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.