Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lawmakers, activists criticize national examination system

The Jakarta Post
Monday, June 26, 2006

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government's move to standardize education in Indonesia through the
national exams has been challenged by activists and legislators.

Masduki Baidlowi, a lawmaker with the House of Representatives' Commission X
for education and culture, said the government needed to consider the uneven
quality of schools nationwide, including the poorly skilled teachers and
improper facilities in a number of regions, if it wanted to press ahead with a
standardized examination system.

"Other countries applying national exams have upgraded the quality of their
education evenly, making the exams an appropriate standard," he told a radio
talk show here Saturday.

Several activists and educators agreed with Masduki, saying the national
exams could not be used to measure the country's improving standards in education.

Arist Merdeka Sirait from the National Commission on Child Protection said
the increase in the number of high school students who passed their exams this
year from last year did not mean the tests were successfully filtering the
merit-worthy students.

The number of high school students who graduated rose from 79.81 percent in
2005 to 91.44 percent this year, the Education Ministry announced last week.
Almost two million students sat the tests this year.

"The government is easily relieved by the growing number of graduating
students. But it does not consider what kind of students are passing the exams and
what kind are failing," Arist said, also speaking on the radio show.

He said that by Saturday morning, 3,309 students had come to his office to
complain about their unsuccessful exams and around 80 percent were students with
outstanding academic records, some of whom had already been accepted by
universities or offered scholarships.

"We can see from their documents that they have good marks at school," Arist
said. "Those students came from Jakarta and satellite cities Depok, Bekasi and
Tangerang. Besides that, we also received phone calls from regions outside
Greater Jakarta."

Suparman, from the Forum of Indonesian Independent Teachers, said the
country's education system was not ready for a uniform standard and teachers should
be included in determining whether students should graduate.

Responding to increasing calls for the government to hold remedial tests for
the failed students, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Friday there would be no
rerun of the exams as it could spoil the purpose of national testing -- to
encourage students to study hard and improve their international competitiveness.

On Sunday, Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie
said there was no reason for the government to revise the examination system
since only 10 percent of students failed the tests. "The problem is not with the
system, it's the fault of teachers and students," he said.

He blamed the failed students for concentrating on only one subject instead
of studying all the tested areas.

Teguh Juwarno, a spokesperson for Education Minister Bambang Sudibyo, said
cases of top-ranked students failing the exams were a one-in-a-million
occurrence and that teachers should help them overcome their problems.

"We should seek the shortcomings of those students, not blame the national
exams, which have been proven to screen passing students, whose number increased
this year," he told the Saturday talk show. "We must appreciate the students
who have worked hard and passed the exams."

He said failing was a part of the learning process and students should not be
discouraged from discovering their limits and should learn from their
mistakes to make future improvements.

"The system is aimed at improving the national education systems's quality,
and we have to see it as a long term progress," he said. "The failing students
and schools with low graduation rates should be supervised closely."

He said the government would help improve the quality of schools in regions
with the lowest percentage of graduates.

Among the provinces with the lowest proportion of students passing the exams
were North Maluku (72.57 percent), East Nusa Tenggara (75.37 percent) and
South Kalimantan (77.37).

Other provinces reported some schools failed to deliver any passing students.
They included Jakarta, with seven failing schools, Bali with three schools
and Riau with four schools.

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