If there is one reason I will not vote for Jusuf Kalla, the presidential hopeful, it is because he is a staunch supporter of the National Examinations (Ujian Nasional or UN) which stress students, teachers and school principals alike. They are so depressed that they want to pass it by hook or by crook. The disreputable practices they commit to do so have in turn added to the list of existing corrupt practices prevalent in all schools I know (and probably in schools all over Indonesia).
Students are immersed in the world of corruption from the time they are admitted to school until the time they graduate. They are subconsciously taught that everything can be achieved without having to work hard as long as you have the money or power. For example, you can get admitted to the most popular school in town if you pay or show the school a letter from your influential father. They will then leak the entrance exam questions to you or even provide them with the answers. This is just one example.
I would like to propose two solutions to the UN predicament: First, for the time being, the UN should be replaced with the former NEM method - Real Scores of the Final Evaluation Test (Nilai Ebtanas Murni or NEM) until schools are really ready for it. An individual school, not exam papers, has the final say (or authority) to pass or to fail a student. Students come to school to acquire life skills or knowledge, not just to pass exams. The school will decide on this based on his or her performance during the six years (for primary school) or three years (for secondary) of his or her study.
Second, the UN can be held after students pass the final examination of their respective schools. They take it because universities or companies require them to. Students register themselves for the UN at the local office of the Ministry of Education. Schools should not to be involved. Students can take it again and again so that the UN should be held at least twice a year. It is up to the universities or companies whether or not they want to assess one's academic performance based on the UN diploma. In this way, you will no longer see teachers going to jail.
The present UN is far from perfect, which is why state universities still oblige high school graduates to sit their entrance tests. Kompas (May 3) listed eight kinds of intelligence, e.g. intelligence in Logics and Maths, Linguistics or Music. A person can have one or more type of intelligence. The point is clear: you can still be a genius without having to pass the UN.