Parents, ‘madrasah’ teachers concerned about five-day school policy

The Jakarta Post, page 4

Setyaningrum, a mother of two, could not hide her disappointment after learning her children would probably be spending more hours at school in the next academic year. She claimed the policy had yet to be disseminated by SMP 8 junior high school and SD 110 elementary school, in Pekanbaru, Riau, where her two children were enrolled.

Setyaningrum said her children would be exhausted if they had to be at school eight hours a day. Worse, she added, the new system could economically burden her family, for she would have to prepare more meals for her kids. She believes that schools will not provide meals for students. Parents are among many parties that have voiced their opposition to the school hour extension policy, which also regulates there will only be five school days a week.

Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy chairman Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi said previously that the new policy could eventually force madrasah (Islamic schools), where many students attended tutorial classes, to close down. As a result, madrasah tutors would also lose their jobs, he added.

Zainut’s concern was echoed by Agus Salim, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama Community (KNB) in Banyumas, Central Java, who said the five-day school policy “will hurt teachers in madrasah” especially those owned by the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s biggest Islamic organization.

Ubaid Matraji, coordinator of the Indonesian Education Watch (JPPI), said the school hours extension would curtail children’s freedom to interact with their social surroundings, for they would be spending the majority of their day at school, not in their neighborhood.

Culture and Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy has repeatedly defended the decision, saying extended school hours did not mean students would be overworked. Rather, the new policy was intended to allocate more time for “character building,” as 30 percent of daily school hours would be allotted for various character-building activities that could help instill several values, such as nationalism and tolerance. Muhadjir shrugged off concerns, saying the policy would kill informal education institutions such as madrasah. He said, under the new system, schools were allowed to cooperate with external parties.

According to a 2017 culture and education ministerial regulation on school days, the new policy will be implemented at all education levels, except kindergarten and at religion-based schools. The regulation also stipulates the new policy will be implemented gradually because not all schools have adequate infrastructure and not all regions are equipped with adequate access to transportation.

Indonesian Teacher Association (PGRI) chairwoman Unifah Rosyidi called on the ministry to create a special team tasked with disseminating the policy to the regions in a bid to prevent misinterpretation. Unifah urged the government to only create the guidelines of the policy and let local administrations decide the details of the policy implementation. Unifah said, local administrations have better knowledge of the conditions in their respective regions.

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