Key problem of education in RI: Teacher centralization

Paul Suparno, Yogyakarta | Sat, 07/16/2011 8:00 AM

The National Education Ministry plans to centralize Indonesian teachers. The purpose is to increase the quality and the equality of education. Does this centralization have to be done?

One of the important problems facing Indonesian education is the large quality gap between schools. Some schools in several places are of a high quality, but some schools in other places are low quality. The reason is that some schools have many qualified teachers and good facilities, but some schools do not. Statistically, the number of teachers in Indonesia is enough, but in reality it is not.

In some cities there are many qualified teachers, but in some areas there are not enough teachers. The distribution of teachers is not equal because of the autonomy system. In this system, most provinces prefer to accept only teachers from their own regions. That is why some provinces with few teachers have difficultly getting enough teachers. So it makes sense that the quality of their education is low.

There is also a tendency that some new teachers don’t like to apply and teach in poor places because their salaries will not be enough to live. In addition, they cannot provide private lessons that will increase their income.

Most of the new teachers think that they are not able to improve their knowledge in the poor places, because there are sparse facilities such as limited libraries, computers, training, workshops, etc. That is the reason why most new teachers prefer to teach in big cities.

Most of these problems could be solved easily if the system was centralized. This would mean that the central government would be allowed to distribute teachers everywhere and send some teachers to poor areas or where they were needed.

To increase and attract enough new teachers to the more difficult places, the central government should organize teacher public service. The new teachers who want to be public teachers should do service and teach in difficult places.

For example, new teachers have to serve in poor places for two or three years before they are accepted as public teachers. They are still young and they have high spirits. They are still creative and passionate. This way they take part in improving the quality of education. In addition, maybe some of them after two years of teaching will want to teach there for many years to come if so, they can be accepted as public teachers in the same places.

Centralization should be done not only for teacher placement, but also for improving facilities and teacher quality. Since poor provinces cannot improve their own schools, the central government must help them, especially in providing school facilities. Some poor schools cannot meet the national standard without the central government’s assistance.

If we want to improve the quality of teachers, especially in the poor provinces or poor schools, the central government must provide workshops or training for those teachers. With such training, the teachers will become more professional and develop their knowledge and their pedagogy. If the teachers always study either formally or informally, they will improve the quality of schools.

Two things should be noted in centralization — bureaucracy and politicization. Centralization needs good and smooth bureaucracy. If the bureaucracy is slow, the process will be very slow and some places or regions will lack teachers.

So it is a big challenge for the government to decide whether it is ready to implement centralization. The second point is the politicization of teachers. Teachers should be free from politicization. The government should give public teachers more freedom to improve their teaching without having to bear political burdens such as joining a political party.

According to Henry Giroux, teachers should be intellectuals who are free to express their opinions and their thoughts, especially about the truth. Teachers should explain truth as truth, and wrong as wrong. By doing so, teachers will become truth guides for communities. This will happen if the government gives teachers freedom.

Today, some teachers have no freedom to say what is really happening in schools and they are forced to do bad things at schools. If they do not comply with their orders, they will face harsh consequences, such as being reposted to an unfavorable position or area. We hope this will not happen with the centralization system. If teachers have more freedom to do their jobs professionally, they will be more peaceful and take pleasure in educating their students.

The writer is a lecturer at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.

Education, teachers and uncompromising stakeholders

Khairil Azhar, Jakarta | Wed, 05/02/2012 10:27 AM

It was an incidental afternoon conversation that started with a common question, “Is teacher turnover high at this school?” A newly made friend, an educational specialist at the private school, answered, “No. It is relatively stable.”

Yet, another friend, a teacher with trainer qualifications from another school, arrogantly said, “If the teachers want to leave, let them leave. Why should we force them to keep working for us if they don’t want to?”

Responding to the sudden response, I emotionally replied, “It is actually about moral obligation and empathy. Pretend that you are a parent with one or two children learning at a school. Do you feel safe if the teachers are in and out as they wish?”

“Are you really an observant Muslim if you don’t think that you have a moral obligation to ascertain the availability of qualified teachers in this case?”

If I were a parent with a child at a stable school with stable personnel, I would be very happy. How can we directly entrust a six-year-old child to an on-the-job training teacher, for example, while the child still needs to be attended to by an adult in most of his activities? However intelligent the new teacher may be academically, his maturity and parenthood is needed much more.

One of the biggest problems in Indonesia’s schooling today is about the availability of qualified teachers. State schools, for instance, based on research financed by the World Bank in 2005, can facilitate students academically to achieve better final exam scores compared to private schools. However, we cannot say that the academic “chalk and board” achievement is determined merely by having competent teachers.

State junior high schools focus on their research and tightly select their inputs. They also raise financial aspects such as entrance fees, tuition fees, and other “illegal fees”. Put simply, compared to private schools, the state-owned schools generally have certain privileges that potentially enhance achievement prospects.

Therefore, the more inclusive paradigm of private schools, which enables students from various backgrounds and modalities to enroll, actually positions them in a more difficult situation. The teachers should have broadened horizons and more creative minds. The schools themselves have to spend more energy, cost and time to be prepared to run their “much more difficult tasks.”

Yet, after all, things factually depend more on the teachers because teaching and learning activities are in their hands. It is the teachers who are with the children during the school hours, not the principals or the district supervisors or others.

That is why, for instance, the top ranked schools in the United States advertise themselves through showing their talented and highly achieving teachers rather than displaying other physical or conceptual facilities as we most often see in Indonesia.

Teachers are also called “scholars” since they must be real academics. They should not be just caretakers for schooling because of the shortage of qualified teachers or the unavailability of cash-flow to pay highly skilled professionals.

The question is then, “How great can teachers be available at schools?” What parties can actually make it possible? Who can play a decisive role to help them continue teaching in our schools while others working in field appears to be a more attractive alternative given rising costs of living?

Apart from the “teaching and learning passion” of the teachers as the intrinsic seminal factor, the stakeholders of the schools definitely should play a pivotal role.

First of all, the owners of private schools, or the government as the owner of state schools, must be down to earth. Quality education should not only be related to making policies, operational standards, giving orders, providing good physical facilities or raising financial profits, but is also related to the comprehensive consideration of the teachers.

Fair income compensation for teachers, for instance, must be ensured. What they earn must meet their basic individual needs and gradually meet their secondary requirements. The disturbing disparity of income among state-employed teachers or among private-school teachers is partially due to the ascribed social and economic status of their schools. This must be overcome.

Second, the real education stakeholders, the parents or the communities, must also provide proper care. On one side, the teaching profession is traditionally crowned as among the noblest, but on the other side, teachers are not the only ones with considerable incomes or even social status in our current societies.

“What is he?” a neighbor asked another neighbor.

“He is a teacher,” he replied.

“Oh, [just] a teacher,” he remarked.

The remark implies at least two things. First, the teacher in the neighborhood is commonly perceived as not making as much money as his neighbors. Second, having a profession of providing services, a teacher may be viewed as being in the position of serving those of higher economic status in the community.

We can also see the “dominant parents” at schools who tend to steer the schools and the teachers for their own sake. With employment of teachers as their children’s private teachers, for instance, parents actually play their role improperly. Basic economic needs put certain teachers in an uneasy dilemma.

So, welcoming National Education Day today, conscious stakeholders who play a critical role need to be refreshed, if not to be reconstructed. This way, we can hope to see happier and more passionate teachers soon.

The writer is a teacher in Jakarta and a researcher at Paramadina Foundation, Jakarta.