Inconvenient truths about teacher certification program

Hafid Abbas, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, April 27 2013, 2:33 PM

Paper Edition | Page: 7

On March 14, 2013, the World Bank launched its publication “Spending More or Spending Better: Improving Education Financing in Indonesia”, which shows that the teacher certification program initiated in 2005 contributes little to the improvement of national education quality.

Ironically, the Education and Culture Ministry program absorbs about two thirds of the total annual state budget allocated for education. In 2010, for example, the program cost the state Rp 110 trillion (US$ 11.3 billion).

The World Bank conducted extensive data collection from 2009 onward to observe the impact of teacher certification on student learning at 240 public elementary schools and 120 junior high schools, including the testing of students and teachers in the Indonesian language and mathematics. The study compared students’ test scores on math, science, Indonesian and English between those who were taught by certified teachers and those by uncertified ones.

The results demonstrated neither a significant difference between the two groups nor the influence of certified teachers on student achievement. For example, at junior high school level, statistically its causal effect was -0.07 with a margin error of 0.17 for 39,531students.

It comes as no surprise that after seven years of the teacher certification program, Indonesia’s ranking in math, science and reading, as reported by International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), remains at the bottom of the list.

In 2011, TIMSS reported that Indonesia scored 386 in math, not much different from Syria’s 380, Ghana’s 366 and Oman’s 329. In science, Indonesia scored 406, compared with Botswana’s 404. Similarly, the PISA report (2009) revealed that Indonesia and Tunisia scored 371 in math each.

Those facts contradict UNESCO’s (UIS-2009) finding that places Indonesia among the top few countries in the world with the lowest teacher-student ratio. At primary school level, the ratio is 1: 16.6, meaning that a teacher only teaches 16-17 students. This ratio is much lower than Japan (18.05), the United Kingdom (18.27) and even Singapore (17.44).

The World Bank publication reminds us of the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth (2006) directed by Davis Guggenheim about former United States vice president Al Gore’s campaign to address global warming. Along with those inconvenient truths, the World Bank report divulges many mysteries and inconvenient realities which Indonesia has to address as soon as possible.

As mandated by the Teacher Law No. 14/2005, by 2015, all 3 million elementary and high school teachers have to be completely certified. This effort aims at improving teachers’ professional competence, which would then trigger an improvement in national education quality as a whole.

The criteria for teachers to participate in the program include a minimum educational level of university graduate, minimum teaching workload of 24 hours per week, seniority, etc. The criteria have to match the four competencies mandated by the law such as academic, personality, pedagogic and emotional aspects. Since 2005, approximately 2 million teachers have been certified, with one-third certified on the basis of their prior learning assessment and work experience portfolio, while the remaining two-thirds participated in a 10-day or 90-hour training session in the education and training of professional teachers (PLPG)

Those who have been certified were compensated with a doubled salary in addition to professional allowances. The Education and Culture Ministry announced that by 2015, only certified teachers would be allowed to teach, although it will cost an extra $7 billion as predicted by World Bank.

The core issue indeed is the obvious failure of teacher certification, which in my opinion stems from lack of management. The bureaucracy within the education sector keeps its old habits intact. Similar to the national exam, the pass rate of the teacher certification program has reached 100 percent every year. This is no more than a formality.

If this habit remains unbroken, there is no reason anymore to allow teachers to decide whether students pass their tests or not. They become mere optics, which diminishes the entire credibility of our national educational system.

In addition, professionalism appears to be another critical issue. In the PLPG implementation, it seems there is no single mechanism to observe how teachers demonstrate their competence in the classroom. As a result, the teacher certification process runs as a separate entity to the improvement of teaching and learning in the classroom.

When I worked for UNESCO in 1993-1994, I visited some schools in Manabo, Philippines. The teachers there only received additional incentives if they could significantly improve their teaching and learning activities in the classroom.

To qualify was quite simple, the school supervisors simply observed how teachers demonstrated their competence in their classroom with a check list of items such as unit lesson planning, innovative media availability, interaction with students, etc. This record would be the basis for teachers to get fair additional monthly remuneration and future career promotion.

It is seeking a utopia to improve the quality of our national education by neglecting the improvement of teaching and learning activities which take place in the classroom Hopefully, the World Bank’s inconvenient truths will teach us a lesson for the sake of future generations and the future of our civilization.

The writer is a professor at Jakarta State University.

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