'Vernacular schools here to stay'
UNIQUE FEATURE: Chinese, Tamil schools not sidelined as they are vital to education system, says Muhyiddin
He assured the Chinese and Indians that the government had always placed the interests of Chinese and Tamil schools close to its heart.
Muhyiddin said vernacular schools were an integral part of the education system.
"Vernacular schools are our legacy. You will not find a unique education system such as ours in any other country.
"There are people who try to create confusion since the general election is nearing, but I assure you that vernacular schools are here to stay.
"They are an important part of our system. We can't reduce or change that."
He dismissed the perception that national schools were Malay schools.
"They are not; you can find all races in national schools.
"The misconception is what led to claims that vernacular schools were 'dianaktirikan' (sidelined), but the government has never treated vernacular schools any differently," he said at a gathering with about 1,100 teachers from vernacular schools near here yesterday.
He said the average expenditure for a vernacular school was not much different from that spent on a national school.
On the average, the government spends RM2.23 million per Chinese school a year and RM1.99 million per Tamil school a year.
In comparison, the government spends RM2.26 million per national school a year.
The bulk of the expenditures goes towards paying teachers' salaries.
He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in Budget 2012, had announced an additional allocation of RM900 million for public schools, with RM500 million going to national schools, and RM100 million each for Chinese schools, Tamil schools, mission schools and government-aided schools.
Touching on the shortage of teachers in Chinese schools, Muhyiddin said this was something faced by all schools.
"If a teacher retires or goes on maternity leave, it takes time to find a replacement. In a year, about 20,000 teachers go on maternity leave. We have only 480,000 teachers.
"There is also a shortage of English language teachers in some schools, but many are reluctant to uproot themselves. This is why there are more English teachers in urban areas."
He said the ministry had taken steps to fill the 1,700 vacancies in Chinese schools with 1,400 interim teachers. Heads of Chinese schools were also given permission to recruit teachers to fill the vacant positions.
Muhyiddin said finding teachers for Chinese schools was not easy as the schools required all their teachers to converse in Mandarin.
"Even Bahasa Malaysia teachers must know Mandarin to replace other subjects," he said, adding that Tamil schools were not as strict as Chinese schools when it came to teaching requirements.
On the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), Muhyiddin said there could be no reversal of the policy when the subjects were taught in mother tongues in vernacular schools.
He said many students in national schools were more comfortable learning Mathematics and Science in their mother tongue, which was Malay.
He said the ministry would soon roll out an information and communication technology learning tool called Bestari Net.
He presented mock cheques for RM5.28 million to 30 government-aided Chinese schools in Selangor and RM21 million to 37 government-aided Tamil schools in Selangor.
Muhyiddin, who is Barisan Nasional deputy chairman, said the coalition's "pro-business" government was prepared to assist businesses to boost economic development.
"There are too many (initiatives) to mention, from financial grants and loans, business courses and training to working with funding bodies such as Mara."
"All of it is aimed at making sure businesses can grow and develop," he said when meeting the Selangor Hawkers' Association strategic group.
He said the government had taken steps to reduce red tape for small businesses, such as simplifying the issuing of licences.
He announced that RM740,000 in administrative assistance had been allocated for 74 associations (RM10,000 each) in Selangor.