Indra Charismiadji Director of Education Vox Populi Institute Indonesia

IO – “Exactly one year ago, President Joko  Widodo  and  Vice  President Ma’aruf Amin announced that the priority  of  their  administration was the development of excellent human  capital.  What  does  that signify?  According  to  the  Great Dictionary of the Indonesian language, excellent means smarter, better,  more  capable,  stronger, longer  lasting,  etc)  than  others; prime, superior. This means that Indonesian people must be smarter or more competent than other nationalities.

In my opinion, this program is most appropriate, because it must be  admitted  that  Indonesia  has yet to become an excellent nation. One  of  the  tools  to  measure  a country’s global standing in terms of  human  capital  quality  is  the PISA  (Program  for  International Student Assessment) score. PISA is a worldwide study of 15-yearold  students’  performance  on reading,  math,  and  science,  one which  has  become  a  benchmark for international education.

Since  it  was  launched  for  the first time in 2000, Indonesia has never demonstrated its excellence in  PISA.  In  2018,  Indonesians scored 371 for reading, while the OECD countries average was 487. Indonesia  scored  379  for  math, compared  to  OECD’s  489.  And in science, Indonesia’s score was 396 while OECD average was 489. This shows that the quality of Indonesian  human  capital  is  far from  excellent.  Indeed,  it  is  significantly below other countries’ average.

A more in-depth insight can be gained  from  the  comparison  be-

tween Indonesian and Vietnamese” “students  against  OECD  average in  reading.  55.4%  of  Indonesian students were grouped in level 1 (the lowest), while for Vietnam it was  only  13.9%  and  the  OECD average was 20.1%. Vietnam and other OECD countries were mostly  placed  at  level  3  (Vietnam  at 35.2%  and  OECD  countries  at 27.9%). This explains Indonesian students’ weaker ability to learn. If they are not doing well in reading, according to the World Bank they are categorised as functionally illiterate, meaning they can read but  not  necessarily  comprehend what they are reading. If they are poor in reading, then Indonesian human  capital  won’t  be  able  to learn  much.  In  turn,  the  quality of its human capital will be lower.

Furthermore,  the  distribution of  Indonesian  students’  reading ability  above  shows  a  skewed trend  because  the  majority  of them  are  at  the  lowest  level  or level 1, while the majority of Vietnamese  and  other  OECD  countries’ students were at the intermediate  level,  or  level  3.  From the data we can infer that attending  school  in  Indonesia  actually makes children more stupid.

In  a  talk  show  with  a  private television station, I once said that the biggest problem faced by our Indonesian educational system is a lack of evaluation and nonexistent blueprint/grand design/road map. The Education and Culture Ministry’s latest attempt to create a road map for Indonesian education is unfortunately still confusing in many respects.

I argued that if we are to create a road map, we should learn from Gojek. When we use the ride-hailing app it clearly shows the pickup  point,  the  destination  point, and  how  much  it  costs.  On  the contrary, there is no clarity in the Education and Culture Ministry’s roadmap  –  where  the  program starts, what objectives is it trying to achieve, and how much it costs to achieve these objectives in what the Harvard Business School calls a  SMART  (specific,  measurable, attainable,  realistic,  and  timebound) manner.

If  we  want  to  learn  the  latest lesson in planning, Harvard Business School popularised the acronym FAST. This means that there should  be  frequent  discussions with the public because the government affairs are public affairs, ambitious in scope, able to measured using specific metrics and milestones, and transparent to all stakeholders to see.

PISA  data  can  be  used  as  a starting point for the Indonesian human capital development program, very much like the pick-up point  in  the  Gojek  application. Unfortunately,  this  has  never been  mentioned  in  the  formulation of Indonesian education programs.

