THE NEED TO REFORM
Making Indonesia’s National Education system work

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Illustration (LEONARDO A. PUTONG)

Jakarta, IO – Good governance is key to the overall success of an educational system, but is often neglected in our daily discourse, because it is dismissed as a less “sexy” issue. More often than not, we are more interested in talking about a lofty vision, mission, and goals for national education. In fact, predictably grandiosely-formulated vision, mission, and goals cannot be implemented properly if the management on the ground is poor, often prompting derisive remark “No Action, Talk Only.” That is why this Article seeks to discuss educational issues from a governance perspective. 

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), there are 10 characteristics of good governance: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus-oriented, equality and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, strategic vision and interlinkage. Now, basing our discussion on these 10 factors, let us assess national educational management by the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry (Kemdikbudristek) under the leadership of Minister Nadiem Makarim. By aligning our standards with the UNDP criteria, we can formulate more objective guidelines and not get trapped in subjectivity. 

Based on the UNDP criteria, it is clear that effective educational management is not only subject to regulation, but also calls for participation, transparency, accountability, and in particular, effectiveness and efficiency. The last is indicated by the ability to manage existing resources (human and budgetary) within Kemdikbudristek to achieve national educational goals in an optimal fashion. This includes the ability of Kemdikbudristek to encourage provincial, regency and municipal administrations to nurture education in their respective regions. 

Optimal public participation is also very important, because, based on the experience of many countries that have implemented democratization of educational management through the creation of education councils and school committees, this has been able to accelerate school progress. In a number of countries that have succeeded in creating school committees, educational policies are not only put in place by the Principal, but also by parent representatives who sit on the school committee or the city’s Board of Education. 

Education Management and Quality 

Post-1998 Reformation, educational leadership in Indonesia acknowledged the importance of involving the public in the management of education, as is the norm in developed countries. Through National Education Minister Decree 044/U/2002 on the education council and school committee, signed by then-Minister Abdul Malik Fadjar, the government tried to integrate the education council and school committee into policymaking elements at the regency/municipality and school level. The hope was that educational management, that was solely dominated by the government during the New Order, might be more decentralized through real public participation. This regulation was later upgraded to an Article in Law 20/2003 on the National Education System (UU Sisdiknas) which effectively solidified their positions. 

There are three articles in the National Education System Law which regulates the Board of Education, namely Article 1(24), Article 56(2-4) and Article 66 and four articles with regard to school committee, namely Article 1(25), Article 38(2) on the curriculum, Article 56(2-4) and Article 66. This means that the legislative drafters behind the National Educational System Law were well aware of the importance of public participation in national educational policymaking. Unfortunately, they were not mentioned in the National Education System (Sisdiknas) bill proposed by Kemdikbudristek. If the strategic roles of education council and school committees are considered to be ineffective, the solution should be to optimize instead of dissolving them. 

Good national educational management will have a positive correlation with the quality of education itself, and vice versa. Therefore, President Jokowi’s determination to build superior human resources can only be achieved if it is supported by good educational management, which comes under the purview of Kemdikbudristek. Take, for example, the case of a number of private universities in Java which in the 1990s were quite famous because many of their graduates assumed strategic roles, both in the public and private sector, but since the start of the Millennium were no longer heard of due to internal strife that disrupted their management. As a result, they are facing difficulty in recruiting new students. Even at the primary and secondary level, the quality of the schools is largely determined by the leadership of the principal who plays a key role in school governance. 

On the macro level, educational management also has a direct impact on the quality of national education. When the management by Kemdikbudristek is sound, it will automatically create a positive climate, which will then spur improvements in national education quality. Even if the policymakers have brilliant ideas, these will not lead to good quality education if they are not supported by good management. 

We can see the performance of national education over the last three years in this respect. Indeed, from a management perspective, it has been suboptimal, beset by dynamics that greatly affect the achievement of quality national education, especially in terms of effectiveness of programs and efficiency of budget use. If we see one or two high-achieving lecturers at some state universities, such as Fahmi Mubarok from the November 10 Institute of Technology (ITS) who was one of the 2022 European Inventor Award finalists, together with his colleague Nuria Espallargas, a Spanish material expert, this does not reflect the quality of national education as a whole, but more of an achievement by individuals who work hard and dedicate themselves to advancing knowledge.