Education is the bedrock of a healthy and prosperous society. An educated populace is necessary for increasing both the quality-of-life of a nation and its ability to compete with other countries in the international market.
The government understands the critical value of education. It plays a large part in helping realize many of the government’s nine key Nawacita programs, such as its sixth point on increasing the nation’s productivity and competitiveness.
That is why the government has laid down a long-term road map for improving the nation’s education system to help guide it along its way. This road map establishes the government’s education plans until 2025.
The current phase of this plan is seeing the government working until 2019 to increase the nation’s regional competitive capabilities. A central aspect of this effort is ensuring equal access to quality education for all people in Indonesia. The government’s main vehicle for doing so is its Smart Indonesia Program (PIP).
Equal access for all Indonesians
According to Agus Sartono, who is deputy coordinator of education and religious affairs at the Office of the Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister, PIP creates equity in education by giving underprivileged children Smart Indonesia Cards (KIP) that grant them access to both formal and non-formal education services.
“The government has worked to ensure this access by supplying 19.7 million KIP cards for children ranging in age from 6 to 21 years old,” Agus said at Forum Merdeka Barat (FMB) 9, a media gathering event held on Aug. 30 at the Communications and Information Ministry that the government organized to share with the public the details of its efforts to improve education.
To ensure that the PIP runs smoothly, the government has allocated around Rp 9.3 billion. As of Aug. 27, the government has already channeled funds to 13.4 million, or 74.5 percent, of all eligible PIP recipients.
Overall, the government has allocated Rp 440.9 trillion for education in its 2018 state budget. Of this funding, Rp 146.6 trillion is used for central funding, while Rp 279.3 trillion is for regional allocation.
In addition to PIP, the government is also promoting equity in education across the archipelago by improving the quality of the nation’s teachers, specifically, “front-line” teachers.
According to Culture and Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy, the government recruited 6,296 “front-line” teachers in 2016, up from 797 in 2015. These teachers are sent to “3T regions” (the frontier, outermost and remote regions) as a way to provide more equal access to teachers throughout the country.
The ministry is also similarly using “front-line” schools to create further equity in education in these peripheral regions. In 2016, the government built 114 of these schools in 49 regencies and cities.
In addition, the Culture and Education Ministry is using much of its 40.09 trillion slice of the Rp 440.9 education budget it received for things like improving school accreditation, providing schools with new and better equipment, and providing schools with labs and libraries.
These improvements and repairs are part of the government’s overall goals in 2018 to provide certification to 25,000 teachers, building 73 new schools and 4,904 new classes, and rehabilitating 21,287 existing classrooms.
The ministry has also implemented a zoning system starting this year based on Culture and Education Ministerial Decree No. 17/2017. The goal is to prevent what Muhadjir refers to as “favoritism” in schools.
“Students are enrolled not based on grades but on the radius and distance between the student and the school. As such, schools are obligated to accept only students within its zone radius,” said Muhadjir , at FMB9. “This zoning system is designed to speed up the process of providing equity in education for all.”
Building the nation’s character
The government’s goal of improving education in Indonesia also includes improving the character of the Indonesian workforce.
Religious education institutions play an important role in this character formation. Islamic boarding schools, for instance, are places that place a strong focus on shaping the character of its students, through its round-the-clock education system that instills discipline and maturity.
Minister Muhadjir also called on schools to work together with non-formal education institutions to develop the character of the nation’s youth. Dance institutions nearby schools, for instances, should be allowed to contribute to schools to help produce professional dancers.
Schools, he said, should publish double report cards that evaluate both academic achievements and personal developments for students. The goal is to create a mental revolution that can give students integrity and instill in them the nation’s spirit of gotong royong (mutual cooperation).
“The main goal of education is to shape the character of the participating student. Making a child good at mathematics is easy compared to educating them to have character. There is no meaning to being smart without having any character,” Agus added.