Thursday, January 05, 2006


First published in The Jakarta Post, November 18, 2005


Alpha Amirrachman, Jakarta

Nov. 25 will be a moment of truth for the education sector in Indonesia. It is the day the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) have agreed to officially endorse the teachers and lecturers bill and to recognize "Teachers and Lecturers NationalDay" after a six year-delay.

The bill itself, however, remains controversial.

The largest bone of contention with educationalists surrounds the welfare of teachers and lecturers. Article 13 states that teachers and lecturers are entitled to "decent" salaries and conditions. It is hoped that their salaries would be adjusted to at least three times higher than non-teacher civil servants in the same classification (golongan) who are already entitled to other professional incentives.

It remains to be seen whether the government will be able to meet the requirements in the new bill. The suspicion that the bill is merely a ploy to divert public attention away from the fuel price hikes could turn out to be justifiable.

The bill also mainly addresses teachers and lecturers who work for state institutions, not private ones. Many educationalists argue that the bill is therefore discriminatory, as most education in this country is run by the private sector. However, the government is unlikely to be able to provide incentives for the private sector due to financial constraints.

It is also not realistic to expect the government to set explicit rules regarding private teacher salaries as each private institution has different standards and financial capacities. On the issue of legal protection for private teachers and lecturers, the new law on foundations (yayasan) is considered adequately progressive by most observers; the problem, as in most cases in our country, lies in it iimplementation.

The bill should instead create a competitive atmosphere between private and government institutions in education quality and teacher welfare.

In this era of decentralization, it would be moving against the clock if every segment of society remains dependent on the central government. Decentralization should give private educational institutions the authority to run their own affairs, particularly for community-based education.

As importantly, the bill rules that any teacher association should conform to existing regulations, meaning it should be in the form of a legal entity with the usual administrative requirements, such as a minimum number of members and representatives in selected cities throughout the country.

Although it is understandable that one teacher association may not always be a true representative of teachers, this seems to be a restriction in disguise, stopping teachers from freely articulating their political aspirations.

During my research fieldwork, no matter "chaotic" the political atmosphere was due to the burgeoning of teacher associations, a genuine teacher association would always survive and a bogus one,which was riddled with short-term political interests and often needlessly disturbed the running of the local government, would die due to the lack of support.

Teacher education is also being poorly addressed. While the minimum academic qualifications of undergraduate and diploma four (D-4)might be acceptable, a minimum number of 36 credits to achieve "competence" is grossly inadequate. This is partly because of the conversion of Teaching Training Institutions (IKIP) into universities. The change is based on wrong-headed perceptions -- or perhaps even a sense of inferiority; that IKIP graduates are somehow less qualified than university graduates.

Let's hope the bill is not merely an attempt to whitewash over people's fears about education in this increasingly difficult time.Despite its flaws, there is still a hope the bill is a step forward, if not a major leap.

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