Fri, 14 Oct 1994

Five-day school week a hot political issue

JAKARTA (JP): The five-day school week plan, now being tried at many schools, has become a hot political item overnight with many politicians urging the government to back down on the plan.

The shorter week -- schools currently operate on a six-day week basis -- has come in for unexpected resistance from parents, school administrators, teachers and Moslem leaders, although not so much from the children themselves.

Their chief objection is that by cramming the studying hours into five days instead of six, most children are missing out on various extra-curriculum activities they normally do after school. This include attending afternoon religious schools.

Many parents object because they will have to give out more pocket money to their children, who will spend longer hours at school from Monday to Friday.

President Soeharto, responding to the criticisms of the plan, yesterday gave his assurances that the decision is not final and that the government will take into account the objections raised.

Soeharto's position was reported by Aisyah Amini, a deputy chief of the United Development Party, when she, along with other party leaders visited the Merdeka Palace to introduce themselves following their election to the party board last month.

Aisyah said the party is monitoring the introduction of the plan and has found that many students have had to stop attending afternoon religious schools because of the longer hours they spend at school now.

Many students, who help their parents earn a living after school, are also deprived of this opportunity under the five-day school week, she said.

Golkar, the ruling political organization, yesterday joined in the call for the government to go easy on the plan because of difficulties being encountered, as it is being implemented, at the expense of the teaching.

The government is also phasing in the five-day week for civil servants who, until recently, worked six days a week. There was no resistance whatsoever and many government agencies are planning to implement the plan early next year, well ahead of the August deadline. (imn)