Education on the Grill

Education in Indonesia is in an appalling state. This is a special edition, 5-part release on the state of education in Indonesia. I will be releasing them over the course of the next 4 weeks. In that time, this article will remain rooted to the home page. You may access each of the 5 articles through the hyperlinked titles posted here.

Stupidity: The most destructive force in the Universe

1.) Burn the Books, Bury the Scholars, Abort the Geeks

2.) Knowledge Is a Rich People’s Thing

3.) Results for Sale

4.) My Surgeon Is a Butcher, My Lawyer Is an Idiot, And My Representative Is Corrupt

5.) A Million Messiahs, A Million Miracles

All of the above titles will eventually be hyperlinked to their relevant articles. Until then, I ask for your patience.

Burn the Books, Bury the Scholars, Abort the Geeks

Education in Indonesia is appalling. Forget about quality, access to even the most rudimentary basic education is difficult for the majority. While those in government talks about a brighter future for Indonesia in the coming 15-40 years, they certainly aren’t backing up those visions with factual actions. Education, the means by which we equip our young generation with the skills necessary to fulfill their aspirations, has been thrown into the dustbin for a long while now. Not to mention that the government trumpeting their “accomplishments” within the sector of education, from the high “literacy” rate to the purportedly huge education budget, has helped little in allowing us to fully recognize this problem and address it with the honesty and urgency it so needs. This is doubtless creating an entire generation that would not be able to compete in the global market and would have an adverse effect on the effort to eradicate mass poverty from the country, particularly inter-generational poverty characterized by limited or non-existent social mobility.

In the 2012 National Budget Plan (APBN), government officials pat each other over the fact that they are dedicating 20% of the budget, or around Rp286.6 Trillion (US$31.2 Billion) towards education. Unfortunately, they forgot to mention how much of that is actually going to be spent on payroll and maintenance. If the previous years’ budget plans for education is any indication, we can expect around 70% of that to go towards payroll, with the rest split between infrastructure maintenance and improvements. Needless to say, maintenance will likely take precedence, so the funds for improvement of the quality of education and infrastructure will be whatever scraps is left, if there’s any. Let us also not neglect that since the allocated budget will flow through several government bodies, from central to regional to respective Ministry offices in the Regencies, before going down even more levels at the local districts, there is a lot of chances for whatever money passing through to be siphoned off. Whatever will reach the schools, should there be any left, will only be but a trickle of the allocation. Read more of this post

Protests Fueled By Price Hikes, Demonstration of Our Addiction?

Today’s the climax ladies & gentlemen. As Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) is holding a meeting to vote on a proposed bill to cut down on fuel subsidies, thousands of protesters are rallying outside the Parliament Building to oppose the move that would result in fuel price increase. Since Suharto became Indonesia’s President in 1967, the government has heavily subsidized certain fuels, particularly kerosene and gasoline, to help protect the purchasing power of the populace in the then-nascent Republic. The proposed subsidy cut will increase the price of gasoline from Rp4,500/liter (US$0.49) to Rp6,000/liter (US$0.65)

Since the bill was first proposed in February, protests have been held in several major cities across the country, with a few having erupted into violence. With that in mind, the government have deployed 14,000 police officers and 8,000 soldiers from the national army (TNI-AD) today to secure key locations in Jakarta, including the Parliament Building, the Presidential Palace and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Indonesia spends US$18.5 Billion last year on fuel subsidies. This constitutes some 15% of the national budget for FY2011 and is higher than government spending on healthcare and education for that year, combined. That is also more than what was allocated for infrastructure development in 2011. Definitely more than the spending allocated for poverty alleviation, and it is far higher than what we spend on the military and police combined.

There is something wrong with government subsidies of fuel, an intervention in what should effectively be a free market. There is something definitely wrong with a government that spends more on subsidizing fuel than it does on the welfare of its people. This is, categorically and without a doubt, the biggest wasteful spending in our government budget. Read more of this post

I, My, Me

As an individual citizen, I would like to live in the freest society possible. One that offers me the greatest range of action and the least restrictions upon my person. Though, if given the choice to be the leader of say, a nation, between being a democratic leader who can only serve two terms, or a dictator for life, I would almost always lean towards dictatorship, even though I recognize the necessity of an accountable government.

In a similar light, while I recognize the necessity of conscription in small states such as Singapore and Israel, both for national defense and the inculcation of national ideas & values (indoctrination), I still feel that if I were to be conscripted, as an individual, it would be a waste of time and talent. Of course, let me state that the contradictions and the disconnect between understanding and acknowledgement (of this nature) does not begin and end with me. It is something that is prevalent in almost all, if not all persons, whether they consciously recognize it or not.

For just about everything that people think and do, the priority towards the self far outweighs all other considerations. In fact, these “other considerations” are often hijacked as vehicles to carry out the plan to benefit the self, as well as to mask the true intent, from others and most importantly from oneself. Why would anyone want to hide the truth from himself, you ask? Consider the following statements. Read more of this post

Do you smell that burning?

What’s this? Would someone please put out the fire? Our economy is overheating!

We're in the red hot, somebody call the fire engine!

Yes, the economy is growing, yes, the rate of inflation is under control. Did I forget to mention that those are only things that has already happened or is expected to happen this year? What about next year? Five years from now? Or ten years from now? Some indicators are often disregarded by policymakers until the danger of collision is right in front of their noses and there’s nothing else that can be done save for putting their hands where their noses are. Nope, it doesn’t help at all, we’ll still get a bloody nose, at the very least.

Of course, the fact that most policymakers in Indonesia aren’t raising concern over this development is because they’re high on this country’s recent economic performance. Either that or they are ignorant. It is indeed human nature to assume that the good times will last a long time, to not take caution against dangers beyond the horizon. But I won’t go into too much details on the psychology of humans and how their vested interests can cloud observation and judgement. That’s for another article to evaluate.

What needs to be told, because not enough people is telling, is that we’ll be running into a wall in the next 5 years if the current policies, particularly the expansionary monetary policies, are not reversed. I am particularly concerned about the growth of credit in Indonesia and how this is contributing greatly to overheating of the economy. Bank Indonesia (Indonesia’s central bank) has slashed the benchmark interest rates late last year to 6.5% as a response to fears regarding the possibility of shortfall to economic growth due to the fallout from the crisis in the West. I have lauded this decision in a previous article looking at the falling CPI (indicator of inflation). I admit, I was wrong regarding that (the part about lauding the decision). Read more of this post