Robustness of Our Education System

My piece published in Jakarta Post on 9 March 2010.

After some cheating scandals are detected in the previous national examinations, there is a crisis of belief from the society about the honesty of teachers, schools and some local governments. Implementation of the exam in recent years has become a serious problem to be discussed and being such a controversial issue in many seminars or debates. In relation between government and schools, the department of national education should have understood the condition of each school in Indonesia. The gap between the quality of teaching in urban and rural area are very wide. Many schools in rural area are not well-equipped, while some schools in the city have luxurious teaching tools and infrastructures. Standardization, then, is impossible because of this wide inequality.

To cover it, the first thing should do is changing teacher’s behavior as fast as possible. They should stop doing bad things – like helping students to cheat. They have to try to convince the society and the department that they will not repeat the immoral actions in teaching and evaluating their students. Actually, teachers have a long period of time (three years) to prepare their students in facing national examinations. Although three different teachers are usually provided by a school or government to teach the first, second and third grade, they must not work individually. The success of their students in passing the national examination depends upon all of them, not only on the third grade teacher. They, together, must have a grand plan to make students success in final examination since students for the first time put their footprint in the schools.

As a teacher, whatever the background – educational or non-educational, one should know how to evaluate their students. If they want the right of assessing their students back, they have to be able to create a valid test instrument. Some time when they already get their right, they will have to be responsible for the examination result, as well as for the instrument they construct. They have to show the society that the way they evaluate their students is valid and reliable. If they feel they are not good in this area, they have to start learning about it. Teachers should also realize that they are working with unique creatures. So, teachers need to have a strong dedication towards their profession. Besides making them competence in some knowledge and skills, teachers should make them morally competent. Life is not merely about mathematics, statistics or economics. Students will someday explore the world and meet many people from several backgrounds. Their moral competence will certainly become their guardian in getting in touch with others.

National Education System Act 2003 asserts that the department of national education does not have any privilege to assess the students. It is only teachers, who have the right to evaluate their own students because teachers understand their students more than any others, even the department of national education itself. However, it is currently still impossible to totally and immediately give this privilege to all teachers or schools. Considering that cheating, as a moral concern, has become a “habit” in every national examination, giving teachers or schools such a freedom is still risky. They might again go into other wrong directions. Without sufficient control, schools may let the students pass the exam because they pay, for instance.

There must be a transitional phase before entirely giving teachers the right to evaluate their students. In this stage, the department of national education gives schools a choice to choose between two options; conducting an independent final examination or using the national examination package provided by the government. Those that are ready to conduct their own final examination, because of human resource readiness, for example, can choose to carry out the examination independently. Those that are not ready yet, may use the government version of test.

And to make sure that this independent examination meets the curriculum requirements and there is no more cheating during the implementations, the government should provide an objective supervision. Besides supervising the examination, the government through the department of national education and its technical institutions may have to evaluate every final examination conducted by the schools. This is to make sure that the examination contents are appropriate with the curriculum standards. However, supervising the whole learning process in each grade will give better result rather than supervising only the examination.

As not all schools are ready to conduct their own final examination, it is the duty of the department of national education to provide training in test instrument construction. In Indonesia there are many teachers that do not have teaching background. They learnt pure social or physical sciences while going to university. In other words, they did not learn how to teach, how to deal with real condition and how to construct a valid test instrument. The government should pay extra attention to this type of teachers by giving sufficient training. After all schools are ready to conduct their own examination, the department can stop producing the national examination instrument. The government may still provide the standard of competence but not in the form of ‘deadly passing grade’ like those applied in the previous examinations. It would be better if the standard is in the form of ‘lists of knowledge and skills’. The standard should not only consider cognitive aspect but affective and psychomotor as well.

Finally, principles consideration, agreements between stakeholders in national examination, virtues point of view, and end consequences considerations imply that to solve the national examination problem, teachers or schools, the governments, and students should change their role and behavior. Teachers should try to become a good learning facilitator as well as a true Guru – so that students can get both academic and moral competences. Teachers should convince the society and the government that they are trustable profiles that can assess their students objectively and professionally. The governments suppose to give teachers the privilege to evaluate their students, and at the same time provide supports and training, including the objective evaluation and supervision. They must be able to assist the schools in producing good quality outputs in order to get benefit from schools in their area.

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