Insufficient public funding and substandard educational quality—-poorly qualified teachers, ineffective classroom methodologies, lack of education planning, teacher absenteeism, budgeting and management—all result in low completion rates after primary school and extremely low rankings against international testing standards, particularly in the areas of science and mathematics.
Having reached the above conclusion about one of the largest school systems in the world, the Obama Administration is infusing $90 million into a project to improve teacher performance and student outcomes in that particular system—the nationwide school network, that is, of Indonesia.
The five-year endeavor will benefit Islamic schools operated by the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) as well as public schools of the Ministry of National Education (MONE), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) acknowledged in a solicitation, #SOL-497-11-000007, outlining the endeavor (.pdf; 934.83 kb).
USAID is reaching out to private sector organizations capable of delivering “quality improvements” to teacher-training institutions and providers to bolster the effectiveness of those schools and, ultimately, the future economic prospects for its 41 million students.
U.S.-led improvements to that nation’s education system—in addition to providing assistance in the realms of climate change and regional security—are seen as “priorities for U.S.-Indonesian relations,” according to a recently released Request for Proposals (RFP) for the new project, known as Prioritizing Reform, Innovation and Opportunities for Reaching Indonesia’s Teachers, Administrators, and Students, or PRIORITAS.
Indonesia—the world’s most populous Muslim nation—in 1999 started to decentralize national control over education. The Bush Administration through USAID/Jakarta in 2003 began helping Indonesia to carry out those changes through aid programs such as Managing Basic Education (MBE), a four-year, $10 million project
By the following year the Administration had embarked upon a six-year, $157 million program—which it described as “one of the largest, if not the largest, USAID education program in the world”—to help Indonesia simultaneously decentralize and strengthen its archipelago-wide educational system of schools and madrasah.
Cooperating institutions in that endeavor included Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, or Indonesia University of Education, and Universitas Muhammadiyah of Central Java, whose vision statement is to “Become the best university in developing the science and technology based on the Islamic values.”
Other participating organizations included Institut Agama Islam Negeri, or State Institute of Islamic Studies, whose mission is “To become the centre of excellence in the multidisciplinary and competitive study of Islam and its sciences.”
“A decade ago a decentralized education system offered the promise of improved management, increased parental and stakeholder participation, strengthened accountability and improved quality of teaching and learning,” the RFP says.
“The structure of a modern decentralized system has been put in place, yet decentralization has failed to deliver on its promises.”
Therefore one of the goals of PRIORITAS is to make national authorities more aware of “school-based management and teacher training activities” begun under previous projects, thereby making officials more sensitive to the needs of district governments responsible for carrying out and paying for education.
PRIORITAS seeks to ensure that such “technical and management capacity exists at all levels of responsibility” within the Indonesian public and religious education ministries.
Despite its successful decentralization efforts, the Government of Indonesia continues to impose “school and teacher accreditation criteria” and minimum school-performance standards upon local and provincial governments.
“Unfortunately, district governments are ill prepared to manage the 147,537 government primary and junior secondary schools, let alone support Indonesia’s 39,000 MORA schools,” the RFP says.
Contractors selected for PRIORITAS will consult with MONE, MORA and USAID in choosing at least fifty new districts for the five-year project.
“At least 200 model schools shall be selected for the purposes of demonstrating best practices in teaching, learning and school management,” the project’s Statement of Work says.
“Schools selected should include non-religious public schools, public and private madrasah and any other parochial schools in the area that teaches the national curriculum."
The specific provinces of Aceh, North Sumatra, Banten, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi and Papua will receive “a full range of PRIORITAS technical assistance, training and support.”