Sat, 03 Apr 2004

National exams for quality control: Govt

Leony Aurora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The national final examinations will continue, as they serve as a standard to measure the effort made by students and teachers and function as a quality control, the government says.

Ministry of National Education director general for elementary and secondary education Indra Djati Sidi said on Friday the exam had been developed in response to public criticism that in the past, all students, regardless of their intelligence and diligence, managed to graduate.

"It's public knowledge that teachers often mark up grades and let students pass," Indra said.

In response to this, the ministry issued a decree last year on the final exams, requiring students to score a grade of at least 4.01 on all subjects in their final exams -- an increase from last year's 3.01 -- to get pass certificates. Pass certificates are needed to proceed to the next level of education.

This year, the ministry is preparing exams for three subjects -- math, English, and Bahasa Indonesia -- while the rest are prepared by schools.

On Thursday, a group of non-governmental organizations and teacher groups threatened to request a judicial review by the Supreme Court unless the ministry revoked its decree within a week.

Chief of UNESCO's national commission for Indonesia Arief Rachman said on Friday the final say on whether or not a student pass should stay in the hands of schools.

While, he did not deny there were schools that marked up grades, students should not bear the burden of this situation, he said.

Instead the government should concentrate on apprehending and punishing the people who mark-up the papers, he told The Jakarta Post.

Rachman, who is a former headmaster of Labschool in Jakarta, also questioned the standard used, saying that it should be tailor-made for each region due to the apparent gap in infrastructure and conditions in different areas.

Bahrul Hayat of the ministry's Center for Education Assessment said his office had made different sets of exams for each province to adjust to differing provincial conditions and to prevent leaks.

"The competence required is the same, but the level of difficulty may differ," he said.

However, the gap between scores of the exams taken nationwide and of the daily tests given by schools should give a proper indication of the schools' quality, he said.

Bahrul said that to improve its quality, each school would receive an analysis of its students' performance on the tests drafted by the ministry as compared to averages at regental, provincial, and national levels. This practice already began last year, he added.

Indra gave his assurance the pressure put on students and schools would be followed up with infrastructure development.

"This year we will recruit 110,500 teachers of a high standard and we will spend most of our budget in 2005 on teachers' training," said Indra.

In 2003, 8 percent of students taking the national final exams failed. This figure decreased to 4 percent after remedial tests. This year, however, no second chance will be given.