Education inconsistencies

Salvatore Simarmata ,  Makassar   |  Sat, 06/28/2008 11:54 AM  |  Opinion

Have you ever imagined you would fail a test that you had fought for years and would determine the rest of your life? Well, it’s just happened to so many young people of this nation. There was a decrease in national exam pass rate this year for all senior high and junior high students.

The reasons for this failure, according to Djaali, member of National Education Standards Board (BSNP), are the steep change in the average grade requirement and the accretion of more subjects tested this year.

We, as a nation, should be grief-stricken over their despair of not succeeding on the national exam. What could they think of getting out of the darkness? The Standardized Education Examination (UNPK) as an educational package program (Paket C) has been ineffective.

It might be doubly worse for being a failed exam attendee. If a student can’t get the standardized certificate by that date, he/she will never have a chance to apply for the same opportunity as other students this year. Of course, state universities have become the first priority for most of our students as tuition fees at private universities are hardly affordable for most parents now.

It would be best for the government to overhaul its national examination policy. And questioning educational reform in the country needs to becomes an open debate in redirecting our education path.

If these latest test results are any indication, we might be heading into regressive instead of progressive times. The national exam has been wreaking havoc on young lives, as seen in the suicide cases, unrest and the absence of human rights fulfillment.

The government has argued the exam is not the only requirement in determining students’ success in graduating, but also the school exam and attitude records as well.

There are contradictions here.

First, how is it possible to determine students’ success based on three general subjects (history, civics and computer)? The national exam tests six major subjects. It is apparently designed to control the evaluation process and leave schools powerless.

So, it’s an inconsistent statement by saying the national exam and the school exam should be equal in determining whether students pass or fail. Truthfully, the national exams have taken teachers’ authority to evaluate students’ competency as stipulated in the National Education Law.

Second, it seems the main reason the government still upholds the national exam policy is the assumption that it will help schools respect the education process. On other words, the national exam is used as a tool to gain respect from students in doing their responsibility to follow the entire learning process at school. And it is hoped they would take it seriously. Hence, a humane cultural process turns into a tool of power generating obedience and fear.

This kind of thought assumes that education is only linear, ending as its time period finishes. Education is no more a life-long process. It could be said that the national exam is a sign of a looming downturn in our education.

An early progressive education proponent, John Dewey said that schools should reflect the life of the society.

Therefore, education must be a continuous reconstruction of living experience based on activities directed by the child. The recognition of individual differences is considered crucial. Such a progressive education opposes formalized authoritarian procedure and fosters reorganization of classroom practice and curriculum as well as new attitudes toward individual students. Kinds of virtues have been cut from our education today.

Third, with regional autonomy the government still puts no trust on schools, and assumes no school has full understanding and authority of educational evaluation but the central government itself. Decentralization should have surely brought a new approach on each aspect of lives regarding people’s welfare, but it doesn’t work that way.

The national exam has nothing to do with assimilating local values and potential to be taught in the class. Local values and potential are priceless learning sources in life-long education where students find knowledge through real life experiences and have an opportunity to change something less to be more useful. The latest curriculum of KTSP even firmly prioritizes it to be a new subject added to every school which begins this school year.

Unfortunately, students would be busily focusing only on how to get through the three-day exam, again and forgetting how they could contribute to the society they live with. Either creativity or curiosity is ignored by then. Well, for how much longer?

The writer is a sociology teacher at Dian Harapan School. He can be reached at

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