Educational system reforms must start with a clear blueprint

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ndra Charismiadji CERDAS Executive Director (Center for Education Regulations & Development Analysis)

 IO – It has been four weeks since the Minister of Education and Culture issued Circular Number 36962/MPK.A/ HK/2020 that declared that all learning and teaching activities, whether in schools or colleges, are to be performed online, in the effort to interrupt the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). With the issuance of this Circular, the Government has adopted several policies relating to education. 

First, National Examinations and School Examinations that put students in the same spot are eliminated. Options for schools in certifying students’ study results include holding School Examinations online, or taking the results of the students’ grades in the past 5 semesters of their learning. This method of School Examination cannot comprehensively measure the curricular achievement of students until the latest semester, which is held online and is perhaps non-optimum. 

The policy further states that when determining Acceptance of “New Educational Participants” – meaning students – (Penerimaan Peserta Didik Baru – “PPDB”), 70% of student acceptance is based on residential zoning. In other words, the closer you live to the school, the more likely it is that you get accepted. The remaining 30% is accepted according to two criteria: the accumulated academic achievement of the student as shown in their report card for the past 5 semesters, and academic and non-academic achievement outside of school, such as winning in competitions, participating in social activities, etc. In any case, the cancellation of National Examination should not affect the acceptance of new students, whether in Middle Schools, High Schools, or Vocational Schools. 

The second policy, generated after a closed meeting held with President Joko Widodo, is comprised of five strategic steps for improving our students’ overall Program for International Student Assessment (“PISA”) score. The PISA is an international study held by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”)’s international consortium for Sampling, Instrumentation, Data, Reporting, and Secretariat. It measures the reading, mathematical, and scientific literacies of 15-year-old students in a country. 

The five strategic steps are: Transforming school leadership and development of online marketplace in order to obtain School Operational Funds (Bantuan Operasional Sekolah – “BOS”); transforming (Pendidikan dan Pelatihan Guru – “PPG”) program; simplifying the curriculum and adjusting it to the abilities of students; replacing the National Examination with the Minimum Competence Assessment (Asesmen Kompetensi Minimum – “AKM”) created based on PISA; and establishing a partnership between Regional Governments and civilian citizens. 

Third, the launching of the “Study from Home” program created in cooperation with TVRI, the national television channel. This is a series of learning programs created for all levels of formal learning: Kindergartens, Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, and Vocational Schools. They would also include Parent and Teacher Guidance program and cultural shows on weekends. The Studying from Home policy is the answer for restricted access to online learning facilities, whether economic or geographic. 

The above policies are positive, but they tend to be reactive in nature. The success of Indonesia’s Advanced HR development program requires proactive educational policies. It needs real and fundamental steps that can strategically help Indonesia achieve its aspiration to become the fifth-largest economic power in the world by 2045. 

In short, Indonesia needs educational programs that improve the quality of its workers in the long term. After all, the Government’s educational programs for the past 20 years are still unable to implement our educational aspiration to generate intelligent citizens as we declared our independence – despite thousands and trillions of tax money used over the period. 

This argument is starkly borne out by the reading ability of Indonesian students when measured on an international scale. We only earned a score of 371 in the PISA of 2000 – and after taking the test 7 (seven!) times within 18 (eighteen!) years, Indonesian students still get a score of 371 in 2018. This is woefully behind the average score of 487 obtained by students in OECD countries for reading in PISA 2018. Reading is a basic indicator: weak reading ability also means poor studying ability. Low studying ability means low intelligence. And sadly, the same story repeats itself in math and science tests. 

These many educational programs that used up thousands of trillions and take decades are never evaluated for effectiveness and efficiency: BOS, Educational Professional Benefit (Tunjangan Profesi Pendidik – “TPP”), Teachers’ Education and Training (Pendidikan dan Pelatihan Guru – “PPG”), Special Allocation Funds (Dana Alokasi Khusus – “DAK”) for physical and non-physical purposes, Smart Indonesia Program (Program Indonesia Pintar – “PIP”), etc. 

We should all question why the quality of our education is so low, why access to our education is so restricted. In fact, even as late as 2020, our schools and teachers are not ready to provide online learning due to limited availability of digital structures and facilities, despite the people having spent so much money on education over the years. Coordination and collaboration between the Central and Regional governments in running the educational system since we officially implement autonomy in educational decisions for Regional Governments remain sketchy at best. 

I always state on various opportunities that the reason why Indonesia’s education remains stagnant is because the Government never creates any educational system blueprints. All existing programs only address routine issues and are not related to each other, causing the sad reality of “new minister, new policy” among our people. An educational system blueprint for Indonesia will help all of our stakeholders to create measurable programs that will in the end generate the advanced HR that we dream of, as well as make it easier for us to evaluate these programs. We can be sure that they are created more than just to make sure that our budget goes somewhere. 

The good news is that the Revision of Law No. 20 of 2003 concerning the National Educational System is now included in the National Legislation Program for 2020. We may hope that a real, solid Indonesian Educational System Blueprint makes up an integral part of this revision. It would be a proactive and advanced step forward. However, when I contacted them through WhatsApp messaging, members of Commission X of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) of RI told me that they are still awaiting concrete action from the Government as the suggesting party before they can start the revision. 

Under the current Large-Scaled Social Restriction (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar – “PSBB”), I believe that this is the best time to call upon the best sons and daughters of the nation, the experts and figures of education, to jointly express their ideas and create the blueprint for Indonesia’s educational system. We can use this opportunity to objectively evaluate existing programs and start to plan improvements, in order to ensure that that the concepts of “Advanced HR” and “Golden Indonesia” end up as being more stale rhetoric.