Quality of education and the national exams

Paul Suparno , Yogyakarta | Sat, 12/19/2009 1:04 PM | Opinion

After the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the go-vernment on the organization of the national exams, controversy over whether it is necessary to maintain the national exams (UN) has continued to make headlines. People, who support the UN, such as the government, explain that the quality of the Indonesia education system will drop without the UN, so they try to defend the current UN system. But those against this system say the nation doesn’t need the national exams because the quality of education does not just depend on the UN. Does the quality of Indonesia education depend on the national exams? Will the quality of the Indonesian education system worsen without them? In my opinion, the UN only measures a small portion of students’ competence in specific subjects, and does not measure students’ competences throughout the semester. It only measures students’ competences in about five or six subjects such as Indonesian language, mathematics, English and science. It also doesn’t evaluate the broader spectrum of subjects taught at schools comprising at least 14 subjects. In addition, the UN does not measure the process of students’ learning. So, if we want to measure students’ competences more thoroughly, we need at least to assess other elements including portfolios, homework, oral and listening examinations. According to the National Education Standards Agency (BSNP), the quality of the education system depends on eight criteria, including standards of content, learning and teaching processes, passing grade competences, teachers, means and infrastructure, management, costs and financing, and educational evaluation. If these eight criteria are met, our education system will improve. The UN seems only to have covered some but not all of these criteria. It does not, for example, evaluate the quality of teachers, learning-teaching processes, infrastructure or financing, which are all very important in improving the quality of education. According to the national education law, the purpose of the national education system is to help students become more holistic. Students should not only be clever in cognitive aspects, but should also become good people and citizens. It, therefore, should aim improve the moral, spiritual, social and emotional aspects of humanity. At present, the UN only measures cognitive aspects, but not others. So the UN cannot evaluate the quality of education as a whole process and values. Apart from the above criteria, the quality of the education system can also be measured by how many students are accepted into good universities and by the employment sector. If more students from one school are accepted at several good universities, and if many of its students are recruited by companies and really able to do their jobs professionally, we know the quality of the education offered at that school is very good. So the quality of education does not just depend on the UN, but on other aspects too. So, can we still use the UN to improve the quality of the Indonesian education system? Or should the UN be erased from the Indonesian education system? In fact, the UN can still be useful as an instrument to evaluate or detect the level of students’ cognitive competence in several subjects, on a national scale. This means that via the UN, the government will ascertain which schools are in the high-standard criteria and which schools are below or in the low-standard criteria. And if schools are still in the low-standard criteria, it is the government’s responsibility to improve such schools. And because the UN is regarded as a means to understanding students’ cognitive levels, it must not be the only factor in students’ graduation. The government also could establish a high-level national test according to the curriculum and standard of content, so that the quality of tests would be high. However, this test should not be held as part of a national examinations. It should be held as a school examination. By doing so, the score of this test could still be considered as an indication of the quality of students. In addition, students would be able to do the test in a free, peaceful, comfortable, but more relaxed situation. Students would thus be expected to do such a test better. Meanwhile, the organization of the test should be carried out by accredited schools. An accredited school is allowed to provide its own tests and give students passing grades. If the government wants to improve the quality of the education system, it has to improve the accreditation of schools. Schools need to be evaluated in terms of the eight national education criteria. The writer is a lecturer at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.

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