National Examination fees to be waived, Yahya says
JAKARTA (JP): The Ministry of National Education ended the year by introducing a plan to waive National Examination fees for elementary and junior high school students and to provide a Rp 75,000 monthly incentive for some 450,000 selected teachers in the private sector.
"We have been given an additional 2.1 percent over the original Rp 11.3 trillion budget for education in 2001, and these extra funds will be used to develop the nine-year basic education program and improve teacher's welfare," Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin said on Monday at a year-end media briefing.
"It's a lot less than our expectations and that is why we have to concentrate on specific programs and set our priorities," Yahya said.
The Directorate General of Basic and Secondary Education will get some Rp 1.5 trillion of the additional funds, most of which will go to improving the quality of children's education.
The payment for additional teaching hours will also be raised from Rp 1,000 per hour to Rp 10,000.
"As of next year we will cover the Rp 192 billion annual cost of the National Examinations (Ebtanas) for elementary and junior high school students. Therefore, all pupils from both private and public schools will no longer have to pay," Director General for Basic and Secondary Education Indra Djati Sidi said.
Previously only elementary and junior high school students in public schools were exempted from paying the Ebtanas fee.
Indra said that the current budget could not cover those in senior high schools as the total cost for this would amount to an estimated Rp 255 billion per year.
"The ministry has no money to cover the fees for the senior high school Ebtanas. So we have to go one step at a time," he said.
Indra further explained that some Rp 286 billion has been allocated for the private sector teachers' incentive beginning in January.
However not all private sector schoolteachers would be eligible to receive the incentive.
"We are being selective in giving the incentive as teachers from top private schools no longer need this kind of a bonus. The scheme is meant to target around 90 percent of the approximately 500,000 private sector schoolteachers nationwide," Indra said.
The selected teachers, from both elementary and senior high schools, will receive Rp 75,000 each month while kindergarten teachers will get Rp 50,000 per month.
"The system used to disburse the fund is similar to the Social Safety Net (JPS) program in which the money will go directly to the teacher's account," Indra said while adding that a special community monitoring and complaints unit would be set up to oversee the scheme.
"We have to admit that out of the total of 1.7 million teachers across the country, we have only paid attention to teachers from public schools," Indra remarked.
Minister Yahya further revealed that his office was preparing a major internal reorganization which would involve the reassignment of around 1.7 million of the ministry's employees.
"With regional autonomy, there will only be some 107,000 employees working in the ministry's office (in Jakarta). The rest will go to the respective offices in the regions," Yahya said.
Director General for Higher Education Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro added that as a consequence of regional autonomy, three educational institutes would have their status changed from private to state universities.
These are Tirtayasa University in Banten, Chairun University in Ternate, the capital of North Maluku, and Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Aceh.
"We are also continuing to monitor educational activities in disturbed areas such as Pattimura University in Ambon," Satryo said.
Minister Yahya further added that the alternative education program for children in areas hit by conflicts and natural disasters would continue.
"We will be consistent in promoting the education trilogy, which is the mastering of basic science, inculcation of civics and moral teachings, and fostering the reading habit," Yahya said.
"We have to save our nation from producing a uneducated generation."
Ministry data from 1994/1995 to 1998/1999 shows that at least 11.7 million of the country's children failed to complete either formal or non-formal education, with many of them ending up in the work force as child labor.
Meanwhile, 7.5 million children of school age are not enrolled in school. Various reasons from the economic crisis to conflicts and natural disasters have contributed to the high number of children missing school. (edt)