Dessy Sagita, Fitri R. &SP/Natasia Christy
Dessy Sagita, Fitri R. &SP/Natasia Christy
For the first time on Monday, Indonesia put its teachers through competency tests, part of a state-administered program to improve the country’s education system.
The testing generally went off without a hitch, although teachers in West Nusa Tenggara weren’t so lucky.
A technical glitch there meant testing had to be postponed. For the teachers who had traveled from far corners of the province to take the test in Mataram, the provincial capital, that was unwelcome news.
Others’ problems with the tests were ideological. The Indonesian Teachers’ Federation (FSGI) boycotted the tests on the grounds that their format was flawed.
“You can’t measure competence just based on multiple choice questions,” FSGI secretary general Retno Listyarti said. “If the [Education Ministry] wants to know our performance, come to our classes and see how we teach.”
The testing, conducted by the Education and Culture Ministry, involved 3,500 locations in all 33 provinces.
The testing aims to establish a baseline of teacher competency and produce data that will inform education policy changes, said Syawal Gultom, head of the ministry’s human resource development and education quality division.
“This test is like a general checkup,” Syawal said. “If we do not understand the disease, then we will not know what cure is needed.”
The tests were voluntary, but all of Indonesia’s 1,016,211 registered teachers were urged to participate, Syawal said.
“The teachers association should call on all to take part in the competency test,” he said. “If it turns out that a teacher has a low score, there can be an effort to work harder, since they have to deal with students on a daily basis.”
Things did not go smoothly in Mataram. Testing was supposed to start at 8 a.m., but teachers were left staring at blank screens as organizers struggled to connect computers to the ministry’s main office in Jakarta.
After two-and-a-half hours, organizers finally managed to log on. But by that time, the deadline was only 15 minutes away.
“Today’s test is canceled,” organizer Kadril Hayati told participants. “No one shut down their computer please. The organizers will do that for you. Ladies and gentlemen your test will be postponed to Thursday.”
The announcement irked many of the teachers, for whom coming to Mataram was inconvenient. Teachers involved in the West Nusa Tenggara teaching reported problems even once the connection was made with the central office server.
“I’m a geography teacher. But when I logged in, the questions were for sociology,” said Enggar, a junior high school teacher in Mataram.
“My friend’s experience was even worse,” he added. “My friend is a junior high school teacher, but the questions were for senior high school teachers.”
Retno, the FSGI secretary general, took exception with what she claimed was the test’s lack of concern with teachers’ social and interpersonal skills.
“Some teachers might be good at memorizing and answering test questions, but that doesn’t mean they know how to control their students or are otherwise good at what they do,” Retno said.
FSGI had considered filing a lawsuit against the Education Ministry with the State Administrative Affairs Court but had ultimately decided there wasn’t enough time. Instead, Retno said, the group would file a civil suit in the regular courts.
“Many teachers have had to abandon their jobs and spend time and money to come to the test venues from far away, only to be told that the tests were canceled because of technical problems and so on,” she said.
The appalling state of the country’s education system was the ministry’s fault, she added. “Teachers are victims of the ministry’s bad system. So why only teachers get the blame?” she said.
Education Minister Mohammad Nuh said teachers’ scores would not affect their jobs. Low scores would not mean pay cuts, transfers, or other sanctions.
“Nothing like that at all,” said Nuh, who monitored Monday’s testing at SMPN 19 state junior high school in South Jakarta. “This will merely allow us to determine where improvements can be made.”
Make-up tests for teachers who did not participate the first time around are scheduled for Oct. 2.
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