Sun, 27 Feb 2000

Master's degree easily obtained in Indonesia

YOGYAKARTA (JP): An education observer condemned the "trading of academic degrees" by privately run schools through their instant programs, saying this was a type of white-collar crime.

Moh. Mahfud MD of the Islamic University of Indonesia said during a one-day seminar titled Trading Degrees: A Threat to Education at Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University on Saturday, that arranging instant programs for high-academic degrees was a moral swindle. "Awarding academic degrees through a very simple process is fooling and cheating people."

The seminar was jointly sponsored by Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University and the Yogyakarta chapter of the Indonesian Journalists Association.

Mahfud said the owners of schools which promised doctoral degrees were aggressive in their advertising. "They put irrational ads in newspapers offering three doctoral degrees to those who are willing to pay Rp 1 million. They have people go to villages seeking prospective students."

Mahfud was referring to the booming business of educational institutions offering short-term master's degree programs, known as MBA/BBA programs. Through such programs, a person can receive a master's degree in management in a relatively short time, and with a minimum of teaching and learning.

He said the police should be proactive in curbing this business. "(But) the police are reluctant to deal with this because no one has filed a report claiming to have been victimized by the programs."

"This is a crime. Those achieving instant academic degrees must not obtain good positions in their offices. Such people have the potential to be corrupt," he said.

Also speaking at the seminar was J. Drost, the former rector of Yogyakarta-based Sanata Dharma Teacher Training Institute and a former headmaster at Kanisius and Gonzaga colleges. He said Indonesia was the only country in the world where master's degrees could be obtained in 18 months, or three semesters.

"In other countries one needs at least 12 semesters to achieve this prestigious degree," Drost said. "It doesn't make sense at all."

The Indonesian educational system should take responsibility, he said, adding that the system had failed to produce professional graduates.

People usually need higher degrees to make themselves publicly "acceptable", he said. "This makes people vulnerable to becoming involved in the trading of educational degrees through the BBA/MBA programs."

He blamed the Directorate General of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education for failing to curb the mushrooming short- time MBA/BBA graduate programs.

Suyanto, the rector of Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, shared his opinion, saying schools offering instant degrees had ignored the administrative and academic prerequisites stipulated in Government Regulation No. 60/1999.

"People should be more critical," Suyanto said, adding that only ethics and morals could curb the practice.

"Academic degrees purchased through instant courses are just dreams, which have no soul and spirit to educate people. The reason to provide the degrees is merely money," said Suyanto. (swa/sur)