The Center for Education Economics  (CfEE),  a  London-based educational  research  organization,  in  its  study  of  the  Indonesian  education  system  titled  “15 Years of Education in Indonesia: Rising Enrolment and Flat Learn-

ing Profiles” published in Annual” “Research Digest 2017-2018 found that  there  has  been  no  significant  improvement  in  the  quality of  Indonesian  education  all  this time, due to people’s complacency towards the education sector. Everyone  thinks  that  everything is  fine,  but  when  we  look  at  the country’s poor PISA results there is  clearly  something  wrong  with the Indonesian education system. The study also showed that the government’s programs in education  tend  to  be  “same  old,  same old”  while  the  education  budget continues  to  rise.  This  can  be summed  up  as  BAUWMM  (Business As Usual With More Money). How about our education pro-

gram  in  the  last  one  year?  We heard  about  the  Mobilisation School  Program,  Mobilisation Teacher  Program,  Mobilisation Organisation Program (POP), the elimination of the National Examination (UN),  and the  simplification  of  the  national  curriculum, as  announced  by  the  Education and  Culture  Ministry.  Are  these new innovations? What happened to  the  core  schools,  international standard pilot-project schools (RSBI),  and  reference  schools program enacted by the previous minister?  What  about  the  core teacher, teacher learner, and continuous professional development (PKB) programs for teachers? And what  about  the  moniker  change from  National  Final  Learning Evaluation (EBTANAS) to National Exam (UN) and now to National Assessment?

Also, the curriculum constantly changes along with the change in  the  Education  and  Culture Ministry’s  leadership,  such  as the competency-based curriculum (KBK),  the  school  level  autonomy curriculum (KTSP), the 2013 curriculum,  the  revision  to  the 2013  curriculum,  and  the  simplified curriculum. The Freedom to  Learn  Program  itself  was  later known to be a trademark of a foreign company which happened to be an advisor to the incumbent Education and Culture Minister. The  same  concept—Educational Organization Community (KOP)-was reintroduced as POP in 2019, which is actually not much different  from  the  MGMP  Reborn  program  of  the  previous  Education and Culture Minister.

At a glance, it can be said that there is no new innovation in the Education and Culture Ministry’s program.  It’s  all  about  changes in  names,  and  of  course,  more budget. For example, the budget allocated  for  the  2020  national examination  was  Rp200  billion, while  for  the  national  assessment  next  year  the  budget  has ballooned  to  Rp1.4  trillion.  This has  dashed  our  high  hopes  for Minister Nadiem Makarim, a Millennial whose background as the esteemed founder of a successful digital start-up company, to bring about dramatic changes in the Indonesian education sector as the backbone of excellent human capital development.

Albert Einstein once said that madness is doing the same thing

over  and  over  again  but  expect-” “ing different results. If we expect a  change  in  the  quality  of  Indonesian  human  capital,  then  our education programs must change substantially,  not  just  in  name. This  requires  a  comprehensive, objective,  and  transparent  evaluation of ongoing and discontinued  educational  programs,  and it  should  not  be  aimed  at  seeking someone to be held responsible  for  past  mistakes  but  rather breakthrough  solutions  to  the problem.

After the evaluation is completed, there needs to be a blueprint/ grand  design/road  map  for  Indonesian  education  with  a  clear starting  point  and  final  destination, time frame, and the costs required to achieve these goals. The pandemic  seems  like  the  perfect time to summon the nation’s best brains,  educational  leaders  and experts to share their thoughts in creating  a  blueprint  for  Indonesian education. Do not let something that is so crucial to the future of this nation be decided by an elite group in a non-transparent manner, which will definitely raise public suspicion.

It has to be admitted that one year  later,  Jokowi-Ma’aruf’s  Indonesia Moving Forward program has yet to move anywhere. With or without a pandemic, this program must be realized because it is in the best interest of the nation. It seems that this program must be directly  supervised  by  President Jokowi  himself,  as  what  he  did in  his  previous  administration’s signature infrastructure development projects which have shown clear  progress.  The  Indonesian people are still optimistic that the country’s demographic bonus and “Golden  Indonesia”  dream  can still be realised.”