Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Foreign junkets

Public censure, in relation to foreign trips made by regional councillors under the guise of comparative studies, seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

It is rather odd and unfortunate that such trips should have gained popularity with high school principals in Bandung and regional towns of West Java.

According to the report, 38 high school principals in West Java are slated to travel to Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia on a study tour. The study allegedly aims at "improving the quality of education" in the region (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 9).

The trips will include visits to only one school each in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. However, it is more the trips to recreational establishments, such as the show clubs in Bangkok and a highland gambling resort in Malaysia, that should be frowned upon, if the above visits are being made as part of an ostensibly serious study trip.

It may be questioned as to how a study trip to only one school in the capital of the three countries visited, during a span of only one week from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27, can fulfill the stated aim of improving educational standards in high schools.

What's more, the study trip is joined by another group of at least 24 local officials. Such a large group of 50 or 60 travelers could not be effective in terms of the envisioned objectives, particularly because of the limited span of only one week's visit to three countries, leaving aside the days needed for traveling.

Four high school principals have reportedly declined to go on the trip, arguing that the program would in fact substantially fall short of the noble objective of improving the quality of education in high schools. It is regrettable that the competent local authorities concerned should not have tried to assist in finding the possible ways and means, such as seeking consultation and cooperation, with the endorsement of the central government agencies, that may be obtained from eventual counterparts within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' structure.

Such an attempt should be commendable rather than following an appalling fashion in conducting the worthy study tours proper.

S. SUHAEDI Jakarta