It doesn't cost much .... 3General interest in education in Indonesia has grown substantially in the past five years and many Indonesian schools are claiming to be a national-plus school. What this means to the population in general and many parents is ambiguous but it is clear that the term national-plus, as a marketing tool, is a very effective way of attracting increased enrollments to a school. There is more to being a national-plus school, however, than simple and often misleading gimmickry.The Chairperson of the Association of National Plus Schools - 2006
The first so-called National Plus schools were set up over 10 years ago and there are now about 60 in Jakarta, a proliferation coinciding with the growth of the middle classes. They can afford an alternative to the state schools which have long suffered under-investment as central government prioritised its need to overcome the debt crisis. Another factor for low investment in this sector has been decentralisation and that not all regencies and provinces have the political will or competence to manage the education sector.
However, the government does have a commitment to improving education and making it more widely available. This is in line with the Education for All programme
initiated in 1999. Its commitment has been demonstrated with the Social Safety Net providing scholarships to primary, secondary school and university students from poorest families in the whole of Indonesia, providing block grants to schools in poor areas for running the schools during this economic crisis and providing budget to support the implementation of equivalency programs for school-age children (primary and lower secondary schools) who financially are not able to attend the regular school programs, as well as providing more scholarships for secondary school student drop-outs to attend skill training courses.
Changes have also been made to the national curriculum which is now moving towards 'student-centred' education. This is in line with the curriculum from Singapore, adopted by many national plus schools. It is hoped that Indonesian students will graduate with a more worldly knowledge, a sense of curiosity/experimentation and the skills to compete 'in this globalisation era'
, whatever that may be. Above all, it must be hoped that through this 'new' approach citizens will gradually widen their horizons away from the imposed insularity of the Suharto era.
National Plus schools are more expensive than state schools for a variety of reasons. Certain schools will market themselves on the basis of the facilities that they have to offer. From quality gymnasiums and outdoor facilities to suites of computers, and languages laboratories some schools may be able to offer built facilities of excellence; but facilities alone do not necessarily make a school.
An essential ingredient for any school is its teaching staff and here again many national plus schools show an admirable degree of commitment. The training of teachers and requiring teachers to be updating and developing their teaching material is a quite common experience. Also, a commitment to curriculum development and the utilization of new methods and media for teaching reflect national plus schools' commitment to improving their educational service.Rachel Davies, an educational consultant - May 2004
The better National Plus schools offer the International Baccalaureat or the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education); those that have been accredited by the relevant boards are not the subject of this particular polemic.
Where major problems lie is when the self-appointed management of a school (or network of schools) preaches a philosophy to its clients, the parents, yet does not understand the principles underlying that concept or the need to employ those who do.As a part of the planning for improving the quality of education, Indonesia recognizes that unless the schools are being managed efficient
(sic) and effectively, we cannot expect that the program will achieve its goals and targets. For this, improving the quality of the school personnel to be capable of managing the school properly is of crucial importance. This is indeed very urgent considering the trend that decentralizing education up to the district level is very soon going to need the support of this policy by the readiness of each school to manage the school program efficiently and effectively.
I take 'decentralizing' to also mean the abrogation of responsibilities to management boards. Although district and regional offices of the Ministry of Education oversee those aspects of the curriculum and management of schools, such as the recognition of teacher competence, pertaining to subjects which are compulsory in Indonesian schools, principals may find that they are chiefly answerable to a school board or 'head office' which is staffed by non-educationalists.
However dedicated principals and their staff may be, their greatest stress comes from being answerable to external pressures. The private sector has now become deeply involved in education and schools; so much so now that it seems that education is seen as a good business prospect and a growing business sector.
Seemingly, not all schools have been established with the primary aim of ensuring educational excellence. For many, it is but one way of creating a profitable business. Hence the number of franchise operations, e.g. HighScope, Singapore International School and the many kindergartens such as Tiny Tots. (NB. Language schools have also followed the franchise route as pioneered by EF. ILP and TBI are two examples of long established organisations which have remodeled their core business post-krismon
in order to compete for students.)
One cannot argue against the notion of a school more than covering its costs. Without the excess of income over expenditure, there would be little further investment in what has to be a dynamic enterprise. Schooling, both in theory and practice is in a state of constant flux and that is for the good.
The needs and aspirations of all
stakeholders should be met, and they are many and various. Education is a service industry - as Rachel Davies says, teachers are indeed the "essential ingredient", at the heart of a successful school.
Part 4 of 'It doesn't cost much ....' will offer an analysis of one schools' programme which in practice pays little heed to the needs of its core providers.