International Standards for Indonesian Schools Seen as Failure
Jakarta. Teachers and education activists have called on the House of Representatives to repeal a law obliging all districts to have at least one international-standard school, calling it a useless gimmick.
Under the 2003 National Education Law, each district or city must have at least one school undergoing the process of attaining international status, known as an RSBI school, at the elementary, junior high and senior high levels.
Those schools are then expected to attain full international standing over the next few years.
RSBI schools are required to give lessons in both Indonesian and English, have fewer students per class and adopt a curriculum integrating national and international education standards, including those used in developed countries.
Each school gets an annual block grant of between Rp 300 million and Rp 500 million ($33,000 and $55,000) from the National Education Ministry to buy equipment and hire staff.
They also have the discretion to levy fees from students, whereas other public schools are meant to be free.
However, Indonesia Corruption Watch says the entire program is an attempt to commercialize public education.
“There’s a good possibility that these schools are only being used by the government to pass off the responsibility of funding education in the country,” an ICW researcher, Febri Diansyah, said on Monday.
Most RSBI schools, he added, have not shown any indication of improved education quality, and are focused more on building physical facilities rather than improving the quality of teaching and extracurricular activities.
“Many of those schools can’t even produce qualified graduates,” he said. “Some of them even scored poor results in the last national exams.”
T he government, he said, is trying to sell students on the idea that because English is used as the language of instruction these schools are better than regular public schools, an idea he called an oversimplification.
“They hire English trainers to coach the teachers, then the teachers try to teach in broken English, and of course the students end up not understanding the lessons,” he said.
Unifah Rosyidi, co-chairwoman of the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI), agreed that the poor quality of many RSBI schools was due to this assumption that merely teaching in English made them superior.
Mohammad Abduhzen, executive director of Paramadina University’s Institute for Education Reform, went a step further and said the national education system should be designed to address local issues.
With Indonesia being a mostly agrarian society, he said, the focus of schools should be to boost the agricultural sector rather than to adopt international standards that may not be appropriate for the country.
The backers of the 2003 National Education Law, however, insist the concept of RSBI schools is a sound one, but its adoption by school boards has been flawed.
Heri Akhmadi, deputy chairman of House Commission X, which oversees education, said there was nothing wrong with the education law and it did not need to be amended.
He said any commercialization of the public education system was the fault of school boards and their interpretation of the RSBI obligation.
“They’ve gone overboard with the privilege,” he said. “They think the law means they can overcharge the students by as much as they like.”
Heri also acknowledged that many schools were more focused on adopting English into their lessons rather than on improving the quality of teaching.
“It’s unfair to declare all RSBI schools a failure and blame the law. Schools in Surabaya, for instance, have been successful in implementing the system properly.”