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Boneoge, Sulawesi, Indonesia © Fabio Lamanna

Education in Indonesia is the First Step for Tomorrow

Indonesia celebrates its 72nd Education Day, but is there equality in the country’s education system?

On May 2, Indonesia marks its National Education Day. This annual occasion showcases the significance of education to the country and its citizens. To its founding fathers, education was seen as crucial for the development of the nation and the well-being of its people.

It is for this reason that Article 31 of the constitution states that everyone is entitled to education, including elementary, secondary and higher. But, as the country reaches 72 years since independence, education is a privilege that not every Indonesian enjoys access to.

FOR THE RICH, BUT NOT THE POOR

The situation is particularly true for those who are less financially secure. In Indonesia, there are significant differences between the haves and the have-nots on the equality of education they receive, where to this day high-quality education  remains inaccessible for those from poor families. Students from financially stable households have greater choice of the types of schools to attend, including both public and private. Meanwhile, for those who come from less well-off families, attending public school is the only opportunity they have to pursue primary education.

Even though the government has introduced school assistance funds and eliminated tuition fees for students up to high school level, there remains another important problem: disparities between private and public schools. These differences can be clearly seen from the physical infrastructure, facilities, the quality of teachers and the availability of school textbooks.

The government has not focused enough on improving both the facilities and teaching in Indonesian schools, so that everyone receives a high-quality education regardless if they attend public or private schools. Improvements should be made by increasing the allocation of textbooks to public school libraries, building sport facilities, constructing multimedia spaces and improving internet access, and making science and language laboratories. This will support students so they can develop their skills with advanced resources.

URBAN VS. RURAL

Likewise, the opportunity to be enrolled in both public and private schools with better teaching and learning facilities is usually only available to those who live in urban cities. The educational disparity, both in terms of quantity and quality, is apparent across cities, especially for those who live in rural and underdeveloped parts of Indonesia. Not only are the top three national universities centered in Java Island, but also some of the country’s best elementary and junior high schools are there too.

In both urban and rural areas, equal infrastructure, the quality and distribution of teachers and access to information must be at the top of the list for government policymakers. Because no matter what tribe, skin color, origin or where people live, all Indonesians are entitled to be enrolled at good schools. It falls on the government’s responsibility to provide both solid facilities and qualified teachers across the nation to address the educational gap.

THOSE WITH DISABILITIES

Unequal access is also experienced by students with disabilities in Indonesia. The issue surrounding disabled students not only focuses on the fact that many have been denied access to education, but also those who are at school but vulnerable to discrimination.

The government has provided two options for individuals with disabilities to access education: to enroll at special-needs schools or find schools that have inclusive programs and are ready to accept students with disabilities. In reality, however, these options are equally difficult for two reasons.

First, special-needs schools in Indonesia are often not accompanied with appropriate curriculums that can cater to different types of students with disabilities. For example, those students who have physical disabilities are still taught color identification and counting one to 10, despite being able to learn at the same pace as their peers.

Second, even though the government requires public schools to accept disabled students, not all schools are ready — either in providing physical facilities or the readiness of teachers who often have little or no experience in dealing with special-needs students. Increasing awareness to accept these students, rather than being reluctant or even refusing them at institutions, is needed among decision-makers at public schools, including the principal and teachers.

In educating special-needs students, teachers not only require patience, but also other skills. Therefore, providing periodical training for teachers on how to educate disabled students is another important concern.

As Indonesia grows, it needs to be accompanied by citizens who are well educated and knowledgeable to help steer the country’s future development. In this case, the government should pay more attention and exert more efforts to provide education equally and equitably in order to minimize the widening lag. If this goes unaddressed, it will have negative implications on the global competitiveness of the nation.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Fabio Lamanna