Jokowi calls on minister to delay full-day school plan

The Jakarta Post, page 1

Following concern that the Culture and Education Ministry’s new plan to extend school hours could create further division between the country’s two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has demanded a suspension of the new policy.

Culture and Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy, who is also an executive of Muhammadiyah, signed in June a regulation on the extension of school hours, from five to eight per day, and the reduction of the number of school days, from six to five a week. The new policy will be implemented at all education levels, except kindergarten and religious schools.

NU leadership has expressed its opposition to the new policy, saying children would no longer have time to attend afternoon classes at madrasah (traditional Islamic schools), the majority of which are run by the organization.

Like the NU, Muhammadiyah also runs a network of schools, but they are mostly modern and subscribe to guidelines provided by the education ministry.

Muhadjir has repeatedly defended the new policy, which he claims will allow more time for “character building,” a part of Jokowi’s “mental revolution” program.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla earlier called for the suspension of the policy, saying that as it would affect more than 50 million students in the country, the decision to roll it out should only be made by a Cabinet meeting.

On Thursday, the NU reiterated its opposition to the new policy.

NU chairman Said Aqil Siroj said the organization strongly objected to the new school hour policy as it did not jibe with the government’s focus on building students’ character. Aqil said, education should not always be associated with school. The social interaction of students with their surroundings is also a part of character development that can bring them closer to local customs and traditions.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the NU Islamic Boarding School Association, Abdul Ghaffar Rozin, said he was worried about the uncertain future of both madrasah and their teachers.

Separately, Abdul Muti, the secretary general of Muhammadiyah, said the organization would support the new policy and make changes to how its schools operated to adjust to the planned fiveday school week. Mu’ti said the plan could improve the character of students.

He called on those who opposed the new policy to not “politicize” the plan, saying it would be implemented gradually with constant evaluation. He said that the most important is that the government comprehensively explain the policy [to the public]. People oppose the policy because they haven’t received enough information about it.

Earlier on Wednesday, Muhadjir met with chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Maruf Amin to seek support for his new policy. Speaking after the meeting, Maruf said the MUI supported the policy and was formulating a recommendation to endorse the plan.

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