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Students are Not Cash Cows
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The Ministry of Education's decision to allow private schools to receive School Operational Assistance (BOS) to continue to charge money from students should be viewed with caution. This rule could be a carte blanche for private schools to arbitrarily set the cost of education. To prevent this, the government must implement limits for the charge. The transparent use of the BOS must also be emphasized.
The charges are regulated in Ministerial Regulation 44/2012 on Charges and Contributions to Education Costs in the Elementary Education Unit. It supersedes Ministerial Regulation 60/2011 concerning the Prohibition of Charges to Education Costs at Elementary and Junior High Schools.
The government’s reason for the rule is the high operating costs of running a private school. Despite the BOS, schools still need more for their operating costs. The permission for schools (private) to impose charges will hopefully ensure that operating costs are met. The amount is not limited and is left up to each school. Schools may also receive "community contributions" at the beginning of admission—provided the contributions do not influence admission or assessment of students.
However, the allowance is of concern because it has the potential to turn the community into a cash cow for private schools. This can be avoided if the school receiving the BOS funds is open to explaining the use of such assistance. Transparency will foster confidence among the public that the additional funds are being wisely spent.
It is no secret that most schools are not transparent about their use of BOS funds. Many parents do not know the purpose of the money. A World Bank study in 2010, for example, found that 71.16 percent of parents did not know the BOS reports at their children's school. The majority of parents (89.58 percent) did not participate in its planning. They should have been involved. Often, the owner of the school foundation influences the way funds will be spent. The funds should be the domain of the school and the parents.
The ministry cannot close its eyes to such matters. Allowing schools to impose charges as they wish is the same as harming the government's obligation to its people. In accordance with Law 20/2003 on the National Education System, it is the government’s obligation to provide quality education. Schools with closed financial management must be suspected of not best mobilizing their resources for educational purposes.
The same thing will occur if the government does not set limits on the charges. Saying that the maximum does not have to be regulated because it depends on the needs of each school only confirms the impression of a hands-off government. The ministry does not seem to want to be bothered with supervising schools.
This year, the budget for the BOS for elementary schools has reached Rp15.7 trillion and Rp6.6 trillion for junior high schools. It must be remembered that the main purpose of the BOS funds is to expand access to education so that the Compulsory Education program (Fair) for 9 Years can proceed and offer quality education. Allowing private schools to impose charges without supervision may undermine that goal because the opportunities for the poor to send their children will be smaller. ****