Fraud in teacher certification program: Who’s to blame?

Setiono Sugiharto ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 05/16/2009 2:05 PM  |  Opinion

The teacher certification program, which has been in place for the past three years, is reportedly fraught with shameful fraud. Findings from the Independent Monitoring and Evaluation (Monev) teams concerning the teacher certification program (from the 2006-2008 quotas) have revealed the widespread use of forged certificates in teachers’ portfolios (Kompas April 9).

Among the three components being assessed in the portfolios, the last component, i.e. involvement in scientific forums, organizational experiences in education and social fields, and rewards relevant to education, has been alleged to have contained many counterfeit documents. Specifically, Monev suspect that the certificates of seminar attendances, training participation, and workshops often contain fictitious names, dates, and signatures.

However, as one of selected assessors involved in the teacher portfolio assessments during the 2006-2008 periods, I found the other two components – academic qualification, teaching experiences and lesson planning, and education and training, superordinate evaluations, academic achievement and professional development – were also by no means free from bogus documents, which other assessors also found.

This certainly sets a bad precedent for future candidates who are eagerly waiting to be certified. Unless stern measures are taken, it is highly likely that this year’s certification program will be laden with similar fraud – disgraceful acts that can tarnish the image of the profession.

The rampant use of forged certificates indicates that most of our teachers either have no opportunity to attend scientific forums or remain indifferent to upgrading their knowledge in a forum of discussion. As a consequence, they have no valid documents to submit to fulfill the requirements for their portfolio.

However, as far as my experience is concerned, not all documents are fictitious; many teachers did include genuine documents in their portfolio, showing their active participation only as the attendants of a seminar. Few however became paper presenters both nationally and internationally. This suggests that despite the fact that research activity, apart from teaching, is integral to their teaching career, they lacked awareness of the importance of doing research and presenting its findings in a forum of discussion.

It is indeed ironic that a teacher who is supposed to be a role model for their students sets a bad example by committing a fraudulent act in their attempt to achieve professional recognition. In a patriarchal society like ours, teachers are seen as trustworthy and are therefore often emulated. A teacher is portrayed as someone who commits to valuing truth and honesty despite whatever conditions he or she is facing.

It would be unwise, however, to put the blame on the teachers alone. At this juncture, it seems reasonable to surmise here that they justify the means to achieve the ends simply because they wanted to express their long-endured frustration. The teaching profession has long been marginalized. Teachers are low-paid; they receive little appreciation; and their efforts toward professional development are hardly supported.

Yet, despite these controversies, the teaching program should be seen as a government’s noble mission to boost teaching professionalism nationwide. It could be a conduit in which teachers can healthily compete with each other by showing how they have contributed to their profession.

Teachers need also to remember that the prestige of one’s professionalism cannot be measured simply by a piece of paper, even if it is a certificate and most importantly, that the pursuit of professionalism is a never-ending affair, requiring a long-life commitment to the profession one has decided to devote oneself to.

The writer is chief-editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching and teaches English composition at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta

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