Teuku Kemal Fasya
The endorsement of the new national education legal entity bill by the central government and the legislators from the House of the Representatives is premature. The new bill is still contentious, controversial and marred by public protests, while public input and stakeholder consultations have been limited.
The endorsement of this bill is a tragedy for national education in Indonesia. The statement by National Education Minister Bambang Sudibyo that those who oppose the endorsement of the new bill on education do not understand the bill itself (The Jakarta Post, Dec. 23, 2008) is arrogant. The government as well as the legislators have a limited, monolithic interpretation of the bill.
It is important to review this bill seriously. Citizens of this country have to participate actively to address their concerns. There must be a way to do this – to depend only on the monolithic role of the legislators and the government is inadequate. It is also important to note that the members of the House as well as those in the government are usually members of the middle- to upper-class in Indonesia; no wonder they often do not know what the rest of the people really need. The education legal entity bill sides with the rich but not the poor.
An important duty of a modern state through its government is to make sure that all citizens — regardless of their economic standing, race, religion, gender or ethnicity — have the right to universal, accessible education. The education legal entity bill reduces the role of the government to merely a facilitator or owner of the capital.
According to the new bill, the government is going to continue financially supporting state schools. However, education is not just a matter of budgeting, but also a matter of human rights. The state should protect this fundamental right of the citizen and ensure that the educational system and budget are being implemented correctly.
What, then, is the responsibility of the central government to the people throughout this archipelago? It is to serve not only the rich but also the poor, whose numbers are increasing.
Article 9.4 of the bill places the government in line with becoming a for-profit business. At this point, there are stipulations for mergers and dissolutions, its financial management, strategies to prevent bankruptcy and how to save an educational entity in bankruptcy. This approach shows two simultaneous functions: first, academic and nonacademic management, and second, marketing.
In practice, the function of education is often against the interests of business. The main goal of business is to maximize profits. Teachers become powerless as they can be hired and fired easily, similar to laborers at factories. The local government acts as a business owner by having to invest its capital in education.
The government has already surrendered the fate and the future direction of education in this country to the wrong hands. Education now has to obey the demands of business and its goals which are often against humanity.
Unlike the concepts implemented through the state legal entity bill (PT BHMN) for some elite state universities such as the University of Indonesia (UI), Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and Gadjah Mada University (UGM), the new education legal entity bill is being endorsed without strict standards in educational quality. This therefore becomes like a wolf in sheep’s clothing for the people, especially those from low-income families who still constitute a majority in this country.
We do need to follow up with the Indonesian Independent Teachers’ Federation’s (FGII) demand for a judicial review of this new bill to ensure that education in this country is not going to become merely profit oriented. This bill is already against our national Constitution, for example, as Article 31 states Indonesian citizens have the right to accessible and affordable education. The state itself also has to allocate 20 percent of the national budget to education.
It is the responsibility and moral duty of the government to ensure not only education for all but also education of a high quality.
The writer is a lecturer at the Anthropological Department, University of Malikussaleh, Lhokseumawe, Nanggroe Aceh Darusalam.
This article was published at The Jakarta Post, 17 th January 2009