Kompas page 12, Saturday 3 May
Since the constitution set a budget allocation of at least 20 percent to education in the 2009 State Budget, the education sector always wallows in a lot of fund. This year alone the budget reaches IDR 368 trillion. Unfortunately, gap remains a visible condition in education.
The gap is due to the educational policy based on the available budget. As a result, the policy is considered more as a project which always changes, following successions.
Such input or budget-based approach in designing education policies is deemed misleading. A program or policy should be instead designed on the basis of needs, and the budget should be made flexible and adjusted to education priorities or targets. If such policies are applied, there will be no budget wasted or leaved unabsorbed.
Efficiency and effectiveness of the use of the education budget could be achieved if only the government dared to set measurable performance targets that can be evaluated. If performance targets are determined in advance, the education budget will be more or less than 20 percent.
The education budget was one of the problems discussed in cooperation discussion between Kompas and Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI) entitled “Finding the Direction of Indonesian Education”, 21 April.
So far, the success of the learning process in formal education is only measured based on achievements in national exams (UN) and achievements in various national and international Olympiads. It is on that bases incentives or scholarships are granted to schools or students. Schools with the lowest achievement in UN should be granted special incentives to improve their quality. Olympic winners, whose number is not many, are granted scholarships until higher education for their bright future.
Ahead of the open market, the government should have more courage to set high, or even international standard, performance targets. There international tests, namely Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) showed that Indonesian children in numeracy (math), science, and context understanding (reading ) is ranked the lowest. Indonesia is only slightly better than Ghana and, obviously, far behind the nearest neighbors, such as Thailand and Malaysia.
Therefore, it is understandable that Indonesian education has yet to reach the expectation and is still unable to drive the economy to move more quickly. Education budget is more widely used for education bureaucracy, instead of for the benefits of students or for improving the quality of education. That input approach gives an impression that education programs are designed to spend the budget.
The Education Budget can suddenly increase in June or July thanks to the increase of fuel subsidies. Then, the Ministry of Education and Culture shall be in hurry to prepare plans to spend the budget. The most reasonable and quickest way to spend the budget in a short time is to provide assistances and educational scholarships as much as possible.
The 20% education budget in the state budget is considered ineffective to improve the quality of education because the budget is divided into ministries / institutions which also organize educational functions. Of the total budget of IDR 368 trillion, the biggest allocation is given to regional transfer area, reaching IDR 238.6 trillion (mostly for the benefit of teachers/lecturers and salaries). The Ministry of Education and Culture receive IDR 80.6 trillion; Ministry of Religious Affair receives IDR 42.5 trillion, and the 16 other ministries/institutions receive IDR 7.05 trillion.
From the IDR 80.6 trillion budget receive by Ministry of Education and Culture, binding budget of IDR 61.01 trillion shall be allocated to help poor students and to provide Bidikmisi scholarships, operational assistances for state universities, medium operational supports, and teacher/lecturer allowances and salaries. There are also national priority programs such as the nine-year compulsory education, the 2013 Curriculum, the universal secondary education, and higher education facilities and infrastructures of IDR 18.2 trillion (22.56 percent).
Considering such budget posture, the government seems to still focus on quantity and access in order to boost child participation rate in schools. Various assistances and scholarships are provided so that all school-age children can attend schools as long as possible at schools.
From the view of the government, the impacts of utilization of the 20 percent education budget have not been entirely recognized because it has just started in 2009. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education and Culture has noted several achievements, including the increase in gross enrollment rate (GER ) of universities from 18-19 percent in 2009 to 27 percent in 2012. The impacts of the education budget require a long process. Five years are not enough.