Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Exams show gap among RI schools

P.C. Naommy, Jakarta

The results of the national high school exams show that, contrary to earlier fears, most students achieved the minimum passing grade of 4.01 out of 10 points, according to the education ministry.

The national exam results will be announced publicly on June 14.

According to the research and development department of the Ministry of National Education, the results also indicated a consistent gap in academic performance between schools of the eastern and western regions, with the latter faring better. Meanwhile, the nationwide average of students who failed the exams was only 10.22 percent.

While this year's passing grade remains low, even in comparison to the 2003 minimum passing grade of 3.01, educators pointed out that disparities in regional conditions still contributed to the gap in students' ability to master the national curriculum.

A nationwide standard was applied to the exams without considering such discrepancies and amid protests from educators and parents.

"Even though 10.22 percent can't be said to be an acceptable failure rate, we feel we are at least moving toward a more reasonable figure," research and development secretary Herwindo said on Thursday.

Following the education ministry's decision to raise the passing grade, education observers predicted that up to 25 percent of 2.5 million high school students would fail the exams.

Research and development head Dodi Nandika expressed greater concern over the range of failure rates among individual provinces, ranging from 3.58 percent to 30.69 percent across the country.

Dodi said the highest failure rates were recorded in eastern Indonesia and in areas with ongoing conflicts.

The ministry acknowledged that the academic gap was caused by the disparity in the number of teachers, their competence and inconsistent infrastructure.

Head of education research at the ministry Bahrul Hayat said it was difficult to recruit teachers willing to be posted in remote regions and in conflict areas.

At least 50 teachers assigned to Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam have been killed between 1999 and 2003, while about 170 others were seriously injured or tortured and even kidnapped by the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), according to official sources.

The sharp disparity in teachers' competence was already evident in the yearly recruitment process. "While most teachers from Java were above average, those from the eastern regions did not even reach the expected level of competence," Bahrul said.

To overcome the problem, the education ministry has combined resources with the office of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare to hold a national recruitment fair.

"This would enable us to recruit teachers to provinces that need teachers proficient in particular subjects," said Bahrul.

The ministry reported that 1,195,457 state high school and Islamic high school (MA) students sat the eight-day exams that began on May 10.

Of these, 89.99 percent passed, and the remainder will be given a chance to retake the exams from June 6 to 8.