PSI encourages the expansion of access and improvement of education quality. To that end, the state needs to provide more space for non-state educational actors, such as pesantren or religious-based schools, private, and international educational institutions to engage in the eudcational process of Indonesian children. Citizen participation to build private educational institutions should be appreciated and encouraged in a mass scale to provide more choices for students. National education should be able to accommodate the character of the Indonesian nation rich in diversity.
Indonesia is one of the most successful developing countries in the eradication of illiteracy. The literacy rate of Indonesian society is now above 90%, a phenomenal increase when compared to a newly independent country with a very low literacy rate (below 20%). However, this achievement in literacy eradication is not enough. The challenge of the educational world ahead is much more complex than literacy. There are many challenges to our education, from the quality gaps, the lack of facilities, to the dualism of systems that separate religious education and general education.
- Equal Distribution of Education
Education is the fundamental right of every Indonesian people. Article 31 Paragraph 2, the 1945 Constitution guarantees the fulfilment of 9 years basic education rights. The cost of elementary and junior secondary education is the responsibility of the government. For now, the 9 years of education is no longer adequate. Employment opportunities for junior secondary school graduates are getting smaller. It takes a minimum of high school graduates to apply for a job. For underprivileged students, 9-year compulsory education is their only chance to get a formal education. Due to financial constraint, many are not able to continue to high school education, let alone college. The right of the child to receive education to improve the quality of his life according to the 1945 Constitution article 28C paragraph 1, is not fulfilled. The 12-year compulsory education discourse is now urgent to be applied.
From an economic perspective, 12 years of educational access is more than a matter of giving a fair chance. Equitable education is the key to the success of a nation. Economic progress and educational attainment are interrelated. Providing 12 years of free education also means providing a way to prepare students to the college level. The target of education to produce skilled human resources in employment will be realized. This vision of even distribution of education carried by PSI.
- Teacher and Technology Competencies
Competent educators have a great influence on the quality of students’ education. Educators are required to be proficient and familiar with technological developments including their utilization. They should see learning opportunities outside the classroom, such as internet usage.
Technological developments should be responded with equal educational services. Internet technology has successfully shortened the distance and time for people to access information. This power is utilized by educational content providers (both free and paid) as an effort to equity access to education. Internet-based educational programs such as Massive Online Course (MOC), such as Khan Academy and Coursera, are based in the United States. Indonesia has launched indonesiax.co.id, the cooperation of famous PTN (UI & ITB) and business and media institutions. The opportunity to provide quality educational content is massively wide open. For Indonesia with its wide geographic landscape and scattered concentration of students, the optimal utilization of MOC facilities becomes highly relevant.
- Vocational Education and Polytechnic
Education should provide a variety of opportunities for students to grow. Not all students want to go to college to get a bachelor’s degree. Many career-oriented students go to vocational schools. They aim to have skills according to work needs. The success story of SMK students in creating Esemka car has been recorded properly. This is a great example of the success of SMK preparing students with specific skills in accordance with the needs of the automotive industry. Further, Esemka car is an example that SMK do not only fill the workforce, but they are also able to create. This success should be transmitted in career-oriented programs or other specific skills, such as health care science, technology, and engineering. (Strengthening the capacity of vocational education).
This creates tradition must be transmitted at the college level. Polytechnic has a unique position because of its status as a college and carrying out the duties of community service, such as solving technological problems from the results of applied research and technology adaptation. Partnerships with community and industry institutions provide students with hands-on experience.
Unfortunately, due to the poor management and design, polytechnic education is considered ‘nanggung’ (not any better than vocational education, or if not just go to college). Polytechnic must make a revamp. Polytechnic is a partnership of work and training with community, business and industry institutions. PSI aims to reinforce the power of vocational schools and polytechnics as creators and education that partner directly with the community.
- Strengthening Madrasahs and Religious Education
The 2003 National Education System Law reinforces the position of Islamic educational institutions in line with public institutions. Madrasah institutions have equal rights to improve the quality of education. However, until now the recognition of madrasah status is still fairly low. Madrasah management is in the ministries of education and religion. Assertiveness of madrasah positions in the National Education System 2003 should be realized in non-discriminatory educational management practices through a single ministry authority. Considering this consideration, the PSI concludes the importance of strengthening madrasah to broaden access to education.
- Higher Education’s Quality
The national competitive power is determined not only by basic education, but also by its higher education. PSI views that the national higher education system needs a complete overhaul. Currently, Indonesia has 4341 universities and 21,050 study programs, but none of the national public universities get into the world’s top 500 rankings. Qualitatively, Indonesia’s higher education cannot compete with ASEAN universities, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, even further away from China, Korea and India. The desire of the government to have a world-class university is still seen as empty rhetoric.
The main source of problems in the higher education system lies in protective policies. A number of higher education related regulations still bring the spirit of “protecting” national colleges from the “invasions” of foreign universities and academicians. As a result, Indonesian universities tend to be inward-oriented and less sociable with the world of regional and international higher education.
The space of the Indonesian academic staff is also limited by the small cost of research and the lack of support to associate with the international academic community. Universities do not have enough incentives and even difficulty recruiting lecturers from abroad. Foreign universities are also not allowed to open branches in Indonesia, in contrast with many Asian countries such as China, Singapore and Malaysia where foreign universities operating in their countries create a more conducive academic climate. In fact, the presence of foreign universities encourages the improvement of the quality of local universities exponentially.
PSI is committed to encouraging openness in the national higher education system. PSI will also encourage the improvement of university faculty recruitment standards and enlarge financial support for Indonesian academics and researchers to get along with the international academic community. PSI sees a larger budget allocation for improving the institutional, infrastructure and human resource quality in universities outside Java should be a government priority within the next five to ten years. Their study programs should fit the needs and government development agenda. PSI will encourage amendment of higher education-related legislation that limits the establishment of foreign universities in Indonesia and facilitates the recruitment of foreign academic staff to teach at Indonesian local universities.