The concept of Public- Private Partnerships (PPP) in revamping the National Education System

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Indra Charismiadji Director of Education at VOX Populi Institute Indonesia

IO – Hearing about Indonesian children studying abroad is common. But the news that there are foreigners who are willing to pay dearly to send their children to school in Indonesia because of the quality of its education is new to us all. 

A few months ago, before there were physical restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was invited to lunch with two English education consultants. One topic of discussion that interests me is the existence of a school in Indonesia which is very well-known abroad. This school is called the Green School, sited on “the Island of the Gods”, Bali. Parents are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to send their children to a place which they call a living laboratory that cannot be found in their home country. 

With the condition of the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing together, an economic recession will certainly occur. It will be very helpful for the Indonesian economy if we could have other schools like Green School, that can bring in foreign exchange. Moreover, Indonesia still has a lot of vacant land and islands that can be developed into educational tourism (edutourism). 

Ludger Woessmann, a German researcher from the Kiel Institute of World Economics, through his research entitled “Why Students in Some Countries Do Better: International evidence on the importance of education policy”, reports that countries with a greater number of students attending private schools get significantly higher scores in mathematics and science compared to more public schools. The results are even higher if private schools do not get financial assistance from the government. 

What about the condition of private schools in Indonesia? According to data from the Ministry of Education and Culture, in the 1997/1998 school year private schools had a ratio of 6.6% at the elementary level, 52.2% junior high school, 66.6% high school, and 80.9% vocational school, in the 2001/2002 school year the number changed to 6.8% elementary school, 48% junior high school, 62.4% high school, and 82.4% vocational high school, in the 2009/2010 school year to 8.9% elementary school, 40.7% junior high school, 54.4% high school, and 73.6% of vocational high schools, while data for the 2018/2019 school year showed that elementary schools had a ratio of 11.3%, 41% of junior high schools, 50.2% for high schools, and 74.6% for vocational high schools. 

 With the data above, it can be seen that Indonesia’s education system policies prioritize the construction of free public schools rather than balancing their growth with the presence of private schools. Maybe this also makes the quality of our education one of the worst in the world when seen from PISA, TIMSS, ACTION / INAP scores. The education system is simply not able to educate the nation. 

The priority argument for the construction of state schools is of course only one, namely opening access to education for all Indonesian children. For this reason, let’s look at the data of the Pure Participation Rate (APM) from Indonesia Statistics (BPS), namely the proportion of the population in certain age groups of education who are still attending school to the population in that age group in the last 5 (five) years. For the elementary school, the age level was 96.45% in 2014 and increased by 1.19% to 97.64% in 2019. For the junior high school age in 2014, it was in the position of 77.53% which increased to 79.4 % or up 1.87% only. At the age of high school/vocational high school, there was an increase of 1.49% from 59.35% in 2014 to 60.84% in 2019. 

The increase in the Pure Participation Rate is only 1% for three years with a substantial education budget including the construction of 807 new school units since 2016, which has not significantly increased access to education. Not to mention that at the same time there were hundreds of thousands of classrooms that were heavily damaged in Indonesia. 

In conclusion, the State Budget (APBN) and the Regional Budget APBD) are not enough to finance education programs in Indonesia. Indonesia needs a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in managing the national education system to produce superior human resources as the nation’s ideals. 

Of course, to attract the private sector to want to partner with the government in improving the quality of national education cannot use the existing regulations. One of them is that private schools use the same regulations as state schools, even though the governance and investment patterns are very different. Private schools should be free from the use of the national curriculum, free from administrative burdens that are too binding. Just three things are guarded: ideology; student safety; and consumer protection. 

To attract private investment, of course, it must be a return on investment that provides high benefits for investors. In my opinion, the community need not be afraid if education becomes too commercial because it all depends on supply and demand. On the other hand, the higher the profit of the private sector, the greater the tax used for the welfare of the people. This concept is a mutualism of symbiosis. 

Fortunately, this year the government and the Parliament agreed to revise the National Education System Law through the national legislation program. If the concept of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) becomes the foundation of the National Education System that will be revised, the Indonesian people will benefit greatly from the increasingly open access to education, improving the quality of education services, and also strengthening in the economic sector.