SP/Natasia Christy Wahyuni
With the glow from the recently announced near-universal pass rate in the senior high school national exams now fading, education officials are looking into why the Indonesian language exam was one of the major hurdles for students.
Teuku Ramli Zakaria, from the National Education Standardization Agency (BSNP), the body that administered the exams in April, said over the weekend that 484 of the 7,579 final-year students who failed the exams did so because their Indonesian language scores were lower than the minimum prescribed 4 out of 10.
Only the math paper proved a tougher challenge, with 822 students failing because of that, while 165 failed because of low English scores. Of the 1.5 million students who took the exams, 99.5 percent passed.
Ramli attributed the surprisingly low Indonesian language scores to the students’ weakness in comprehending texts.
“Our kids are weak in the reading area, and this is among the competencies demanded of them,” he said. “We used to test them on grammar, but now we really need them to [understand] the functions of the language. Teachers must start giving more emphasis to reading.”
He added that the poor Indonesian scores this year followed last year’s trend.
Ramli said most of the students who failed in the Indonesian language exam were from Makassar in South Sulawesi.
In East Java, the province with the highest pass rate at 99.93 percent, the Indonesian language paper accounted for the highest number of students who failed.
Harun, the head of the provincial education office, said on Sunday that although he was proud of the high number of passes, the low scores in the Indonesian language exam were a cause for concern.
“The average score for this subject was below the average for math, science, social studies and religious studies,” he said. “We will have special programs to improve the Indonesian language scores in future exams, but what form those programs will take has not yet been determined.”
Harun said the programs would involve the provincial, district and municipal education offices.
After East Java, the provinces with the highest pass rates were North Sulawesi (99.91 percent), and Bali and West Java (99.9 percent).
The provinces with the lowest pass rates, but still in the high 90s, were mostly in the country’s underdeveloped eastern region, including East Nusa Tenggara, Gorontalo, West Papua, Central Kalimantan and Papua.
Antigraft activists have questioned the pass rate, calling it “illogical” and pointing to allegations of “rampant cheating.”