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Quality of Catholic education in Indonesia 'in decline'

Institutions are struggling to keep up especially with free state-schools
Quality of Catholic education in Indonesia 'in decline'

Indonesian high school students just before taking the three-day national examinations at SMA Negeri 3 in Jakarta on April 16, 2014. An education expert has criticized Catholic schools in Indonesia saying that they need to modernize. (Photo by AFP)

Published: September 05, 2016 04:32 AM GMT
Updated: September 05, 2016 04:32 AM GMT

Catholic schools in Indonesia have come under fire for failing to keep up with the changing face of education in contemporary society.

The result has seen a drop in educational standards, an education expert has claimed. 

"Catholic schools aren't adaptive which means they can't adapt to this era.… They are [stuck] in a time warp," said Indra Charismiadji, an education consultant said during a recent discussion held at the Indonesian Bishops' Office in Jakarta. 

"The global education system has changed but Catholic schools are unwilling to follow suit."

The decline began in 2003 when the national education system law was issued. The law stipulates that compulsory education in state-run schools, ranging from elementary to junior high schools, is free of charge. 

"Catholic schools still adhere to the old pattern of cross subsidization [requiring tuition fees] while other schools have seen a chance to change," he said. 

When given the choice, most parents would opt for free education so the liklihood of Catholic schools increasing pupil numbers and hence their revenue is an uphill struggle. Increasing tuition fees is only a short-term solution since parents who are willing to pay to have their children educated have their limits. In the end finance becomes a serious issue, he said.

As a result the ability to attract the best teachers is diminished so now the quality of staff at Catholic schools is weaker as is access to better resources, Charismiadji said.

Another issue is the tendency for Catholic schools to resist outside interference, especially from the government and to adhere to old ways of teaching that makes them less likely to embrace changes such as new teaching methods designed to improve education

"Catholic schools are exclusive and don't want to build relations with the government as well as other schools. For example, in Jakarta, Catholic schools almost never help organise events promoted by the government. So how can the government help them?" he said.

Soepardi, deputy chairman of Jakarta Archdiocese's Catholic Education Council, acknowledged that the quality of Catholic education in Jakarta has been deteriorating. 

"The organizing system can't run properly because the people involved don't have adequate skills," he told ucanews.com.

Meanwhile, Marcelino J. Mandagi, headmaster of St. Joseph Junior High School in Mangga Besar, West Jakarta, said Catholic schools should employ teachers with adequate skills. "I see one factor that must be improved by Catholic schools: teachers. Teachers must be qualified" and capable, he said. 

Mandagi said his school, which is managed by nuns from the Congregation of Divine Providence, and currently has 21 teachers and 250 students is trying to address this.

"We employ an education consultant," he said.

However, the chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education denies, standards in Catholic schools have deteriorated.

Catholic schools have kept up with the latest changes in education, according to Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula.

"The principle is to educate the nation and uphold the spirituality of our Catholic schools' founders," he said. "This is what distinguishes Catholic schools from other private schools."  

Acknowledging the number of students in Catholic schools had dropped he said numbers hadn't changed much. He said his organization was still collating official figures.

"It isn't because of deteriorating quality," he explained. "Yes many people choose state-run schools which are free … but many people don't have a clear idea of what constitutes good quality." 

"There are complaints about expensive cost, indeed. But if we look at Catholic schools' curriculum and work programs, they all meet the required standard," he said without elaborating.


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