While countless parents across Greater Jakarta pay extra fees for what is claimed to be a high-quality education for their children, many of these international-standard schools merely cater to the rich, Indonesia Corruption Watch said on Tuesday.
“The commercialization of education is backed by the government,” Ade Irawan of the ICW said. “The 2003 law on the national education system states that SBIs [international-standard schools] and RSBIs [state schools in the process of attaining international standards] are to charge extra fees for high-quality education. The fact is, however, that the existence of such schools will widen the gap between the rich and the poor.”
Ade’s statement came two days after the government prepared to launch an evaluation of international-standard schools to ensure that they live up to their promises.
“There is a growing need for high-quality education. This need is being turned into an opportunity by some state schools to make a killing,” Ade said.
The requirements in the law for turning a state school into an international-standard institution are flawed because, among other things, they focus mainly on the facilities the school can provide, he said.
Some observers have demanded that the schools be scrapped altogether because they threaten to price low-income students out of a quality education.
Every district or city in the country, according to the law, is obliged to turn at least one state school into an international-standard institution, with lessons in two languages, fewer students to a classroom and a curriculum integrating both national and international educational standards, including adopting a foreign curriculum from a developed nation. The cost of the enhanced education standards provided by international-standard schools is borne by the students.
Suparman, who heads the Indonesian Independent Teachers Federation, has said the idea of international-standard schools runs contrary to the Constitution, which mandates that the government provide every child in the country the same access to education.
Panjar, a math teacher at SMPN RSBI 182 state junior high school in Kalibata, South Jakarta, which is in the process of achieving international standards, said the only difference, to his knowledge, at his school would be that he would have to teach in English.
“The school has just declared its transition toward international standards for the 2010-11 school year, and we teachers received the notification in May,” Panjar said. “We have already had one training session in conversational English.”
Nina Feyruzi, an English teacher at a state high school in South Jakarta, said the ambitious international-standards program was not accompanied by adequate human resources.
“In order for a school to move from RSBI to SBI, the Ministry of Education gives it three years to prepare itself. Some schools outsource teachers who have experience in private schools so that existing teachers can learn from them,” she said.
However, she said, most teachers were too old to learn.
“When the ministry’s people came for an inspection, the only thing they looked at was whether the school had enough PCs or LCD screens,” Nina said. “Textbooks are also a problem, because the schools use bilingual textbooks that are published locally and have many grammatical or terminology errors.”
Agus Hidayat, a parent in Tangerang, said he knew of two schools in Greater Jakarta where parents were asked to fill in a questionnaire declaring the amount they were willing to contribute for those schools to achieve international-standards qualification.