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Ministry's remark on tertiary education shrinks people's dream of going to university

Tempo - May 17, 2024

Hendrik Yaputra, Jakarta – Tjitjik Sri Tjahjandarie, Secretary of the Directorate General of Higher Education, Research and Technology, said that higher education is tertiary education and is not included in the government's compulsory education program. Hence, it could be concluded that attending a university is optional.

This statement has recently sparked controversy among the public. Ubaid Matraji, the Coordinator of the Indonesian Education Watch Network (JPPI), assessed that the statement has inflicted emotional distress and undermined the aspirations of the nation's youth to pursue higher education.

According to Ubaid, it is a grave fallacy to consider higher education as a tertiary need, and such an assumption confirms the government's hands-off approach to funding.

"If higher education is a tertiary need, then the state is hands-off in terms of funding, what about the primary and secondary education [which is included in the 12-year compulsory education program] which is a primary need, has the government funded it?" Ubaid asked in an official statement on Friday, May 17.

He argued that the government's seemingly hands-off approach to funding higher education could also be seen in funding primary and secondary education. Funding for primary and secondary education is provided only through the School Operating Support (BOS) fund, rather than through full funding. As a result, the number of out-of-school children (ATS) continued to surge.

Based on 2023 Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data, out-of-school children are prevalent across all levels: elementary school (0.67 percent), middle school (6.93 percent), and high school/vocational school (21.61 percent).

"The JPPI estimates that the ATS number exceeds 3 million. That is a huge figure," said Ubaid.

Among the key factors are economic constraints or the inability to afford school fees. This means that free education, as mandated by the 1945 Constitution (Article 31) and the National Education System Law (Article 34), remains merely rhetorical.

The BPS data in March 2023 also indicates that only 10.15 percent of the Indonesian population aged 15 years and above have attained tertiary-level education, as access is constrained due to exorbitant costs. Furthermore, the government categorizes it as a tertiary necessity.

Therefore, JPPI calls on the government to reinstate education, including higher education, as a public good and to reject all forms of commercialization in higher education, especially in state-owned open universities with a legal entity or PTNBH. The government must assume responsibility for upholding this right.

"It is clear that education is about the livelihood and needs of all citizens that must be fulfilled," Ubaid stressed.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1869011/ministrys-remark-on-tertiary-education-shrinks-peoples-dream-of-going-to-universit