Vocational School Reform an Uphill Task

The Jakarta Post, page 2

Like many of their peers, Remingo Archam Chardillas, Ilham Unggul Pambudi, and Fallah Hanif Chandra ninth-graders at the SMP 109 state junior high school in Jatiwaringin, East Jakarta, began their preparation for the upcoming national exam for beginning of their final year at the school.

They hope to enter SMA 81 state senior high school, one of the best around. They have not considered pursuing their education at a vocational high school, even if they can easily find jobs after graduating from there. Remingo said he want to pursue a university education so he can work at a mining company.

Ilham and Fallah do not want to continue their education at a vocational school because of the bad imagine these schools have among the public. Ilham said that vocational high schools are widely considered as a last resort for students who fail to enter senior high schools. Fallah added that they were more associated with tawuran [brawls between schools] than academic excellence.

The fact that vocational schools remain unpopular among middle school students reflects the serious challenges the government must tackle in reforming the nation’s vocational schools.

In September, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued a presidential instruction (Inpres) aimed at reforming vocational education in order to ensure that the country’s workforce would be absorbed by industry. But the plan seems likely to collapse if the best minds from junior high school never consider entering vocational school as a good option for their future careers, Paramadina University education expert Totok Amin Soefijianto said.

He added that there should be a special marketing measure [to encourage junior high school graduates to enter vocational schools]. The government has to show off excellent graduates as examples of products from vocational education. Apart from a promotional campaign, Totok said the most important facets that needed to be improved in the country’s vocational education system were teacher quality and school infrastructure.

Teachers specializing in agricultural education are often asked to teach other skills, such as management and computers. Many schools in region do not have adequate facilities to expand the skills of students.

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