Govt tries to end debate on five-day school week

The Jakarta Post, page 1

Presiden Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has issued a presidential regulation (Perpres) on a highly contested policy for a five-day school week, overriding an existing Culture and Education Ministry regulation (Permen).

With the implementation of the five-day policy, students will spend eight hours a day at school compared to the current five hours per day but the weekend off in return.

Indonesia Ulama Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin said after a meeting the President on Monday That the involvement of Islamic organizations in drafting the Perpres was aimed at putting an end the dispute. Moreover, the government did not intend to abolish the culture of extracurricular activities at madrassas with the five-day school week.

Ma’ruf said with the involvement of Islamic organizations, the public issue [of the five-day school week] can be solved. Madrassas will not only be protected but even strengthened, as [the policy] will serve as a protection against radicalism.

Previously, the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdatul Ulama (NU), had opposed the idea, worrying that it would lose students from after-school Islamic courses for children that teach them Islamic teaching and how to read the Quran. The NU has expressed concern that its 70,000 madrasah would eventually lose their 7 million students as a result of the policy.

The NU argued that if madrassa education were neglected, which NU believed could happen as a consequence of longer school hours, it would threaten the role of madrassa activities in countering radical teachings.

The issuance of the Perpres automatically annuls the ministerial degree, although Jokowi asked the ministry to delay the plan last Friday.

Therefore, the implementation of the five-day school week, which was slated for the new academic year beginning in July, would be revised. He added that the implementation of the new policy will depend on the President.

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