Charter schools as a solution to the chaotic PPDB

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Indra Charismiadji Director of Education Vox Populi Institute Indonesia

IO – Chaotic New Student Admission (PPDB) of Jakarta in 2020 has led to protests by parents whose children have not been accepted at state schools; this has colored mass media and public talk over the last three weeks. I have been invited many times to give views on television, radio, print and online media, to explain the philosophy of the zoning policy that changes from using grades as a determinant of new student acceptance to using distance to school (zone) where Jakarta adds the age factor as a variable in filtering. 

This problem arises due to the lack of access to education in Indonesia, even though the State Budget for education is more than IDR 500 trillion. We can see this from the 2019 National Pure Participation Rate which still shows that nearly 40% of Indonesian children of high school age do not attend school, 30% of junior high school-age, and almost 3% of elementary school-age children who are not yet in school. And more than 100 thousand children drop out of school according to the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Regional Education Balance Sheet. These figures do not include this year’s condition which is certainly getting worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Charter Schools as a solution 

To find solutions to the problems mentioned above, opening Charter Schools seems to be a fast and economical alternative for all parties. 

Charter Schools are schools run by private parties but 100% of the funding comes from the government. This school offers formal education services ranging from grade 1 primary school to grade 12 high school/ vocational school without fees for all students. Charter schools are subject to government regulations, but the rules tend to be laxer than traditional public schools. The funds provided are calculated based on the number of students attending a particular Charter School, similar to the School Operational Assistance policy, but the amount of the budget is increased to School Operational Costs which means that full operational costs are borne by the government. 

This type of school can be opened by parents, teachers, community organizations, religious organizations, non-profit groups, companies, or even government organizations. Charter Schools can provide general education or may be aimed at students who need specific alternative learning methods, such as children with special needs or disabilities. 

The opening of Charter Schools will make an impact on the government budget burden because it is much cheaper compared to building a New School Unit considering that there are currently many private schools built tens or even hundreds of years ago by the community. This is a tangible form of the concept of public and private partnerships. Models like this are very important, given government budget constraints that will not be enough to finance national education programs as delivered by Yustinus Prastowo, Special Staff of the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia in an online discussion last May. 

The education staff in these schools are not government employees, so recruitment, placement, payroll, and staffing will use private employment regulations. A staffing mechanism that is even simpler than the Government Employee with a Work Agreement system created to accommodate, among others, honorary teachers in state schools, and with this model their income will be guaranteed. 

In terms of quality, managers of Charter Schools are obliged to maintain the quality of learning where they must ensure the academic achievement of students. If the results are below the target set by the government, the status of the charter school will be revoked and the government assistance will be stopped altogether. Schools can change the status to become private schools or be closed down by the government as students are transferred to other schools. 

Implementation of Charter Schools in other countries 

In comparison, since opening for the first time in the state of Minnesota in 1991, the Charter School has grown to number more than 7,000 schools and served more than 3 million students per year throughout the United States in 2016. Since 2000 the number of students enrolling in Charter Schools increased by 600%. 

According to a 2015 study from Stanford University, the Charter School not only provides broader access to education for the United States but also significantly increases academic abilities in literacy and numeracy. In particular, minority and or low-income learners get greater benefits with the existence of this formal education institution. 

Seeing the various confusion that existed since the zoning system was implemented in the 2017 New Student Admission Program, it seems that the formation of charter schools could be a solution both in terms of access and in terms of quality improvement, especially as the government is working specifically to improve literacy and numeracy skills among students. 

The challenge of this school model is that it does not yet exist in the National Education System Law, to run it the President must first issue Government Regulations. The good news, our President is ready to issue a Government Regulation if it is indeed needed for the people as he said at a cabinet meeting on 18 June. 

After the Government Regulation is issued, this Charter School model should be included in the Revision of the National Education System Law, which has entered the national legislation program. Hopefully, this concept can become one of the new programs that support the development of skilled human resources as contained in the vision of Advanced Indonesia.