Reviving national education

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Ki Darmaningtyas Manager, Tamansiswa Family Association (PKBTS), Yogyakarta

IO – National education is currently in a state of emergency, as a result of the prolonged corona pandemic, and we do not know when it will end, including when distance learning (PJJ) or online schooling will end. Before the pandemic engulfed us, the Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemdikbud) under the leadership of Nadiem Makarim had a series of independent programs in place, starting from the declaration of independent learning, independent campus, eliminating national exams, and which later caused a stir was the Movement Organization Program (POP) which was the fourth series from the independence concept. However, due to the pandemic, these programs needed to be reviewed. 

Judging from its philosophy, POP is a noble program, aimed at building the quality of mutual cooperation-based national education. The Minister of Education and Culture realizes that there are many potentials in the community that have played a role in advancing the quality of national education but have not received funding support from the government. Through this POP, the government wants to be present by providing financial support so they can play a more optimal role. 

Based on the explanation from the Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim, there is nothing wrong with the concept of POP. Naturally, when presented in front of Commission X, the members of the council also approved the program, which cost IDR 595 billion, with a note that there was a need for a more detailed explanation of the election mechanism and its distribution. This program only surfaced after the announcement of the institutions that received funding support and their amounts, including the names of the Tanoto Foundation and the Sampoerna Foundation, which later caused controversy. 

The controversy began with the announcement which stated that the two institutions joined POP with Category I (Gajah) with a target of more than 100 (one hundred) education units and could receive a maximum of IDR 20 billion per year. Category II (Macan) with a target of 21 to 100 educational units, can receive a maximum of IDR 5 billion per year, while Category III (Kijang) with a target of 5 to 20 educational units can get a maximum of IDR 1 billion per year. The height of the controversy was the resignation of Muhammadiyah, Ma’arif NU, and the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI) from their role in the POP. 

Ironically, after the controversy arose, there was only an explanation that these private institutions would not use the State Budget (APBN) but use their own funds, aka independent funds. The Minister of Education and Culture’s explanation was delivered after meeting with the two institutions and agreeing to use independent funds. That means, previously they planned to use the APBN funds, but because of public protests, they agreed to use independent funds. Logically, if you use independent funds, why do you have to participate in the contest to send a proposal? Isn’t it enough to register yourself as an institution involved in POP using independent funds? 

Subsidies for Private Teachers and Schools 

Observing the POP controversy, which is still ongoing because the three organizations that objected to joining have not rejoined, it is better if POP 2020 should be canceled, and the funds diverted to save education that is already in an emergency state. Two things that need immediate or urgent rescue are “honorary teachers”, both those who teach in public and private schools, as well as marginal private schools whose students consist of poor and less-intelligent people. 

First, many of our honorary teachers are still paid less than Rp 1 million. Even in a rural area that is not enough for one person to eat, much less one who is married. The Minister of Education and Culture has indeed made regulations to release BOS (School Operational Assistance) funds, which allow the allocation of honoraria for teachers to be increased according to needs, but in the field, many school principals do not dare to make policy, because they are overshadowed by BPK findings. There were Elementary School (SD) principals who were busy choosing to resign rather than having to relax the use of BOS funds. Even if the principal was brave, the increase in teacher honoraria through BOS funds would be insignificant, as additional honorariums are still needed, so that honorary teachers can also be supported during this pandemic, considering that the quota expenditure for teachers is also large for implementing online learning. 

Secondly, private schools which generally accommodate children from the middle to lower class. They currently have a very difficult life because 70% of their income derives from student tuition fees, while many parents have lost both jobs and income, so they cannot afford to pay for school anymore. Thus their only source of finance is the BOS fund, which depends on the number of students. And because there are not many students, the BOS funds they receive are also not sufficient, because the calculation of BOS funds is based on the number of students. If there is no assistance from the government, these schools will close, so that it will have an impact on the loss of access to education for the lower middle class. These suburban schools are still needed, as long as the government is not able to provide public schools for all its citizens. And it would be a big mistake if the government surrendered the life and death of private schools to the organizers (foundations) because foundations only help the government meet the educational needs of the surrounding community. 

Until now, there has not been any special policy from the Ministry of Education and Culture to save honorary teachers and private schools outside the periphery. If you want to revive national education during this pandemic, saving both of them is very important, especially since many of our civil servant teachers have tested positive for COVID-19 or died because of COVID-19, so that their roles will be taken over by honorary teachers. 

Third, technically, the implementation time is only for 3.5 months, because the use of APBN funds will end on 15 December. It is impossible that within 3.5 months these activating organizations will be able to carry out the program optimally as planned, given the constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic that made it impossible to carry out face-to-face teacher training. If teacher training activities are carried out online, then it’s the same as seeing YouTube or opening Google, there’s no need to use APBN funds that reach hundreds of billions. Not to mention that there is a possibility of overlapping target groups of teachers to be trained to teach the target. For this reason, it is better if POP 2020 should be canceled and the large POP budget allocation should be focused on saving dying education, especially honorary teachers and small private schools. 

The program was designed before the existence of COVID-19. At that time the state budget, including the allocation for the Ministry of Education and Culture, was still quite flexible in its ability to carry out various programs. However, with the onset of COVID-19, the country’s financial capacity has shrunk and the Ministry of Education and Culture also needs to refocus the budget; one thing that should be refocused is this POP which has a low level of urgency and is then diverted to save education. POP is an effort to improve the quality of education through teacher education and training. Of course, efforts to increase teacher competence are less urgent than saving education as stated above. Their rescue is much more urgent.