Fri, 09 May 2003

Education bill unrealistic

From Kompas

The national education bill has caused quite a stir in society, with the introduction of Article 13 paragraph (1)a requiring the teaching of different religious subjects. It means that Islam and Buddhism, for instance, are taught in Christian schools, while Catholicism and Hinduism are included in Islamic schools. So far, however, Islamic schools have hardly ever received non-Muslim students.

The concern voiced by many should not be seen as prejudice. Religion-based private schools appeal to many people of other religions because they follow an open system, allowing the enrollment of students of various backgrounds.

Meanwhile, religious education should be integrated and adequate rather than a mere formality. The family and society constitute the most dominant institution for children's religious understanding, whereas schools should serve more to provide a moral basis for students to nurture mutual respect in inter- religious communications. This is the foundation of religious education in Catholic schools.

The enforcement of such a law is therefore irrelevant and unrealistic because the teaching of religion should be supported by spiritual facilities like worship buildings and equipment, besides the observance of religious holidays.

Many other more urgent education issues remain to be addressed, such as damaged school buildings, unclear educational principles and low teacher salaries. Prompt settlement of these matters should first be sought, instead of changing the system of teaching, especially in religion-based private schools that have so far made smooth progress.