Friday, March 1, 2024 | 10:45 WIB

The significance of postponing the new school year

IO – The Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemdikbud) has declined to postpone the new school year to January 2021, while continuing to insist that it will commence in July 2020, even though the actual learning will all be conducted online. Instead, I would argue that instead of the new school year being imposed in July 2020 but learning online, the school year should be postponed until January 2021. 

Delaying the new school year does not mean there can be no learning in July-December 2020; teaching and learning can still go on, especially for those currently in school / on campus. For example, those who are currently sitting in Class IV SD / Mandiri Investasi, who will move up to Class II-VI SD / MI, or those who are in Class I-II SMP / MTs / SMA / SMK / MA, will become Class II-III, and so will Class II-III. Those who study and enter Semester III and thereafter still have to go to school / college. That is, delaying the new school year does not mean stopping learning at all levels of education from July – December. Only student admissions are delayed. Why do I insist there needs to be a delay? 

First, when it comes to school / college matters, what feels the most complicated is when starting to enter school / college because a lot of new things have to be worked on: building fees, new school / tuition fees, school uniforms, school supplies, notebooks, textbooks, and other urgent needs. While the economic and psychological conditions of society are currently in a fragile condition, so families should not be burdened with problems related to the needs of school / college for their children. 

Second, the process of accepting new students themselves often drains the energy of the community, especially the lower-middle-class people who do not have many choices. The process of accepting new students, as stipulated in Regulation of the Minister of Education (Permendikbud) No. 44 of 2019 concerning Acceptance of New Students (PPDB) in 2020 is carried out through various channels: achievements, affir mations, zoning, and moving to other areas due to parents’ jobs. But for the lower middle class, their opportunities are all narrow; what’s more, their achievements are generally mediocre, inconspicuous. Through the zoning route they generally also lose because they usually live in urban areas far from public schools, or if they are close, the competition is very tight because there are many more, especially those living in dense areas. 

The disadvantaged group has an opportunity in the affirmation path, namely the PPDB path, specifically for students from economically disadvantaged families under the condition that they can provide proof of student participation in the program for poor families from the Central Government or Local Government, for example, KIP (Smart Indonesian Card) and others. However, state schools generally limit quotas for this affirmation path, they generally only having quotas between 5-10%. Meanwhile, the number of those from disadvantaged groups is far more than 10% in urban and densely-populated areas. 

The bewilderment of parents who have children going to a new school / college is caused by two things, namely the process of getting a new school itself (their children will be able to go to school / campus) and the education costs themselves that they must pay before entering school / college – often the amount is beyond their ability. Based on these considerations, I see the importance of delaying the new school year to January 2021 to make room for those who are unable to amass sufficient funds for their children’s educational expenses. 

The third reason is to take into account the psychological condition of children, especially those in kindergarten and elementary school. For them, school means meeting the teacher and friends and playing with friends. If it is school but at home, it not only causes boredom for them but also psychologically disrupts children’s mental development, for example, some children ask their parents to be taken to school so they can meet friends and teachers, even though in reality, learning in that school are temporarily halted. 

The fourth reason for the importance of postponing the new school year is that during July-December 2020 it can be used to complete learning material in the Even Semester (January-June 2020), because both the levels of primary, secondary, to tertiary education, the learning process in the Even Semester is incomplete, given the limited time for school / lectures (at home) to avoid boredom of children / students. 

So if the new school year is postponed to January 2021, then the July-December period is for the completion of subject matter for those who are currently in school / campus. At the start of the new academic year 2021 later, for those who are currently in school / campus, learning for Odd Semester (1) in full can begin. If Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Makarim insists on imposing a new school year on July 13, 2020, it means that there is one year the learning process not complete, because this Even Semester learning is incomplete and will begin with Odd Semester (July-December) which will also not be completed with permanent learning using an online application. 

Health infrastructure preparation 

So that schools do not become new clusters of COVID-19 distribution and children are not victims of insistence by policymakers, before implementing face-to-face learning, schools / campuses with financial support from the Government need to prepare the infrastructure needed by schools to implement health protocols COVID-19 prevention, such as spraying the room using disinfectants, installing more taps (sinks) in the school environment, providing hand sanitizers and thermo guns to check the temperature of students. The problem is whether there is a budget allocation for it all, especially for small private schools / campuses. Are they able to handle it? Is the Government able to provide a special budget for 250 thousand schools and campuses throughout Indonesia? If the Government itself does not have a budget but forces a new school year to continue in July 2020, it is very unethical and inhumane. 

What about schools in the green zone? Schools in the green zone may carry out face-to-face learning, but health protocols, recommendations from the health authorities are also needed, including the association of Indonesian pediatricians who are more knowledgeable about children’s health conditions. The only question is whether the schools in the green zone have prepared the infrastructure needed to implement the COVID-19 preventive health protocol? If not, it’s quite risky too, especially now that people without symptoms (OTG) can suddenly be infected with COVID-19. 

Now when the school is facing such conditions, are the school communities (school principals, teachers, administration, and students) ready to deal with them? If not, then forcing the implementation of face-to-face schools in the green zone will be very dangerous and risky for the safety of children. The most that can be implemented by schools is to limit the maximum room capacity to only 50% of the total number of students. So if there is usually one class filled in by students, then they may have to take turns entering the day and a day off. Consequently, it takes more time to complete the same learning material, but it is much safer for students than having to complete the material as scheduled, but the risk is greater for children. And because the face-to-face learning process could not be maximized, I still insist on the importance of postponing the education calendar to January-December 2021.