Thursday, October 16, 2008
  Leading the Human Development Paradigm

Can anyone tell me what my title means? That awful expression 'human development' - which thankfully in this case doesn't include the totally dehumanising word 'resources' - I take to mean 'training' or education.

But 'paradigm'?

According to my Websters, it can mean example, pattern or model, but as you can't lead any of those, perhaps the following brain bruising definition is what is meant.

An overall concept accepted by most people in an intellectual community, as those in one of the natural sciences, because of its effectiveness in explaining a complex process, idea or set of data.

My title is copied from a large sign high up on a private, fairly expensive, school fronting the south section of the toll road around Jakarta. I mention this partly as an indication of what is wrong with schooling nowadays and partly because it's probably the kind of language enjoyed by the officials in the Department of Education.

Before you think I'm going to have another go at the Diknas dickheads, you're right, but another issue has surfaced, one which parents are not yet aware of because it's not yet official policy, but if it does become 'mandatory', will cause an outcry and another battle between the public and the bureaucrats.

There is an election next year, something no resident or visitor to Indonesia can be unaware of thanks to the number and range of flags and banners on display. On April 9th, electors will be choosing political parties they wish to see represented in the House of Representatives. At the local level, there will be direct elections for regents and other. Three months later, some time in July, there will be a direct election for a new, or returning, President and Vice President.

This post is not a critique of this process, but rather a brief examination of another ill-thought out ramification.

For the past few years, school students in Years 6 (Elementary), 9 (Junior High) and 12 (Senior High) have sat a number of subject tests in order to graduate to the next level of formal education. The tests are generally multi-choice, which makes marking a matter of computer scanning.

In some ways, the Department of Education is to be applauded for mastering the technology which simplifies the process. However, it is widely known that although students are expected to have a mastery of prescribed theories and facts, the tests themselves are regularly riddled with errors.

These exams are of course a matter of intense pressure, not only on the students who have to absorb much that is questionable, but also on teachers who have to train the students in test taking techniques as well as following the rigid curricula through a controlled schedule.

The exams are generally sat in May, and plans are made accordingly. the school year is based around the specific needs of these students, who are subjected to practice tests and extra-curricular 'remedial' classes if needed. Many teachers have 'private' courses as an additional aid to students - and to their meagre monthly income.

News has been leaked to schools this week that the national 'graduation' exams are to be brought forward to, probably, mid-February "because of the elections". Parents and students are not yet aware of this, so let me anticipate their general response.

A school year has c.200 days. Three months of classroom learning, say 50 days, could be lopped off the school schedule, which would mean that students may be expected to cram in the 50 days-worth of 'facts' in the next four months. How could that be done? And remember that not attaining a government-set 'pass rate', particularly for grade 12 students, could be really damaging for their futures.

So, what is the real reason for this suggested change of national exam schedule? Does the Department of Education have a statutory role to play in administering the electoral process? And if it does, one must question their mandate.

Administering the national exams is certainly a logistical headache, but considering in the scale of such an undertaking, there are few reported complaints about loss of papers, cheating etc. Generally the news is about school buildings collapsing and pictures are shown of students making do in tents or mosques.

That the exams are generally held in May, between the two rounds of elections I would suggest is quite convenient. Or maybe the elections were originally scheduled that way. So why the change?
In his Suharto's final years as dictator, all civil servants, and other employees in government institutions, including schools, were expected to cast their vote for Golkar, which was established primarily to keep him in power. Voting for PDI or PPP, the other two permitted parties, could, if found out, have resulted in the loss of one's job.

It could be that certain higher-ups in Diknas are remnants of Suharto's old New Order, not that I'm suggesting that they would now vote for Golkar, still a major force on the political landscape, because there are now nearly 40 parties to choose from.

Backing the right horse through offering one's services in a political party's cause (meaning influential person) may be a good career move. Being seen to contribute to a campaign, whether it be financially or through good deeds such as canvassing, printing T-shirts and banners and doing whatever party hacks do, could well secure a favourable position, or a favour to be returned.

And if you've gained the freedom of time to do this, because you've rescheduled your mandatory obligation, so much the better. That the time is gained at the expense of a million or two school students and their stressed out parents is, no doubt, merely an unfortunate consequence.


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