And the circus begins again, this happens every year, and I cannot see it changing any time soon. As long as there is a culture of corruption and cheating in everyday life, from bribing an official in order to obtain a document, such as a birth certificate or drivers licence, while police regularly extract small bribes for small or imagined traffic offences, while public officials must pay for promotions, then why would our students act any differently?
As millions of students across Indonesia prepare to knuckle down for the national exams that begin later this month, the Education and Culture Ministry is under pressure to deliver an experience free of the culture of cheating that mars the annual event.
Ibnu Hamda, a ministry’s spokesman, said on Monday that the government’s preparations for the exams were on schedule. “We have just passed the printing stage and are now at the distribution stage,” he said. In light of concerns about the leaking of test sheets, which was widespread last year, Ibnu said the government had taken precautions to prevent a repeat.
The government, he said, has selected only reliable companies to print the question sheets. “We don’t just give printing rights to unreliable companies,” Ibnu said. “There are four printing companies that fulfill our ‘secure printing’ criteria. Three are in Java and one in Pekanbaru [in Riau]. We have thought of all possibilities, from the printing to the final distribution.”
Once they leave the printer, the sheets will get another security element: three layers of wrapping to ensure they are not tampered with. There are also five different sets of question sheets for each subject in the exams, and each student will be assigned a code to ensure they answer only one of those sets.
After the test, all materials will be resealed and sent to selected universities for grading. Ibnu said he was confident that the government’s precautions will be successful. “Exam instructors should be able to identify irregularities and respond according to standard operating procedures,” he said.
However, critics contend that the government’s preoccupation with the security of the exams, from the printing to the grading stage is misplaced. Retno Listyarini, secretary general of the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Unions, said the main challenge should be in making the exams relevant to the nation’s state of education.
She also criticized the government’s policy of giving the exams so much weight in determining if a student is eligible to graduate. A student’s test score counts for 60 percent of the national exam score, while 40 percent is an average of their past school exam scores. In addition, a student must score an average 5.5 out of 10 in the national exams in order to graduate. “I strongly object to making the exams the standard for graduation,” Retno said. “Stopping leaks is the only result of the government’s policy. “The schools should be given the autonomy to determine graduation.
In fact, fraud already takes place even before the exams commence, because that 40 percent [past exam scores] is being inflated by schools because of the atmosphere of fear.” She also said the fear of failing was forcing more and more students to take after-school cram courses and multiple mock exams, which although often effective, have negative repercussions for the students. “Students get used to encountering similar types of questions and become more apt at solving them. But after repeated drills, they’re becoming increasingly restless, because they are forced to complete multiple mock exams within a month,” she said.
However, Ibnu defended the ministry’s graduation policy, saying the standardized exams serve to help identify underperforming schools and can ultimately identify changes that could be introduced into the national school curriculum. He acknowledged that some schools do try to manipulate the school exam component of students’ scores, but added that the consequences are dire, including a prohibition on all graduating students from such schools enrolling in state universities.
“If a suspicious grading trend is observed, we can cross-check the school’s records as reported to the ministry and the result of the national exams from that school. We will identify the fraudulent schools and take action,” Ibnu said.