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Reflecting a trend in the Indonesia’s secondary schooling sector: Is this a panacea?

Thousands of would-be senior high school graduates in Indonesia are now registering slots to secure their status as a university student. Their preferred choice is, as always, the top and leading public universities such as UI, UNDIP, UGM, ITB, UNPAD, UB, ITS, and the like. This phenomenon does not change every year. Even, in order to be accepted in one of these top public universities, many who increase their acceptance chance by choosing less competitive courses at the university’s department, albeit the opted courses do not serve as their best preference to study! The status of ‘public universities’ may have set the students’ mindset to struggle and take real efforts to compete so they can study at their favorable university, as if there were not any more other academically excellent universities to study in, like the private ones.

If looked at closely, the pride of being enrolled in a top public university has been mushrooming among Indonesia’s secondary high school education academia. It is so rampant that the paradigm is much set back by school teachers, especially those who are responsible for university entry program such as counselor teacher and the headmaster. Accordingly, this situation is made much for the school’s prestige and high prestige in society, aside from other goals too, so later students’ parents are amazed and feel extremely proud of their school, ‘the more the school graduates are enrolled in the top public universities, the more this school will receive a high class status from societies’.

In reality, as an English teacher in an internationally-standardized senior high school in East Java, I often witness a plethora of schools offer university entrance preparation program for national university entrance test (SNMPTN) and joint selection for university entrance test (SBMPTN) for their third-grade students. What’s all wrong with this? Nothing is wrong to me, personally. This however implicitly directs our education scheme to an unbalance goal of teaching and learning. Why bothering to study all time at school if the purpose is only for securing a space in the public university? Doesn’t this really waste the time, especially teachers and students?. Having inadequate time studying subjects tested at SBMPTN at schools, not few who then attend some profit-based courses aside from school time to attain more comprehension on the tested subjects.

Ironically, a thing I ever witnessed by myself was two years ago when a coordinating teacher for university entry program in a private school of East Java felt frustrated simply because 90% of his students failed the SNMPTN and SBMPTN. What a ridiculous thing is! I think education is not merely about succeeding our students to a public university. Our responsibility as an educator is not set for this, isn’t it? I was also one of the students who took real effort for the sake of securing a room in a public university a couple of years ago back in 2011. I may be influenced by this traditional tenet that all private universities graduates are less competitive and marketable in the workplace than the public universities graduate are. This is not all true, however. Employers in the field do not necessarily consider whether candidates graduate from public or private universities. The most required thing to show is competency and professionalism in the field.

A case in a nutshell, I am not voicing students, teachers, and parents not to prioritize their public university choice. I am just inviting all to take this status quo into consideration that there are more tons of other essential points to deal with relation to our secondary education sector. Narrowing our mind to the status-quo explained above is not a panacea for Indonesia’s better future education. Higher institutions, be it private or public, are together serving students to attain their targeted dreams. It now depends on us to see the difference as a unique and a contributing factor for students’ success and so we can later together evolve in the unity, without any discrimination!

* By M. Faruq Ubaidillah

The author is an English teacher at Sekolah Progresif Bumi Shalawat Sidoarjo. Aside from teaching, he involves in a number of ELT conferences throughout the country and some research projects. Additionally, he is recently writing some papers on English language teaching  issues to be presented at conferences. The opinions expressed are his own.


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