Learning the Ropes

Tempo.co Dipublikasikan 00.50, 06/08 • Laila Afifa
Education Ministry's project to build the capacity of teachers has led to intense public debate. There were problems with the selection process.

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Education Ministry’s project to build the capacity of teachers has led to intense public debate. There were problems with the selection process.

MINISTER of Education and Culture Nadiem Anwar Makarim needs to learn many lessons from the controversy over his Mobilizing Organization Program. This government program needs a careful study so its execution on the ground goes ahead smoothly. The program to build the capacity of teachers has become controversial because of a failure to deal with this fundamental issue.

The Mobilizing Organization Program was planned to build the capacity of teachers by involving social organizations. This is a part of the education improvement program launched by Nadiem, who became education minister last October. At the beginning of his term in office, he also ended the national examinations, changed the zoning system for accepting new students and brought higher education closer to the world of work through the Freedom Campus program.

From the perspective of managing funding, the Mobilizing Organization Program is attractive. Recipients of donations are obliged to put forward a proposal, which means that the funds are used responsibly. Previously, donations were targeted at social organizations without clear criteria and were grouped under 'government assistance'. These donations were often diverted for political interests.

Nadiem appointed a third party - the SMERU Research Institute - to determine who would receive donations. They used a double-blind review method in the selection process, meaning they did not know the identity of the organizations putting forward proposals. However, this led to problems. It led to the inclusion of organizations with very different backgrounds. As a result, religious organizations such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama were treated the same as organizations affiliated to corporations like the Tanoto Foundation and the Sampoerna Foundation.

The education ministry should have banned organizations affiliated with corporations from participating in the selection process from the outset. Large companies that use natural resources or affect public health rightly have a huge responsibility to help people, including in the education sector. They should not receive donations from the state no matter what the program is.

Indeed, hard work and radical change are needed to improve the quality of education. Students at school have long been treated like robots. They are told to learn by rote in order to obtain good grades. Understanding and logic are not developed from the start. Teachers have worked in this system for years. Unfortunately, this major problem has never been properly mapped out because of frequent changes in policy. There is an old saying: new minister, new policy.

Therefore, radical changes to education must go ahead with a proper understanding of the fundamental problems. Change cannot rely solely on the use of technology. This pandemic has clearly shown the inequalities between students, teachers and educational infrastructure across Indonesia. In the case of teachers, who are the target of the Mobilizing Organization Program, the most pressing need for some is not 'capacity building'. In a number of areas, teachers struggle to make a living. This means that the education ministry must carry out a detailed investigation so that every program reaches its target. In the short term, during this pandemic, incentives for teachers are necessary to make it easier for them to carry on teaching.

Remember that education is linked to people. Every program to improve education has a long-term impact and therefore must bear no tolerance for even minor mistakes. Education is not a digital market like Gojek - the business that Nadiem used to run - that provides an opportunity for management by trial and error. Applying the principle of 'try it first and worry about the risks later' to the world of education will make matters even worse.

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