Constitutional Court Brings End to Era of RSBI Schools
The Constitutional Court has ruled against international-standard state schools, putting an end to a contentious educational experiment that was beset by criticism from the outset.
In a judicial review ruling handed down on Tuesday, the court struck down an article in the 2003 National Education Law that required all municipalities and districts in the country to have at least one such school, known as RSBI.
Mahfud M.D., the court’s chief justice, said in his ruling that not only did the requirement go against the Constitution, but there was also no sound legal basis for RSBI to exist.
The judicial review had been sought by a coalition of parents’ and teachers’ organizations as well as the antigraft group Indonesia Corruption Watch.
In their filing, they contended that RSBI were unconstitutional because they were allowed to charge much higher fees than other public schools, thereby making it less likely for students from disadvantaged families to enroll.
They also said the creation of such schools was tantamount to the liberalization of the public education sector.
In addition, they pointed out that test results since the schools were first established in 2003 showed that despite following a highly touted bilingual curriculum, RSBI students generally performed the same or even worse than students at regular public schools.
Darmaningtyas, an education activist from the Taman Siswa Foundation, welcomed the court’s ruling.
“This is a victory for the public, not just for the plaintiffs,” he said.
He refuted the notion that the end of RSBI schools would hold back efforts to improve Indonesia’s education system.
“The term RSBI was always just a label, it had nothing to do with quality education,” he said.
Siti Juliantari Rachman, from ICW’s public services monitoring division, also lauded the ruling but said there was still work to be done in reverting the approximately 1,300 RSBI schools nationwide back into regular state schools.
“Officials at those schools need to be told that their system no longer has a legal basis,” she said.
She urged the Education Ministry to work on complying with the ruling and setting up a system to ensure that no schools were levying unnecessary fees.
Retno Listyarti, secretary general of the Indonesian Teachers Union Federation (FSGI), said that RSBI schools had served only to widen the gap between rich and poor students.
She said that because there was no limit on the fees they could charge, they raked in millions of rupiah a month on the pretext of improving education, but in reality the money was going toward auxiliary expenses. Dessy Sagita