Natasia Christy Wahyuni
Regional governments have been urged to set limits on school fees in order to prevent schools from limiting opportunities for children from underprivileged families to earn an education.
Hamid Muhammad, the National Education Ministry’s director general of secondary education, said many of the more popular and favored high schools in major cities throughout the country had set their school fees based on market forces.
“If this is regulated and then socialized, no one will protest,” Hamid said. “But if this is not regulated, [school fees] will increase every year because of market mechanisms. Parents who can afford it will pay whatever amount is set by good schools, but this leaves the poor [students] unable to enroll.”
Hamid said that in this era of greater autonomy, regional governments had the responsibility to limit school fees.
He said that senior high schools and vocational schools were still allowed to collect fees because studying until senior high school or entering vocational schools was not mandatory. However, the central government has issued a regulation under a National Education Ministry decree to ban elementary and junior high schools from collecting fees.
“Now it’s time for autonomous regions to regulate it,” Hamid said. “The National Education Ministry has issued a normative regulation through a national education ministerial decree.”
Hamid said the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) did an annual study on parents’ expenses each time their children entered a higher school level. In 2009, it found that parents spent about Rp 2.3 million ($250) for enrollment in a senior high school.
“Provincial or district and city administrations can make a regulation based on that data. In Jakarta, for instance, [the city administration] should set the maximum limit of school fees instead of letting schools decide,” Hamid said.
National Education Ministry Inspector General Haryono Umar said he would deploy a team to monitor school entrance fees, stating that elementary and junior high schools were forbidden from collecting operational and investment fees from their students.
Haryono also urged agencies in the regions to slap sanctions on principals who collected such fees.