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Wednesday, 20 June, 2012 | 22:27 WIB
Castes in Education
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The government’s decision to evaluate the program of pioneering schools of international standard (RSBI) is the appropriate move. There have been too many complaints coming from students’ parents about the high costs of these schools carrying the ‘international standard’ title. Some parents believe the title is only used by schools to reap more profit. Furthermore, Law No. 20/2003 on National Education System, which is used as the basis for determining pioneering schools, is being reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
Serious evaluation of the pioneering school program is required because it is creating a detrimental gap among students. RSBI are schools established based on Article 50 paragraph 3 of the Law on National Education System. In the law, the regional government is required to build at least one school of international standard for each educational stage. The law was established in an effort to build quality schools from which graduates are expected to be able to compete on the international stage.
Problems arise when the government allows pioneering schools to collect additional fees from parents. Special allocations from the government worth between Rp300 million and Rp500 million per school per year have not reduced the additional costs that parents incur. In many schools, parents even have to pay 80 percent of the total education costs. The costs include fees for air conditioning, teaching aids and multimedia equipment.
The high costs have become a source of complaint. In elementary schools, parents may be charged up to Rp10 million for admission, much higher than state elementary schools that cost nothing. As a result, many promising students were unable to enter these ‘international schools’ because their parents could pay the fees. Only wealthy parents can afford prestigious, highly competitive schools. A segregating line has been created among children who attend regular state schools and those who go to expensive pioneering schools.
If the government wants to increase the quality of schools, Indonesia could take examples from Malaysia. In 2003, when Mahathir Muhammad was Prime Minister, Malaysia designed a national ‘smart school’ program. Through the program, state schools were required to apply international standard curriculum with English as the spoken language. In contrast to the Indonesian government, the Malaysian government did not charge the parents. When the smart school program was proven incapable of accelerating the quality of education of Malaysian students the government took a bold move and stopped the program.
For the Indonesian government, nine years after the implementation of RSBI should be more than long enough to decide. The government need not wait for the Constitutional Court ruling over the program, which has caused more harm than good. With or without RSBI, in the spirit of the Constitution, the government must provide affordable quality schools. There should be no educational caste system that segregates the rich and the poor.