Fri, 25 Feb 2000

New curriculum not up to snuff

The article Indonesia to introduce new education curriculum (The Jakarta Post, Feb. 23, p. 1) suggests that the Ministry of Education may be a bit out of step with recent political and legal changes, which began with the 1999 Decentralization Law.

In many decentralized/federal countries, education is the right and duty of regional or even local governments. The argument is that local educators know local needs and conditions best, and this is given a limited recognition by the "local content studies" proposed by the Ministry of Education here. A limited experimentation by decentralized educational authorities benefits the entire country: results from these experiments are easily evaluated when students take standardized tests or compete for places at the better universities, institutes, etc., and educational disasters are quickly detected and affect fewer students.

The old adage of "Jakarta knows best" is increasingly being questioned; if regional governments are forced to pay much of the cost of a curriculum they have little control over, this will be a source of dissatisfaction in a democracy.

Education in Indonesia is widely held to be overcentralized, overregulated and overly routinized. The ministry's proposals do little to deal with this criticism, and I hope the subsequent debate will clarify what Indonesians want from their educational system.