As parents are busy with the new academic year and enrolling their children in schools, many kinds of protests have emerged. The protests relate to expensive tuition and other school costs.
Parents must pay hundreds of thousands of rupiah to register students for state junior high schools. Private schools are more expensive. It is indeed a high price to pay for most members of our society.
The free market mechanism can be clearly seen at work in the current school system, especially during the process of registration for new students. It is assumed that schools are not places for study and learning, but places where professional workers — not teachers —work under bureaucratic pressure as makelar (middlemen) for headmasters, who are profit-oriented.
What is happening now is that schools are just black markets that hide behind the value of education — and also the education system. If this is so, how will our generation become better educated? We might just be waiting for a worse generation — who are money oriented as well — to emerge in this corrupt country.
The free market mechanism happens during the school year. Early in the year, weird habits such as “reserving special places” and prioritizing the rich are common and acceptable.
Next on the agenda are students who are the victims of the textile market. They are forced to buy expensive uniforms, shoes and other accessories whose prices are higher than normal. That is not all. Schools then become a market for expensive textbooks promoted by some publishers or agents who have to deal with school principals.
Ironically, textbooks are always changing. There is some speculation that there is a bonus for schools that are able to sell textbooks to their students. Local mayors and education departments of course know about this policy. Even so, some schools argue that this policy has been legalized by their school committees.
Why do schools always require students to buy expensive textbooks? The people who know about student needs are the teachers themselves. How great when teachers say no to their headmasters who want to apply a policy of “selling” expensive textbooks.
There are still excellent affordable alternatives to expensive textbooks, such as the government’s Electronic Coursebook (BSE) program. My recent study in Instruction to Material Development (IMD) shows that the BSE program is high quality in terms of materials and methodology.
Don’t principals or local mayors know about the program? Policies that require students to buy expensive textbooks from specific publishers should be questioned as a form of corruption hiding behind a legal policy.
Several private institutions also offering courses on computers, IQ improvement, how to use an abacus, a fast way to face national examinations, etc….. Such programs should help schools become a market for profit-oriented businesses. Instead of providing facilities for students to expand their knowledge outside school, the rise of private courses justifies schools that are trying to run away from the problem.
Moreover, they argue that it is important to prepare for national examinations. If that is so, why do schools give that “responsibility” to private institutions? Doesn’t it mean that the schools give up before the fight. If not, schools are indeed supporting the growth of liberalization in education.
Unclear programs and high tuition cannot be justified. Those are just other burdens for poor parents — and contribute to making them poorer.
The justification of such “market movements” in education institutions will not improve the quality of education — or the students. This will instead shape their minds to become market oriented. In the final instance, they will potentially become the next corrupt generation in this corrupt country.
Education institutions, especially schools, should be free from those kinds of silly policies. Those policies make schools no longer place where students are educated. Instead, it will create another uneducated and disrespectful generation.
In general, the function of schools, education departments, local mayors and school committees is to educate students. It is not to become calo, makelar, rentenair, or another illegal business sellesr. Intertwining those education and market mindset will decrease the value of education, and will demoralize the people.
To be published on The Jakarta Post, 19 September 2010.