Tue, 12 Aug 2003

School principals' foreign junkets

Public censure, in relation to foreign trips made by regional councillors under the guise of comparative studies, seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

It is rather odd and unfortunate that such trips should have gained popularity with high school principals in Bandung and regional towns of West Java.

According to the report, 38 high school principals in West Java are slated to travel to Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia on a study tour. The study allegedly aims at "improving the quality of education" in the region (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 7).

The trips will include visits to only one school each in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. However, it is more the trips to recreational establishments, such as the Tifany show, Bencing show and the Thai Girls show in Bangkok and the gambling resort at Genting Highlands, Malaysia, that should be frowned upon, if the above visits are being made as part of an ostensibly serious study trip.

It is relevant to question how a trip to only one school in the capital of the three countries visited, during a span of only one week from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27, can fulfill the stated aim of improving educational standards in high schools.

One puzzling matter is that the fee for the trip reportedly amounts to Rp 8.5 million for each principal and is to be transferred to the bank accounts of the two officials in charge of the program.

Four high school principals have declined to go on the trip, arguing that the program has nothing to do with the true objective of improving the quality of education and instead represents a waste of school funds and parents' money. It is equally puzzling that the local authorities concerned should stand aloof and not assist in finding a better way, in consultation with their counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of meeting the objective of boosting the schools' educational standards.

S. SUHAEDI Jakarta