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Jakarta Post

Court rules international-standard schools illegal for unequal access

  • Ina Parlina and Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Posted: Wed, January 9 2013 | 11:18 am No international standards here: Parents in front of the Constitutional Court building in Jakarta display a banner demanding the dissolution of International-standard schools (SBI) on Tuesday. The court declared that the international-standard school pilot project (RSBI) was unconstitutional and should be dissolved. (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)(SBI) on Tuesday. The court declared that the international-standard school pilot project (RSBI) was unconstitutional and should be dissolved. (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)

No international standards here: Parents in front of the Constitutional Court building in Jakarta display a banner demanding the dissolution of International-standard schools ( SBI ) on Tuesday. The court declared that the international-standard school pilot project ( RSBI ) was unconstitutional and should be dissolved. ( Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf )

The Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that the international standard pilot-project schools ( RSBI ) and international-standard schools ( SBI ) are illegal, arguing that they provided unequal access to quality education.

The Court’s Chief Justice Mahfud MD said in the court ruling that Article 50 ( 3 ) of the National Educational System Law, which regulates the program, was unconstitutional.

“The provision raises issues on the public’s access to education,” Mahfud said during the court
hearing on Tuesday.

The court also concluded that provisions in the article were in violation of the State Constitution, which stipulated that education should be the responsibility of the state.

The Constitutional Court also said that RSBI and SBI students were expected to pay more fees than their peers at regular public schools.

The court concluded that the extra fees have “led to the commercialization of the education sector”.

“Quality education would become an expensive item that only the rich could afford,” Mahfud said.

Civil society members had filed a judicial review for provisions to the Education Law, which provided the legal basis for the RSBI and SBI.

In their argument, the plaintiffs, consisting mostly of education experts, non-governmental organizations, parents of students as well as the Indonesia Corruption Watch ( ICW ), deemed the program unfair as the government has spent more on the RSBI and SBI. The plaintiffs also said that program spending was also prone to corruption.

Members of the group also presented several documents to support their allegations.

The government has argued that the RSBI and SBI were intended to be the center of the country’s educational excellence, as well as serving as a role model for other schools in the country.

In its ruling, the panel of judges said that they could see how the program was intended to improve the quality of education in the country.

The court reprimanded the government, stating that such an effort should not contradict the State Constitution, which guarantees equal access to education.

“If the state wants to improve the quality of the public schools, the state must treat schools equally by improving their facilities and infrastructure, as well as providing more funds for all public schools,”
Mahfud said.

“That [equal treatment] will remove the differences in the quality of our schools.”

Constitutional Court Justice Achmad Sodiki is the only judge who raised a dissenting opinion.

Sodiki said that the scrapping of the RSBI and SBI would be a major blow to efforts to provide better education for the country’s citizens.

“RSBI and SBI are still concept schools, their dissolution will mean a waste of funds, which have already been used in the pilot project,” he said. “It will also thwart government efforts to improve the quality of education.”

Education and Culture Minister Muhammad Nuh said that the Constitutional Court ruling would not mean the dissolution of existing international-standard schools.

“One thing is certain. The schools will not be shut down,” Nuh said in a press conference.

The House of Representatives’ deputy speaker overseeing social welfare Taufik Kurniawan said that he applauded the ruling.

“I have heard lots of criticism toward the program alleging that technical irregularities in the program’s implementation have occurred.”

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