Sat, 10 Jul 2004

Low-scoring students offered enrolment

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan, North Sumatra

Medan municipal government has allowed state senior high schools (SMU) in Medan to impose additional fees for students who scored low in the junior high school national exam, but wished to enter their preferred state senior high schools in the city.

The additional fees, called "participatory fees", are to be set between Rp 500,000 (US$52.60) and Rp 2.5 million.

Medan secretary Ramli said on Friday the policy was designed to boost residents' contribution to education.

He said the participatory fees could be used by schools to purchase computers, books and other materials that could enhance the quality of school facilities.

"In order to prevent possible graft, the fees must be paid by the students through an appointed bank, and they must attach a copy of the transaction slips when they register," he said.

For the 2004-2005 academic year, the Medan administration allows state senior high schools to accept 75 percent of entering students according to a minimum national examination score determined by the individual schools.

The schools may enrol the remaining 25 percent through an entrance exam developed by the schools. The exam aims to provide an opportunity for students who did not meet the minimum entry score to continue to high school.

If the students passed the test, they will be admitted to their chosen schools, but must pay the participatory fee, explained Ramli.

"We will take stern measures against any senior high schools that impose a higher fee than the one regulated by the municipal government," he said.

The new policy has been strongly endorsed by the Medan Council. Council deputy speaker Ibrahim Sakti Batubara said he supported the program, because it could prompt people to contribute more to the municipality's education sector.

"We are still short of education funds, so people's participation in financing education is sorely needed," he said.

However, Astina, 48, a vocal resident who has been criticized the police, saying that it could bar clever students but poor to enter the favorite state senior high schools.

Irwan Effendi, Medan Education Office head, said Medan had only 18 state senior high schools that could accommodate a maximum of 4,653 entering students this year.

High school classes start on July 19.