopping 11 types of schools — including Chinese independent schools albeit at the lowest share of RM12 million.
In comparison, national schools will receive RM250 million next year for the same purpose, while national-type Chinese primary (SJKC) and Tamil primary schools (SJKT) will each receive RM50 million, full boarding schools (RM50 million), Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (RM50 million), mission schools (RM50 million), government-aided religious schools (RM50 million), tahfiz schools (RM50 million) and registered religious pondok schools (RM25 million) and conforming schools or national-type Chinese secondary schools (SMJK) at RM15 million.
Yesterday’s Budget 2019 speech marks a return of SMJK or the conforming schools after being omitted in the budget speech for the last two years.
Yesterday also saw the government announcing that donations for the upgrading of infrastructure at national schools and public institutions of higher learning will be tax exempted from January 1, while tax exemptions for donations to other schools and institutions of higher learning registered with the Education Ministry will be on a case by case basis.
Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah reportedly said that it was still deeply meaningful even when each Chinese independent secondary school would get an average of RM200,000, as this showed a positive start for the ethnic Chinese community’s hopes for government recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) taken at these schools.
He also welcomed the maintained figure of RM50 million each for SJKC and SJKT schools as per previous years, as well as the RM15 million allocation next year for SMJK schools.
“Despite facing national debts and a deficit, but the government in giving the education sector the biggest allocation (RM60.2b or 19.1% of the total budget), and giving an allocation next year of RM652 million to various school streams, including Chinese independent schools, proves the government’s determination to give emphasis to each ethnic group’s education and this is heartening,” he was quoted saying by Sin Chew Daily.
Earlier today, MCA MP Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong had said PH’s budget allocation of RM12 million for Chinese independent schools and RM25 million for registered pondok schools’ upkeep “deserved praise”, noting that this was part of their election promise.
“Nonetheless, the Chinese independent schools nationwide have 90,000 students, which I believe is not less than that of sekolah pondok. Pakatan should exercise fairness and allocate RM25 million for Chinese independent schools too,” he wrote on his Facebook account today.
The allocation for the upgrade and maintenance of schools in the budget speeches for the past seven years have tended to benefit between six to nine types of schools.
The allocation for such purposes was RM1 billion for both 2012 and 2013, before falling to RM450 million in 2014. It was RM800 million in 2015, RM500 million in 2016 and RM600 million in 2017 and RM615 million last year.